When you get into the startup game, you start to hear the terms “incubator” and “accelerator” in your conversations with other founders and entrepreneurs. Since their inception in 2005, startup accelerator and incubator programs have become two of the many ways to fund and grow a startup business. It can be easy to assume accelerators and incubators are one and the same for startups, but they each are different in what kinds of companies they help bring in, as well as what they are looking to provide in return.
So what is the difference between incubator and accelerator programs for startups, and how do you know if either option is right for growing your business?
What is the difference?
The primary difference between accelerator and incubator programs is the time frame and the structure of the two. Businesses that gain acceptance into an accelerator program are looking for resources and mentorship guidance to catapult them to their next milestone. Programs last just a few months before new companies are set off on their own again. Investors will offer up investment capital or funding and act as mentors while providing a curriculum that focuses on relevant expertise to each brand’s mission.
How to decide
Think carefully about what stage your business is in before deciding which route to go. If you are still working through important details such as market fit, your business model, product development, or even just the right elevator pitch, then an incubator may be the ideal option. If you’re at the MVP stage and need expert mentorship and support on how to proceed to the next stage of your company’s growth and development, an accelerator is the better choice of the two.
If you are looking for a program that is funded by another company, focused on accelerating companies and scaling them up, a clearly delineated time frame of a few months, solid mentoring, and overall structure, then an accelerator program is for you.
Benefits of an accelerator
• One-of-a-kind networking opportunities. Get access to opportunities with well-established companies and influencers.
• Personalized guidance from serial founders and investors. Accelerators work with angels, VCs, and seasoned founders — they may even end up investing in accelerated startups at the program’s end.
• Collaboration and partnerships with innovative startups. Most startups are facing similar customer acquisition or team management issues — accelerators give you a chance to learn how to overcome early challenges together.
Choosing your program
Once you’ve determined if an accelerator program is right for you, finding the perfect fit is key. If you are an innovative Natural CPG company, BeyondSKU may be just that. BeyondSKU is an accelerator program and joint venture between top-tier NYC agency BeyondBrands and leading consumer products incubator SKU from Austin, TX. The accelerator creates industry-focused business tracks and matches the highest caliber experts with select companies during its mentorship programs.
Founded in 2011, SKU is the first and leading consumer product goods (CPG) accelerator. SKU accelerates innovation and entrepreneur success by creating a thriving CPG ecosystem. While there is a low barrier to entry, consumer brand entrepreneurs quickly discover that simply having a great product and funding is not all that it takes to grow a successful brand. SKU surrounds stellar startups with a wraparound infrastructure of seasoned mentors, a customized program, advanced operations support, access to industry expertise, and connections to capital. To date, SKU Austin has run seven tracks, and graduated 37 companies, 94 percent of which are still in business today.
What can you expect?
Each startup will participate in a 12-week intensive cohort where the program and its mentors have an overarching focus to help position each brand to have the most positive impact on the world. The mentorship and curriculum delivers the tools and networking opportunities for success and includes seed cash of up to $20,000.
The program prides itself on:
• Fostering hands-on mentorship and education
• Direct networking with outstanding industry leaders
• Connections to distribution
• Relevant expertise to each brands mission
• Legal and other professional services
• Access to qualified mentors