Founder of a startup or thinking about starting your own company? Then you’ll need all the help you can get, including that of accelerators and incubators! But what’s the difference and why should you want their help?
Accelerators vs. Incubator
Crudely put, accelerators are short term, incubators are long term. The latter are often part of a larger company or institution, such as a university. In the last five years the call for universities to valorise (make useful) the knowledge they produce has grown, and incubators are one way of doing that. In combination with an increased number of people that want to start their own company,the need for expertise about entrepreneurship has grown, too. Accelerators focus on speed and getting things done. Intensive coaching, clear deadlines, resources and a cut out, step-by-step program are what characterise these initiatives. Incubators are great for in-depth knowledge and testing.
Dutch entrepreneurs can check Gerben Derk’s article (“Startup incubators en accelerators wie zijn ze en wat moet je ermee?”) for more information about the differences.
So why participate in one of these programs? To quickly and efficiently counter the pitfalls that all entrepreneurs will run into at some point during their exciting startup development: lack of time, lack of results and making unnecessary mistakes.
Lack of Time
True, signing up for a program will not literally create more time, but it does create the focus necessary to do more in less time. Seeing that most programs require you to sign up with not only a clear business plan but also a clear approach of what you’re going to accomplish the next months, it’s obivous that even only applying might get you started. Additionally, you don’t need to waste time on finding a cheap but sufficiently equipped office that’s also easy to reach, setting up your internet connection or arranging a coffee machine. Somewhere. Everything’s there and available at a low price.
Lack of Results
Startup dreams are great but in the end you want to see some results, even if it’s just to verify your hard work actually produces some kind of output. Additionally, if you have investors or partners, they’ll want to see some results too. For investors the incentive is clear: you’re using their money, to get them more money. But friends and family will also be very disappointed if your startup isn’t able to deliver your promises.
The fact that you work with coaches, a schedule, a well thought out plan, the fact that you have a larger network and access to more knowledge will make it much easier for you to produce something tangible. Entrepreneurship is about turning a vision into a result: you can’t do that when you’re in a room on your own, 24/7.
I know it’s very cool to say that you should make as many mistakes as possible, because it will miraculously turn your idea into a operating company. I disagree and so do you, seeing that it’s much better to avoid wasting money, time and people’s patience as much as possible, and only make well calculated mistakes from which you learn.And there are a couple of things about mistakes that accelerators and incubators can help you with.
A lot of not-so-smart mistakes come from entrepreneurs who pride themselves with being opinionated and stubborn. Though it’s great to have an opinion on what you think should happen, it’s even better to double check it with an expert or a peer before spending the next three months finding out what you could’ve known on forehand. In my experience, it’s better to ask than to assume. And with a co-founder, coach, accelerator network, and a lot of other startups, it’s much easier to find a person who knows a person.
Don’t get me wrong, you’ll make mistakes and you’ll make a lot of them that in hindsight were so obvious your beloved and blind-as-a-bat granny could’ve seen them coming. But if these mistakes are the result of you being stubborn or refusing to ask for help, you’re going to have a hard time setting up a company.
There are lots of entrepreneurs who make it without an accelerator or incubator. But if you’re clear on what you want but don’t know how to get it, participating in a program can be very beneficial. A good coach or program is like a personal trainer: it’s get you off your butt and in shape!