For your mobile or online startup, incubators and accelerators are incredibly useful in a number of ways. The combination of these two resources can provide your startup access to capital, networking opportunities, training and mentorships, practical experience, and even office space. There are a number of incubators and accelerators throughout Canada that are specifically designed to be of benefit to online and mobile startups.
More often than not, accelerators and incubators are lumped into the same group, but it’s good to understand the differences to know how to use one or both to maximize the benefits to your company. The primary difference is time — accelerators spend a specified, short amount of time, typically up to four months, working with a business. They also tend to offer a limited amount of seed capital, in return for which they commonly require a certain ownership percentage in your company.
The Business Acceleration Program (BAP), established in 2007, boasts a suite of services and programs that strengthen the foundations and accelerate the growth of Ontario’s entrepreneurial pursuits and startups. BAP provides new companies with educational programs, marketing and advisory services, and a number of skills training programs to help startup companies get on their feet and expand into the national and global marketplace. The program is co-ordinated by MaRS and is funded by Ontario’s Ministry of Research and Innovation.
Another example is the Accelerator Centre in Waterloo, which provides a growth-intensive environment for startups to excel at building their company and fast-tracking their way into the global marketplace. The program sends startups through four phases, each providing new education and challenges aimed at pushing your company forward. The deeper you move into the program, the more specifically tailored to your startup the education and challenges are.
Mentorship and training periods are generally much lengthier with incubators, often lasting more than nine months. The primary focus of incubator programs is not so much accelerated growth, but rather on the provision of a safe and nurturing environment that allows your startup to move comfortably at its own speed. Incubator programs usually take minimal amounts of stake in your startup — if any — and can afford to do this because they do not provide upfront business capital like accelerator programs do. Also, incubators are frequently funded by university grants, so they don’t need to earn a return on their investment of resources into your company.
The Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) was launched in 2012 at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto. The program is a year-long MBA course that uses experiential learning and work alongside fellows and venture founders to give students a one-of-a-kind environment to develop their entrepreneurial skills and ventures. Students in the program have a unique opportunity to learn the basics of evaluating, financing, and managing their tech-based businesses and then to put this knowledge, along with the skills they develop, to practical use. This incubator’s ultimate goal is to engage every participant, encourage networking and collaboration between students, and help entrepreneurs transition their startups into fully operational companies.