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Incubator as opposed to Accelerator?

I'm very early stage: No technical co-founder, nothing built, no customers, just a clickable prototype, a deck, and a landing page.

My understanding is that accelerators are for when you have a team and maybe even a working product and customers, and thus incubators are for founders as early stage as myself. Is that right or am I off? Is there a listing of incubators out there I can apply to? I've only been able to find lists of both incubators and accelerators and there doesn't seem to be a big distinction. Thanks!

8 Replies

Rand Owens
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Rand Owens Entrepreneur
CoFounder Spartups Accelerator
As someone who runs an accelerator. I can tell you that you are correct in your thinking, but I would add that traditional incubators as you have described are few and far between, most are just coworking spaces.
Scott McIntyre
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Scott McIntyre Entrepreneur • Advisor
Director@University of Toledo; Chief Architect@Commonwealth; President@CfPA.org; Chair@Phabriq Development
Matty, good post. You're assessment is accurate, although there are still lots of entities out there mis-using the names, IMHO. An accelerator is typically a "program" and usually a "finishing" program for businesses already in motion or later stage startups. Often, the accelerator organization is comprised of legacy experts and other advisors able to tap their networks to the company's benefit. Accelerator programs take place over days/weeks/months, as opposed to an incubator which treats, at least in my case, the enrollees as "clients", and often have an interest in the startup as a result.

Depending on the human resources necessary for your concept to roll out, I'd imagine you being an incubator candidate. As a resource, you should check into the National Business Incubator Association (NBIA.org). Great resource on many levels.
Jeff Axup
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Jeff Axup Entrepreneur
Sr. Manager, Palo Alto UX Design Research Group at Bosch
Having just applied to several, I can say that most accelerators/incubators aren't very clear about what stage companies they are looking to have apply to them. There also seems to a wide range of what you get in return for 3-7% of your company. Some programs seem to be more about education and co-working space than seed funding and making great connections. Also some of these programs are extremely new.

Here's the (mostly SF-centric) list I'm compiling: (not sure on whether these are really accelerators or incubators)

haxlr8rhttp://www.haxlr8r.com/aboutsfRunway SFnoneco-working only
stained glass labshttp://stainedglasslabs.com/
Lemnos labshttp://lemnoslabs.com/sfr/gahttp://www.rgaaccelerator.com/nycDigitial Acceleratorhttp://digital-accelerator.com/munichInnovation World Cuphttp://www.innovation-worldcup.com/wt/
techstarshttp://www.techstars.com/program/locations/not SFsxsw excelleratorshttp://sxsw.com/interactive/accelerator/entry-info
FounderDatinghttp://members.founderdating.com/hardware
y-combinatorhttps://news.ycombinator.com/apply
Summer@Highland
students onlyHub-ventureshttp://hub-ventures.com/program/program-overview/social onlyHighway 1 / PCHhttp://highway1.io/SF/chinaTummlhttps://angel.co/tumml-winter-2014-cohort/apply


Matty Sallin
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Matty Sallin Entrepreneur
System Financial, Inc.
@ Scott: Thanks for the link, but when I searched for a directory of incubators in California on the NBIA, I couldn't find a single tech incubator in San Francisco. That is either wrong or depressing, right?
Scott McIntyre
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Scott McIntyre Entrepreneur • Advisor
Director@University of Toledo; Chief Architect@Commonwealth; President@CfPA.org; Chair@Phabriq Development
well, luckily our friend, Jeff, above, gave you a good list. I am surprised at NBIA if that's the case. May be an issue of cultural lexicons. NBIA is decidedly an eastern org, whereas in Cali, they sometimes have a different word for everything. But i'd doubt that's the case. I would more likely imagine that there's a separate page just for Cali incubators, frankly. Let me know if you find any.
Matty Sallin
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Matty Sallin Entrepreneur
System Financial, Inc.
@ Jeff: Thanks for sharing your list, it seems to be a bit hardware heavy. Is that by design (are you working on a hardware project) or are you just finding a lot of accelerators are hardware-focused?
Jeff Axup
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Jeff Axup Entrepreneur
Sr. Manager, Palo Alto UX Design Research Group at Bosch
I am working on a wearable/smart-jewelry project so they are biased towards hardware. However increasingly incubators are accepting hardware and software due to the added value it brings customers. Just google San Francisco incubators. I think there may be a couple more software only ones. Ps- sorry the table in my previous post didn't render well apparently.
Ritee Rouf
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Ritee Rouf Entrepreneur
Experienced Product and Marketing Professional
Inc. has the following incubators listed. AngelPad definitely has a strong reputation.

