The startup universe is full of terms that can confuse a newcomer. We’ve already covered the startup unicorn topic, and now we’re on to a new one! Long before turning into billionaires, companies like Uber and Airbnb had their early stages at a startup incubator.

As a young entrepreneur, you probably dream of the day you’ll join an incubator and develop your business idea. It’s definitely an exciting yet hectic step for your startup. 

If you’re just at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey and are not completely familiar with the term, don’t worry. In this article, we’ll present not only the concept, but also the benefits, differential, and everything else you need to know about startup incubators.

Get ready to master one more topic of the startup universe!

Understanding the Concept

The dictionary is always a fun resource when learning a new concept, especially in the startup world. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an incubator is “a container that has controlled air and temperature conditions in which a weak or premature baby (= one which was born too early) can be kept alive.”

So, how can we relate the definition to startups? 

While the apparatus described by the Cambridge Dictionary is designed to keep a baby alive, a startup incubator helps a business in its early stages thrive. Startup incubators are often non-profit organizations run by public or private institutes that offer programs to help entrepreneurs develop their businesses. 

How do startup incubator programs work?

Incubator programs offer the opportunity for startups to grow and get traction in the market. This includes offerings from basic physical resources to mentoring in order to acquire real customers.

Tech companies may have the biggest slice of incubator programs, but there are offers for every kind of business, from social enterprises to the food industry.

Startup incubator programs have different lengths, but you can get great results within three months. To take part, a startup needs to go through an application process, which will vary from program to program. Although each program varies, most startup incubator program offer:

  • Comprehensive business training program;
  • Information/Educational sessions;
  • Industry Mentors;
  • Keynotes;
  • Networking events.

The application process for incubators are often competitive. This is the reason you need to understand the stage your business is at in order to apply for the right program. 

3 Startup Incubators to Know

You might think this is a new topic, but incubators were actually born in the 1950s, and it’s not hard to tell that a lot has changed since then. According to Forbes, these are the top three startup incubators:

  • Y Combinator – Founded in 2005 in Mountain View, California, Y Combinator has launched 300 tech startups. Y Combinator’s most famous graduates include Dropbox and Airbnb.
  • 500 startups – Also in Mountain View, 500 Startups is both an accelerator and a seed fund. Member startups have access to a worldwide network of 160 expert mentors.
  • TechStars – With programs in five of the top startup hubs (NYC, Boston, Seattle, Boulder, and San Antonio), TechStars hosts 12-week mentoring programs. 

Incubator Vs. Accelerator Programs

Don’t get fooled into thinking that incubators and accelerator programs are the same thing. The difference starts with the target audience. While accelerators are for established businesses, incubators are for those who need help developing ideas. 

These are the main differences:

Differences Startup Incubator and Accelerator

Making the Most of It

During the program, the startup team will have unique opportunities to make connections, find partners, and acquire its first real customers. 

Startup incubators can provide the best for businesses in the early stages, but it’s up to the team to make the most of this experience. The main skill you need to master is networking—connecting with mentors and professionals will always help you to step up your business. 

Join networking events to make new connections and learn from other businesses. To make these moments worthy, you need to prepare yourself. Go with an open mind, be ready to listen, and have an elevator pitch about your startup.

The startup incubator program is all about learning. Take the most from your mentors in every single aspect. Learn about all topics related to startup creation, from marketing to intellectual property. This is the moment to gain a general idea of the whole business. 

Our last and most important tip is: don’t be afraid to fail. This is something that is going to happen…and not only once. Failing is part of the process and key to development. So, go for it and get ready to conquer the world!