There’s a fundamental difference between incubators and accelerators. It’s important to understand the difference so that you know what to expect and know what you’re getting yourself and your startup into. It’s also important to remember that each incubator and accelerator has its own personality and style, so be sure to research that as well.
An incubator is, in a sense, the 1.0 model of helping launch startups. It’s a business model that’s been around a little longer than an accelerator. The incubator will provide office space, an internet connection, and depending on the incubator, maybe some perks like a coffee maker, a pool table, an entertainment system, etc. In exchange for all that, they charge the startup a monthly rent, although it’s usually much lower than the cost to rent office space from a non-incubator. Some Incubators also ask for equity in the startup. The length of time your startup can stay in its offices at the incubator varies, but it’s usually an extended period of time until the startup hits certain triggers, like the value of the company, the amount of revenue, etc. Incubators generally allow startups to stay in their office space much longer than an accelerator would. The incubator also provides an environment where you’re surrounded by other startups and entrepreneurs, and while everybody is working on their own startup, there’s not necessarily cross-sharing taking place. It’s great to be in a creative environment with other entrepreneurs, but there isn’t an explicitly benefit your startup, and the implicit benefit derived from the environment is a matter of opinion.
An accelerator takes the model of an incubator and streamlines it into a 2.0 version. Accelerators provide the startup with access to a network of contacts (accelerator alumni, competent business and technical professionals, investors, etc.) for a pre-defined period of time. Usually it’s just long enough to grow a startup to the next level. In other words, just long enough to accelerate the startup’s growth. Accelerators take equity in exchange for their help, but rather than charge you money (rent), they often give you money. Y Combinator describes it as money to help fund your living expenses while you’re in their program.
Now that you understand the difference between an incubator and an accelerator, here’s a combined list of the top 10:
Y Cominator www.ycombinator.com
Dogpatch Labs www.dogpatchlabs.com
Kick Labs www.kicklabs.com
Excelerate Labs www.exceleratelabs.com
DreamIt Ventures www.dreamitventures.com
NYC SeedStart www.nycseed.com
Beta Spring www.betaspring.com
Launch Box www.launchboxdigital.com
Mass Challenge www.masschallenge.org
Please keep in mind that this list, like all published lists, is subject to the criteria used to evaluate it. The criteria used may have biased the results. If there are any accelerators or incubators that you would like to see on this list in the future, please feel free to suggest them in a comment below.