GUIDE: Accelerators and incubators in Singapore

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Sure, Apple and Google started off with their founders in a garage, but the reality is that the best way to give your startup a fighting chance is to build a network of help around it. Players like incubators and accelerators are a huge part of any startup scene, and can be a valuable source of support, contacts, and advice while you start your business.
While there’s a difference between the two, they are more or less similar in the sense that they offer guidance, mentorship, and valuable resources to startups in their early stages.   In this novice’s guide to accelerators and incubators in Singapore, we’ll cover off the difference between the two, and help cover off which one may be the right fit for you.

Difference between an accelerator and an incubator

It’s easy to get confused with the two. Some people use them interchangeably. Before we go with the difference between the two, let’s look at what they both do:
  • Both offer mentoring for startups. This can range from technical to financial mentoring
  • Provide educational and technical assistance to startups
  • Both may offer seed funding in exchange for equity
If you consider your startup as your baby, an incubator is like a nursery. It’s where you first meet other people like you. Accelerators, on the other hand, would be like elementary to high school where you are taught various things and get prepped for success in the future.   Incubators usually look for promising startups that are still in their infancy. Normally, incubators offer work spaces at a reduced rate where the founders and their team can work without having to spend a lot of money. They also offer legal counsel for those that need them.   Accelerators typically work with startups that are off the ground but are still having issues with staying up. Accelerators usually accept startups that already have a Minimum Viable Product and need help with localisation, branding, operations strategies, and management. The duration can range from a short 3 months to up to 6 months. Accelerators can also provide the necessary seed funding needed to take the startup to the next level.

Which one is right for me?

I know it can get really confusing but let’s try to simplify it. In order to help you out, we’ll list 5 questions that can help you decide whether you should find an incubator or accelerator.
Do you already have a team working on your startup?
An incubator is the perfect place to meet other people who might be interested in working in your startup. The longer contract time in an incubator gives you leeway to look for developers and other team members. There are also incubators that serve as co-working spaces for people who are looking for work so you might just find the missing piece for your startup.
Do you have a minimum viable product?
If you already have a minimum viable product, an incubator may slow you down. However, if you go and find an accelerator then you can easily launch your product to the market. Accelerators can help you turn your product into something market viable with a mixture of technical and business mentorship.
Are you still looking for seed funding?
Both incubators and accelerators can help you find financial funding. In the case of incubators, they have investors who provide seed funding in exchange for some equity. A lot of incubators are also funded by government entities. In the case of accelerators, startups can attract investors coming from the private sector.
Are you currently focused on the product or the business model?
Majority of startups that are still working on their product work better in the an incubator. In an incubator, you can focus on working on your product with little to no pressure from the marketing and business side of things. In an accelerator, it is expected that you have the product ready and you only need to tweak your business model.

Where to go to find more information

If you are a startup in Singapore thinking of working with incubators or accelerators, you can find up-to-date directories and lists of via tech outlets such as Tech In AsiaFintech News SG, and e27. Choose an incubator or accelerator that has a mission and goal that resonates with you and your startup, and get in touch!

What are some of the key incubators and accelerators in Singapore.