How to Get Your Startup off the Ground: Incubators and Accelerators

In the current economic climate, job prospects for many people are not exactly rosy. In fact, for a lot of people they are downright terrible. With many people having lost their jobs and pretty bad prospects for graduates and young people as a whole; things had to change. One of the biggest changes probably was that this became the decade of the entrepreneur and the startup business. As with any business venture of this kind, there is always one question. How do I get the business off the ground? Well you are in luck because it is probably easier now than ever before.

Why is it Easier?

The reason that it is easier is because both governments and private individuals are lending a helping hand. The most effective way of getting startups off the ground they have found for entrepreneurs is using either a business Incubator or Accelerator .Governments have realised that by providing help they are actually helping themselves. Successful startups mean, more jobs, more tax revenue and less unemployed people. This is everything that governments are looking for at the moment. The lower the unemployment figures, the better their reputation and every country is trying to minimise its benefits expenditure. As for private incubators and accelerators, they are primarily interested in the monetary benefits which they can reap from investment.

How do Incubators and Accelerators Work?

Incubators and Accelerators are an interesting concept and have actually been around for nearly ten years. The idea behind them is to give entrepreneurs the help they need to be successful. In order to do this they provide numerous services. Not all provide the same services but most of these services are standard practise:

  • Provide free desk space for entrepreneurs set up their business in
  • Provide free fast internet access
  • Access advice from industry experts on entrepreneurship
  • Access to potential venture capitalists and angel investors
  • Provide coaching workshops on marketing, accountancy and all the skills needed to run a business
  • Provide funding to help get businesses off the ground.
  • Mentoring

There can be a big difference between a private Accelerator or Incubator and a government funded scheme. The government funded schemes for instance usually offer everything free of charge, often including stipends. The private schemes however, are usually offered on the basis that they have a certain % investment in the company. Of course, the private schemes are usually better funded and quite often more successful. Competition for places on all schemes is usually high, but even higher on the private schemes. Private schemes often have better contacts with investors as well, so it is usually in your interests to get onto a private scheme if possible.

Incubator and Accelerator Examples

Strangely, the terms are actually used interchangeably by everyone and it is not possible to get a universal definition on either. So it is best to think of them as doing essentially the same job. The first modern accelerator was the American Y Combinator. It described itself as a seed stage venture fund and it was soon followed by TechStars and SeedCamp. This craze soon spread internationally setting up franchises and government programs in countries such as the UK and Ireland. The Irish government has been especially keen to set up its own incubators and accelerators. The New Frontiers programme being a nationwide programme that provides participants with €15,000 startup money and all of the benefits mentioned above free of charge. Participants can even join a private scheme at the same time if they get accepted. In addition to New Frontiers, every university in the country has an Incubation scheme of some kind, a full list can be found here.  A list of programmes in the UK can be found here.

How to Get on One of these Programs

While these programmes may make it easier to get your startup off the ground, it is not simple to get on these programmes. With the amount of support that these programmes provide competition is high and there is strict entry criteria. You have to have a good business plan in place. Your product has got to have a market and you have to have a good plan to produce it. There is no point in them bringing people onto the program who are going to fail. For both the government and private schemes it is an investment of both their time and money, and nobody makes a bad investment if they can help it. But each scheme has its own entry criteria, so it is important for you to investigate the individual scheme which is best for you.

While it will never be easy setting up your own business, it is certainly easier now than ever before. The amount of support which governments are willing to provide to potential entrepreneurs is quite extraordinary. But even with all this help it is still a challenge. Even if you actually manage to get onto one of these programmes there is always an element of risk.