Let’s talk: Is an accelerator programme right for you?


accelerators and incubators

Featured | Let's Talk

By Loren Webb

Are accelerators and incubators something you should consider for your startup or small business? The assistance that comes with joining an accelerator programme can be instrumental in setting up a successful company, as they provide financial support (either directly or indirectly), mentorship and vital networking opportunities.

The people-power of accelerators is often their most important and valuable asset. Last year we interviewed the CEO of CIN (Canberra Innovation Network), Petr Adamek, on the Dynamic Business Podcast, where he spoke about some of the common problems he sees with startup founders. These are problems that Petr says can be avoided by joining a network or programme, such as marketing mistakes, over-spending or not researching your product/service enough.

However, the draw back may be an over-inclusion of thoughts and advice over your business. If funding is involved, this becomes more so, with investors having the opportunity to influence business decisions.

In today’s Let’s Talk we’ve asked three experts on knowing if an accelerator programme is right for you. Here are their opinions.


Weh Yeoh, Co-Founder and CEO of Umbo

Weh Yeoh

It’s hard to keep track of the number of accelerators and incubators you could possibly apply for. It’s important to remember the opportunity cost of attending structured sessions, and how that impacts the time you have to create your business. It’s also important to know whether or not you can have the same experience through structuring your own program informally.

Strong networks and having a brand name accelerator behind you is definitely something worth considering.

At Umbo, we’re a social enterprise providing speech and occupational therapy to families online. We have experienced immense growth during COVID-19, as the push towards digital healthcare is accelerated in this time frame. At the moment we are seeking investors to help us capitalise on this growth, and help to accelerate the uptake we are already seeing.

Marcus Marchant, CEO of Vistaprint Australia

Whether you’re turning your side hustle into a full-time job or you have a great business idea but aren’t sure where to start, an accelerator or incubator program may be worth considering. 

The process of launching a start-up is a unique journey that depends on you, your business model and what you want out of the experience. What many individuals involved in the start-up process are unaware of is that they can turn to start-up accelerator or incubator programs for help to grow their business. While both programs are different in structure, these two avenues offer entrepreneurs guidance, mentorship and business plans to help ensure start-up success.

As the names insinuate, accelerators fast track growth of an existing company, whilst incubators develop unique ideas with the hope of building out a business model and company. The key difference between the two groups lies in their purpose.

Incubators support start-ups entering the beginning stages of building their company. Typically, an entrepreneur will have a winning idea they would like to bring into the marketplace. However, they are unsure how to create an appropriate business model to transition their idea into tangible reality. This is where an incubator program is a perfect option. Before selecting this program, something to note is that incubator programs oftentimes require relocation as well as co-working environments. 

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On the flipside, accelerators advance the growth of existing companies with structured ideas and business models in place. These programs build upon the start-ups’ foundations to help bring investors on board and launch start-ups into the marketplace. An additional key aspect to note is that the majority of accelerators go through a rigorous application process. The typical applicant looking to go about accessing an accelerator program is in the very early stages of business development. When looking to apply, be prepared for an application process that has a lengthy series of questions before an interview takes place. 

When considering either an incubator or accelerator program, entrepreneurs should consider timings, willingness to potentially relocate and desired pace of growth. Every company is different and having a deep understanding of what you are looking for will help create a seamless process. Vistaprint is here to be a partner for small businesses which is why it is our mission to provide our customers with top-quality printed products at affordable prices. For many small business owners looking to launch their great ideas but need extra help, an accelerator or incubator may make sense for their business models.

Remember that turning a great idea into a business takes patience, strategic planning and resilience. If you have a dream, follow it and if you need some help either of these programs may be a relevant and helpful options.

Cheryl Mack, National Head of Community, Stone & Chalk

Startup founders should engage with innovation infrastructure that genuinely adds value and provides them access to networks.

At Stone & Chalk we see a long-term move away from traditional incubator/accelerator models offering a one-size fits all approach, towards network-based residency offerings that provide 360-degree value. In practise, this means that residents will benefit in every area of their business, and for a longer period of time.

We have developed our offering as an impact network, where residents receive support and services, as well as access to Stone & Chalk’s network of investors, advisors, corporates, and industry professionals to drive commercialisation as they grow, pivot and scale.

Founders should look to access customers as well as investors so they can build value before seeking investment. You should find someone who respects your intellectual property ownership, while still being able to broker relationships with customers and partners where appropriate.

Organisations that can curate and facilitate these trusted relationships will help you move faster through your startup journey and reach key milestones quickly.

When considering an organisation, it’s important to look at the mentors to ensure that you’ll be able to derive value from those relationships. Founders should seek mentors who understand their business and can provide an expert perspective that isn’t available in-house.

Industry engagement, advocacy and representation should also be in your sights. Find an organisation that will represent your interests and the interests of your sector so you can benefit from sector-wide engagement with corporates, policymakers and industry partners.

Finally, while having access to a physical space to work with your team during key periods of growth can be beneficial, you don’t want to be tied to a physical location in order to benefit from residency. Ensure that the services of the organisation you choose are available whether you’re working in the office, from home or literally anywhere else in the world.

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