Incubator vs. accelerator: Which one is right for your tech startup?

Although every incubator and accelerator program may be different, they all share the same goal of helping new technology startups succeed. There are also key differences in each type of program and how they help entrepreneurs take their start-ups to the next level.

How do you determine which program is right for you? When is the right time to take this important step? We sat down with James Hilton, senior director of Bounce Innovation Hub’s Entrepreneurial Services, to discuss our accelerator and incubator programs. During this discussion, Hilton highlights the differences, benefits and requirements, as well as addresses some common misconceptions.

What is the biggest difference between the software accelerator and tech incubator programs at Bounce?

Hilton: The biggest difference when it comes to accelerators vs. incubators is velocity. Accelerators are more aggressive with quick milestones. Software is an ideal product for accelerators because of the ability to adapt, iterate and get it to the user quickly. Incubators usually come second and for a longer period of time, but you can do one without the other.

Who is the ideal candidate for each program?

Hilton: Our accelerator has more exclusivity and must be a software company, while our incubator provides support for a variety of businesses. All companies must have completed the customer discovery phase. A common theme is that it’s up to each entrepreneur regarding how the process will go. Founders need to have the drive, passion and perseverance, and we will help augment their existing plans.

What are the greatest benefits of each program?

Hilton: Both programs offer the same value by providing support to move your business forward. Participants in the accelerator are paired with a mentor and have weekly check-ins along with regular communication and interaction to make the process more actionable. Accelerator companies also receive Google or Amazon cloud hosting credits. Participants in our incubator are paired with an entrepreneur in residence who offers strategic guidance. All entrepreneurs in both programs also have access to business experts, including those from legal, finance, human resources and marketing. One of the biggest value-added benefits of these programs is the ability to network with other businesses and be part of the entrepreneurial community at Bounce, which can open doors to other resources and opportunities.

Are there any misconceptions about these programs that you’d like to dispel?

Hilton: The biggest misconception is that we provide capital. While Bounce is a non-profit organization and we do not provide any funding, we can facilitate introductions to potential investors. When you come to Bounce, your number one problem should not be funding. It’s also important to note there is no quid pro quo and we do not expect anything in return. Our only expectation is to help you succeed.

How does an aspiring entrepreneur get started with either of these programs?

Hilton: It’s as simple as completing the intake form ( on our website. We’ll take it from there and connect you to the right place or find a resource partner. Even if you’re not quite ready for an accelerator or incubator program, you should still reach out. We have a number of other resources that can help you take your business to greater levels.

Learn more about how our accelerator and incubator programs have helped these startups succeed:

Phytoxigene and Fontus Blue (pictured above), two water technology and incubator companies whose innovations are improving the safety of drinking water.

Nevermaps, a software accelerator company that is putting AI-assisted travel on the map.

Five female tech founders, representing three software accelerator and two tech incubator startups, who share lessons learned in their entrepreneurial journey.