Incubators and Accelerators: How to Decide

Whenever I meet a rising entrepreneur, I like to understand their journey to date. I especially want to know how they’ve attempted to fill their knowledge gaps. First-time entrepreneurs are constantly trying to figure out what they don’t know and what they should be doing. I regularly hear them mention various incubator and accelerator programs they’ve considered.

When I started CCAW, the financial crisis was going on and these types of programs weren’t abundant in Atlanta (as far as I know). The ecosystem wasn’t established, so knowledge about building startups wasn’t readily available. Whenever we found a resource, we jumped at it because we were desperate.  Today, though, entrepreneurs in Atlanta have a variety of options. Online programs catering to entrepreneurs nationwide also are available.

With so many options, how do entrepreneurs pick the right program? I’d start by thinking about the following things:

  • Segment – Understand what segment of the journey the program focuses on. The idea stage? These programs help turn concepts into MVPs. Product–market fit? These programs will help you figure out how to validate your assumptions by continually adjusting and improving your MVP until customers will readily pay for it.  Most programs focus on one of these two early stages. It’s best to choose one that aligns with the segment you are in.  
  • Length – How long is the program and how often will you be interacting with someone? It could be a day long. It could last several months. Of course, more frequent interactions and more time provide more opportunities to go deeper.
  • Success – Consider how the program defines success for its participants. Does this work for you?
  • Application – Does the program help you apply teachings to your specific situation? Or does it expect you to figure out how to do so on your own time?

This isn’t a comprehensive list, just a few things to consider.

I’m encouraged that there are so many options for entrepreneurs to choose from. I hope we’ll continue to help newbies fill their knowledge gaps so they’ll have a better chance of being successful!