Startup Accelerators and Incubators: An Introduction

The Great Recession of 2008 was a historical phenomenon. It changed the face of global economy even as many people came to harness the power of their own ideas. It’s 2017 and its echoes can be heard until today even as the start-up culture experiences a global boom. According to data on, there are about 472 million entrepreneurs’ worldwide nurturing 305 million start-ups annually.  Yet another set of data from Startup Ranking shows that the United States is at the top of the startup game with close to 25000 start-ups, followed by India with 4000 startups.  The sheer number of startups across various fields has hence resulted in the need for start-up mentors and advisors. When people invest money and time into an un-ventured zone, they are usually looking forward to mentorship and other forms of assistance to make the right moves, build the right contacts, etc. It is for this very purpose that startup incubators and accelerators have burgeoned.

Generally speaking, startup accelerators and startup incubators help start-ups kick-start their journey in the business world. The two terms are often used interchangeably but they have distinct functions.

Accelerators and Incubators
As the names imply, accelerators tend to “accelerate” the business. They are essentially a group of cohorts that help a startup in very early stages of their growth, typically for a period of about three months, under the guidance of mentors.
Incubators, on the other hand, incubate the seeds that have been sown by an accelerator. There is no strict time frame for the incubation process. Moreover, incubators specialize in the certain verticals depending on various factors such as their source of funding. Incubators may run of their own accord or can be funded or run by private and public entities such as businesses, educational institutes, and the government.

It can be said that incubators incubate start-ups in their childhood while accelerators help them to accelerate their growth. While accelerators educate, guide and finance startups for the duration of about four to six months, their guidance being a generic framework applicable o most start-ups, incubators function anywhere between one to five years. This short duration associated with an accelerator is characterized by rapid bombardment of early stage strategic, organizational and operational advice. Incubators conduct comprehensive training and deal with providing funding, regulatory, presentation, higher education and other forms of guidance that can help the startup in later stages.

Yet another major difference between the two forms of guidance is that incubators usually have a non-competitive selection process while many accelerators are choosy about the limited number of startups that they can pick. Also, accelerators include cohorts and are more dedicated to the functional guidance and mentorship while incubators offer little guidance. However, incubators are very essential for any business as they teach them how to survive in their respective niche by giving them domain-specific specialized knowledge obtained from experts.

A report by NASSCOM has reported a 40% growth in incubators and start-ups in India, one of the leading nations when it comes to startup growth and numbers. From taking their baby steps to making it big in the world, both accelerators and incubators have their own unique yet essential roles in catapulting start-ups to success