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AZ Central: Incubator? Accelerator? Which one is right for you

Read original story by Sidnee Peck here. 

Question: I keep hearing about incubators and accelerators. How do I know if that is an option I should pursue?Answer: Arizona has been the birthplace of many new business incubators and accelerators as methods of helping new ventures to launch and find funding. You will find variations on the definitions of each, but in general, both kinds often offer office or lab space, training or education, mentorship and access to funding via a pitch or demo day, with program lengths of three months to one year.Accelerator programs are often shorter in length and may focus more on technology businesses that can pivot and launch quickly, but there are no hard and fast rules.

The most popular “founding father” is Y Combinator in Mountain View, Calif. However, many different models have sprouted up all over the country, and we are lucky to be home to many great programs here in Arizona.

There are strong reasons both for and against choosing this route for your business. Here are a few in the “for” category:

• You are a solo founder. Being a solo founder can be lonely and may lead to more working “in your business” than “on your business,” as the famed books on “The E-Myth” tell us. Being alone can mean that you get caught up in details and lose sight of the big picture. It can also hinder creativity when your stimuli are limited. A formal incubator program can get you focused on the right things.

• You’re a builder, not a business person. If you have a skill that can translate into an innovative business, but you are having trouble with the marketing, finance and fundraising, then an incubator can either train you or provide resources that can educate or assist where you struggle.

• You have an idea that will scale. Incubators are typically not for small businesses because most have a goal of helping you launch something that can be scaled across a large market and, as a result, are fundable. You should want to grow and obtain funding if you take this step.

• You’ve visited the office, and you like the vibe. You will be spending most of your waking hours on-site and with these people. You want to make sure you like the culture, the vision and the environment, so you can be your most productive. You’re passionate about your idea … and if you’re also passionate about going to the incubator every day, then you’re going to make some incredible progress.

Some you can check out in our area:

• ASU Startup Accelerator, Scottsdale;

• BioAccel, Phoenix;

• Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation, Phoenix;

• MAC6, Tempe;

• Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology’s Native American Incubator Network, Flagstaff;

• Seed Spot, Phoenix;

• Tallwave, Scottsdale;

• Thryve, Tucson;

Every incubator/accelerator is different, and they have different terms, resources and fee or equity structures. Make sure you research and understand what each option offers, and go visit the ones you are considering. Keep in mind, this is a competitive process, so the more work and research you have done before you apply, the stronger your application will be.

Sidnee Peck is director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. Send your questions

Lauren McDanell

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