A business accelerator is a program that gives developing companies access to mentorship, investors and other support that help them become stable, self-sufficient businesses.
Companies that use business accelerators are typically start-ups that have moved beyond the earliest stages of getting established. They have basically entered their “adolescence,” meaning they can stand on their own two feet but need guidance and peer support to gain strength. Less developed companies not ready for an accelerator would instead use a business incubator for support.
In addition to mentorship and investment opportunities, a business accelerator gives growing companies access to logistical and technical resources as well as shared office space. An accelerator will also connect companies to networks of peers whose experience they can learn from.
An accelerator program can last anywhere from two to six months. The goal is for companies to emerge ready to run on their own, with strong positioning to claim a share of their target markets.
How do Accelerators Differ from Incubators?
At first glance, accelerators sound incredibly similar to incubators — and they are. But there are a couple of key differences.
An incubator is essentially an organization that provides startups with a shared operation space. Incubators also provide young businesses with networking opportunities, mentoring resources and access to shared equipment. This concept of a creative haven for startups has been around for a pretty long time, but rose to prominence in the 1980s after a large number of colleges and universities began to launch school-affiliated incubators in order to bolster entrepreneurship and employability.