Accelerators and incubators will help you in two specific areas:
- To build your product/service
- To help you build the business around that product/service
When you are selecting an accelerator or incubator, you should be clear about what you are seeking from the program and what exactly your needs are. Evaluate different accelerators and incubators according to that they bring to the party, and then choose accordingly.
Most accelerators and incubators, at least in India, are designed to provide some assistance in both areas. In some programs, the focus is primarily on helping you build your business (including business case, business plan, operating pan, etc.) while some programs focus on helping you build your product (prototype, MVP, product, etc.). In programs that help build products, the business understanding is generally covered by mentoring sessions, off-hours (visits by successful entrepreneurs and senior professionals), mentoring clinics, expert talks, etc.
Overall, an accelerator of incubator program should provide you the following:
- Comfortable working space (well, there are virtual accelerator programs where you do not have to work out of the accelerator facility)
- Access to mentors and experts who can help you with your business and product/service development needs
- Networking opportunities and access to relevant folks in your eco-system, access to potential customers, potential employees, potential advisors, etc.
- Access to capital
An accelerator program is usually a shorter duration program – usually between 3 months to 6 months, and primarily focuses on getting your startup from a concept/power-point stage into the market with a business plan and a MVP/product. An incubation program is usually longer duration and provides resources (shared office space, etc.) and hand-holding and guidance through the first year or so of your venture’s launch into the market.