The startup scene is complex, and you as a founder might be looking for that competitive edge to start your social enterprise on the right foot or keep it running successfully. Startup incubators and accelerators are all the rage these days, and they’re an excellent tool for for-purpose businesses.
Wondering if a startup or accelerator is right for you and your social enterprise? Let’s take a look at what exactly they are, and what you should consider before joining.
What Exactly is a Startup Incubator or Accelerator?
A startup incubator is, like the name suggests, a place to incubate ideas and benefit from resources perfect for early-stage success. An incubator will typically involve you joining other startups in a physical location for a period of time (up to several years). You’ll benefit from working with a team of professionals that can provide mentorship, guidance, networking opportunities, and, in some cases, funding.
Again, as you might conclude from the name, an accelerator will provide the necessary resources, insight, and guidance to help accelerate your social enterprise. During the set period of time, you’ll get knowledge, resources, and sometimes industry-specific insights to accelerate later-stage growth. You may expect a more competitive application process with accelerators, too.
Regardless of what stage your social enterprise is in, there’s something to be gained by an incubator or accelerator. That said, however, there are some important considerations to make before diving in.
6 Things to Consider Before Joining an Accelerator or Incubator
Evaluate Your Expectations
Just as important as finding your ‘why’ is for your social enterprise, you’ll also want to do the same before signing up for an incubator or accelerator. What do you expect to get out of it, why are you interested in doing one?
While it may seem like the thing to do, be sure that you have a specific aim before joining an incubator or accelerator. Similarly, be sure that the program in question can provide what you want!
Also, consider that with some programs, the application process is highly selective. With some acceptance rates hovering around just 2%, you might want to have a backup program selected.
Think About Timing
You’ll obviously want to first consider whether an incubator or accelerator is better for you, but there are some other timing considerations to make, too.
In order to get the most out of the accelerator/incubator, you will want to give your full commitment during the weeks or months of the program. If you have other competing priorities (like running a new social enterprise, for instance), make sure you have the support you’ll need (a co-founder or fully-equipped team), or consider putting the incubator or accelerator on pause.
Know What’s Available
Now we get to the fun part—exploring the available programs! In Australia alone, there are more than 90 social impact programs designed to help you. This number is 127.5% higher than it was in 2018 and we’re thrilled to be able to currently active programs that can provide you with the support you need.
Take that first step towards equipping your social enterprise with everything it needs to succeed. Download our FREE Second Edition of ‘Australian Incubators & Accelerators for Social Impact’ today!
Find the Right Fit
In addition to dedicating time to the weeks-, months-, or year-long program, you’ll also likely be investing funds or equity. In fact, roughly a quarter of Australian programs require some form of the participation fee.
Even with free programs, some may require you to travel. Between fees, travel costs, and other expenses, it’s likely that you’ll be investing a significant sum of money.
All of this is to say that you want to be sure that you choose a program that can provide what you’re looking for, and has the happy alumni, positive reviews, or enthusiastic sponsors to back it up.
Get Ready to Level Up
Have investment management, financial modelling, prototyping, or public relations on that to-do list that keeps getting put on the backburner? If you’re ready to do some serious learning and be educated by some of the best out there, get ready to hone in on some hard skills during your startup incubator or accelerator experience.
You can choose a program to suit your specific needs, but be sure to take advantage of specialists and mentors to help you learn the difficult stuff.
Do You Have What it Takes to Integrate Your Experience?
At the end of the day, the incubator or accelerator will only be as valuable as the effort you put in—both before and after the final day. You’ll want to be sure to take those actionable goals you developed before the program and put them into practice with your newfound skills, resources, knowledge, and funding.