Startup incubators are business programs in which startups and entrepreneurs collaborate with sponsors to get off the ground. A startup incubator helps entrepreneurs tackle the barriers that can impede growth and can help lower time to market for great products.

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Incubators Offer All Kinds of Help

The first thing to realize about startup incubators is that they offer all kinds of help to entrepreneurs, from shoring up a workspace to helping people obtain equipment. An incubator would ideally see to it that an entrepreneur gets set up properly right out of the gate.

Investing in a startup incubator could also mean offering less tangible forms of help like words of advice, business mentorship, internet access, networking skills, and network connections themselves.

It’s all part of lending a helping hand, and the kind of assistance an incubator provides an entrepreneur is related to his or her unique needs.

Perhaps the most pressing need that an entrepreneur faces right off the bat, though, is seed money. With that need in mind, startup incubators can help entrepreneurs more quickly overcome that initial barrier to growth, get situated in a modern workspace, and solve real-world problems.

Business Schools, Startup Organizations, and Universities Run Startup Incubators

The International Business Innovation Association (InBIA) is a textbook example of the kind of entity that masterminds startup incubators.

The InBIA considers itself a “global network of entrepreneurial ecosystem builders” because it fosters the financial, mentoring, logistical, and networking resources that entrepreneurs running startups need to succeed.

Startup incubators are normally—but not always—non-profit endeavors run by big universities and business schools. Entrepreneurs who’ve benefited from startups might even decide to kick off an incubator program of their own.

Typically, you would see an incubator being run by a business school attached to a university, company, civic organization, or independent startup program like InBIA.

Accelerators and Incubators Are Slightly Different

Both accelerators and incubators can quickly get entrepreneurs up to speed when it comes to networking, financing, and mentorship opportunities. The difference lies in the way that accelerators and incubators go about things.

The key difference between accelerators and incubators is that accelerators are often extremely selective and compress all of the instruction and help that entrepreneurs receive into a program that lasts usually no more than two to six months.

The way funding works is also slightly different, in that accelerators typically operate by having companies pitch in startup money in exchange for equity.

Startup Incubators and Coworking Spaces Are a Great Combination

When you consider that one of the overarching purposes of running or investing in a startup incubator is to foster networking among its participants, you start to see how well coworking spaces fit into the picture.

Coworking spaces have been shown to help grow a business faster and increase the number of networking opportunities that entrepreneurs are exposed to early on.

Interestingly, coworking spaces also allow you to find more talent and reduce the distractions of, say, working from home or in a coffee shop.

Harvard studies even show that people working in coworking spaces thrive more and enjoy a greater sense of workplace satisfaction—probably because they’re around so many other entrepreneurs brimming with ideas and eager to network!

Incubators Are All Around You

Startup incubators have developed far beyond the tech industry. You can find startup incubators on the National Business Incubator Association website’s searchable database or through regional and statewide economic development departments. For more help in finding incubators, contact the Small Business Association.