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Office Freedom
Office Freedom
  • 2 Minute Read
  • 14th March 2017

Accelerators and incubators: what's the difference?

Quite often, founders of startups will look towards ‘incubators and ‘accelerators’ to help get their project off the ground or for additional support in areas where they are lacking expertise. Both of these programs offer entrepreneurs a collaborative working environment in which to develop and share their ideas with other like-minded folk.

Many people use the terms ‘incubator’ and ‘accelerator’ interchangeably, however they are not exactly the same thing. The definitions of the words themselves can be applied to a business context in order to give some insight into what the two programs have to offer.

Incubate: to develop; grow; take form.

Accelerate: to cause faster or greater activity, development, progress,advancement.

Incubators are very much about innovation: they focus on developing ideas with a view to synergising the various components of a new business. Accelerators are mainly about growing an existing company, partly through investment and professional mentorship.

The main difference is that accelerators offer funding, whereas incubators provide mentoring.


Incubator programs are often sponsored by private companies, corporations or educational institutions such as universities who are looking to cultivate talent in their field of study. They provide startups with the tools required to lay the foundations of their business in the form of mentoring and advice on things like funding.

Incubators offer startups a coworking space in which to grow. By coworking alongside like-minded individuals, occupiers can share ideas and skills and even gain new business contacts.


Accelerators are popular can be very selective in who they take on. Startups are expected to complete their accelerator program in a specific time frame, which can range from a few weeks to months. During this time, businesses and individuals will work with mentors and investors to flesh out and grow their enterprise.

Accelerator participants are given a small seed investment as well as access to a support network comprised of executives and investors.

Entrepreneurial Spark

More and more programs are beginning to incorporate features of both programs.

Entrepreneurial Spark is the world’s largest free business accelerator for early stage and growing ventures and is supported by the likes of Royal Bank of Scotland, KPMG and Dell Technologies.

Ellie has been supported by Entrepreneurial Spark’s Leeds hub for a year now to successfully grow her PR agency, MacComms.

“I have been provided with so much support – from dedicated mentors, enablers and two-weekly temperature checks to ensure I am working on growing the business as much as possible. The networking and collaboration opportunities have been ideal for my start-up business too, and the office space which my growing team works from has been a huge saving.”

Josh Turner of Stand4Socks is also a member of Entrepreneurial Spark:

“Being an entrepreneur can be very lonely so being in a working space alongside people in same position as you is great. You are able to share the highs and lows and always bounce ideas off each other. Especially seeing as everyone has different businesses in various sectors there is such a huge skill share - therefore it's not only hugely economical, but also mentally focussing - our business has grown 700% from being at a coworking space compared to working from home/ coffee shops! I’m far more settled and happy in this environment!”

Entrepreneurial spark has locations across the UK. You can apply for to be part of the program here.

More in this series:

Private & shared offices: the best of both

Coworking and shared offices: what’s the difference?

Serviced workspace or leased office?

8 coworker testimonials