Accelerators are incubators on steroids.

These programs recruit scalable companies that have shown early promise. They coordinate dramatic transformation within a compact timeline.They are like early-stage investment firms, as they provide seed funding in exchange for equity. Accelerators hedge bets by connecting entrepreneurs to resources, mentors, customers, investors, and community allies.

The rise of the accelerator model is interesting. Accelerators help entrepreneurs build stronger companies, but they need money to function. How do they support the financial investments in each company? What about staff salaries, community events, and all the resources they provide? There’s usually an initial fund raised to start these programs. Some accelerators also have financial infusions from sponsoring organizations. With this financial foundation in place, accelerators then depend on the performance of the companies in their portfolio. When a portfolio company is acquired or exits, the accelerator’s equity converts to cash or ownership options in more successful businesses.

As an accelerator’s portfolio performs, its reach widens and the program prospers. This motivates program directors to pick the right companies. It also gives founders the confidence that the experience is built for them to succeed. These complementary relationships are how accelerators make a lasting impact in less time.

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Accelerators vs. Venture Studios vs. Incubators

For entrepreneurs, so much potential makes it easy to fall in love with the idea of being an accelerator-backed company. As business owners consider applying to accelerators, it’s important to understand the terms. When startup accelerators first started in 2005, they were industry agnostic. As this collaboration-based investment strategy has evolved, industry-specific accelerators have also emerged. This means there are more accelerators than ever and not all of them will be the right fit. The educational, networked, and cultural experiences matter. Entrepreneurs must vet accelerators like they would other equity investors. Do terms of the accelerator align with the long-term goals of your company? Will the implied results outweigh an intense time commitment? Even if it’s temporary, will the team be required to relocate? How deep is the network of fellow founders who have worked through the accelerator? Do portfolio companies stay connected? If so, how does that connected landscape support your work beyond the program?

The accelerator experience can be life changing for a startup. Based on a deep understanding of each company, these action-packed programs #GiveFirst and help build on what’s working. They also quickly identify areas for improvement. This empathetic support combined with a shared mission to grow allows accelerators and their portfolio companies to be more successful as everyone collectively builds to go big.