If you’ve watched the comedy TV series Silicon Valley, you probably have a vivid, if dramatized, mental image of what a business incubator is. Many people confuse business accelerators with incubators and similar programs. However, an incubator is a one-to-five-year program with minimal mentorship that can be entered early or late in a businesses life. A business accelerator, on the other hand, has the potential to offer more benefits and is designed only for the early stage of a small business.
A business accelerator program, also known as a small business accelerator, supports early-stage businesses who intend to scale up rapidly. It provides entrepreneurs with financing, training, and mentorship. Unlike similar programs, accelerators are cohort-based, meaning that entrepreneurs are admitted in a “class” or cohort of up to fifteen business owners.
This allows would-be small business CEOs to learn from and network with peers as well as mentors. Accelerator programs typically culminate in a “demo day,” on which entrepreneurs can pitch their companies to multiple investors.
The first accelerator was launched in 2005 by an organization called Y Combinator; TechStars started the second a year later. Today, both are globally considered the gold standard in accelerators. Other such programs began to be widely implemented after 2008, and as of 2015, there were over 150 accelerators in the US.
If you’re ready to accelerate your business growth, do your research to find the best business accelerators in your community or region. If you’re a growth-minded business in the Northwest Chicagoland area, consider applying for admission to a business accelerator program focused on one-on-one coaching with Next Level Northwest.
Next Level Northwest is a business acceleration public-private partnership serving the Northwest Chicagoland region. We support regional and local businesses through collaborative and innovative initiatives to help grow the economy. Download our Program Overview (PDF).
Ready to take your business leadership to the next level? Download and prepare your application following this process today!