  1. Matter:What new small business does not want $50k to build their business with? Matter offers just that with their comprehensive program for small businesses that provide people oriented and results driven marketing efforts while providing for the general needs of the small business at hand. Matter focuses in media based organizations and recruits in New York City in addition to San Francisco.
  2. Y Combinator:If you need to refine your pitch to larger investors and gain some scratch in the meantime, Y Combinator is the startup incubator for you. By spreading their resources across many startups, they manage to build a new model for incubating these small businesses while still ensuring that you gain all of the attention and resources that you need to succeed, which culminates in a Demo Day filled with investors ready so sign a check that Y Combinator picks to listen to you. Y Combinator is one of the larges incubators and most prestigious incubators in SF.
  3. Upwest Labs:Do you need $20k over a four-month period in order to get your dreams off the ground? Well, if you are a small business in the Silicon Valley, Upwest Labs could provide you with this and more. In addition to seed funding, your small business can gain access to investors, mentors, and more through the comprehensive small business development program that Upwest Labs provides.
  4. Parisoma:If you have all of the funding that you need but would simply like to build your business in a dynamic space while saving money on offices, Parisoma is the Bay Area startup incubator for you. They also offer classes and other events to help your business grow past what you thought it could in a short amount of time.
  5. Sandbox Suites:A huge part of productivity is the ability to mingle with different ideas in people, which is part of why shared workspaces are so prolific within the startup incubator world. Sandbox Suites is one of these incubators that clearly focuses in development through a shared workspace, and provides a dynamic environment for small businesses in the Bay Area to both grow and flourish among other creative and progressive minds.
  6. AngelPad:While Y Combinator boasts an entirely new methodology with investing small amounts in large groups of startups, AngelPad offers the complete opposite in the same area by investing larger amounts of money in fewer startups over a longer period of time in order to provide a more intensive and tailored mentorship incubation program to the startups that they take under their wing.
  7. 500 Startups:One of the hottest on this list is Dave McClures 500 Startups. Though it's almost to 1000 startups that they have accelerated, it's defiantly on the list of hottest incubators in San Francisco. They have a nice coworking space for every startup they invest in as well as mentor startups till demo day where they present to many large investors. They are located in Mountain View in the heart of Silicon Valley.
  8. Tech Liminal:If you are a tech worker in the San Francisco area, you need to check out Tech Liminal's rentable coworking space for tech workers. The affordable rate and innovative, envelope pushing workers that they attract are sure to give you the edge that you need against your competitors simply by working with them! It is a bit of a drive into Oakland, but the experience is definitely worth it.
  9. Sudo Room:With sudo being a keyword for programmers and hackers to gain instant administrative access to a system, it would make sense that the slogan for the Sudo Room would be "HACK THE WORLD!". As an open and free workspace, the Sudo Room aims to be a place where programming innovators can collaborate and learn from one another in a free environment.
  10. Founders Space:By working with investors and venture capitalists, Founders Space puts itself at the forefront of comprehensive small business incubation in the Bay Area by providing help for small businesses on all fronts instead of just specializing in one or the other. If you want the best help available to you in the Bay Area, Founders Space is the incubator for you, and positions are limited and in demand because of it! I've personally had the privilege of working with founders space and they have been awesome.
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