What is a startup incubator?

6 min read
Shweta Saxena

You’ve probably noticed that in the last few years the number of startups incepted have grown massively. But did you know that only eight of the 1,200 startups from 2018 became “unicorns?” This is an entrepreneur’s dream — a privately held company with a value of more than $1 billion. Multiple factors are feeding the startup ecosystem in India, ranging from government loan schemes to a growing number of startup incubators.

India is the third largest startup hub in the world.

While the numbers may seem quite inspiring and motivating, creating a successful startup is never easy. There are multiple hurdles and challenges that a budding startup faces — like validating the idea, meeting the regulating and legal issues, etc. One definitely needs the guiding light to reach the final destination.

Incubators and accelerators are those lights. These organisations provide the help and resources entrepreneurs need to turn their good ideas into thriving businesses.

Not just that, the chances of a startup getting funded also increases by three times if it is a part of an incubator or a startup accelerator in India.

If you are a startup (or planning to launch one) and looking for a startup mentor, then this article is for you. We will discuss what is a startup incubator and how it can help you succeed.

Related: Internet domain names for technology sector

What is a startup incubator?

A startup incubator is an entity that helps businesses, especially in their initial stages, to grow by providing:

  • Seed funding
  • Workspace
  • Access to a network of successful entrepreneurs
  • Startup mentorship

An incubator helps a new entrepreneur tackle the initial hitches. Not only does the incubator provide the much-needed infrastructure support — desks, technology, etc — but it also helps entrepreneurs in testing their products and getting the feedback from the industry veterans.

Difference between startup incubator and startup accelerator in India

Startup Incubator Men at Work]
Without guidance from a startup mentor, far too many promising businesses fail.
Photo: Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

If you’re on a hunt for a good startup mentor, then you must have also heard the term startup accelerator in India. Many people believe accelerator is just another term for incubator.

This confusion exists because of the interchangeable use of both terms.

While both look the same, the founders should know some major difference before signing up for mentorship.

It’s true, both incubators and accelerators work as a support system for a startup, exchanging funding and mentorship for some equity in the business. Where they differ is whom they help.

Startup accelerators

Who is this option best for? Startups that are already up and running.

As the name suggests, accelerators speed up the growth of an existing business within a set time frame.

The accelerator program is more suitable for companies that have already developed their product and have tested them in the market, but now they want to grow their company.

Accelerator gets your startup ready for the next round of venture capital funding. At the end of the program, they give founders an opportunity to present their startup in front of a vast pool of potential investors.

Startup incubators

Who is this option best for? Entrepreneurs who are just starting out.

Incubators support startups that are in the initial stages of building their product or service. These startups do have an idea, but incubators guide them to make it a reality and reach the market.

Incubators do not work on strict timelines and focus more on the long-term sustainability of the company.

Major startup incubators in India

As mentioned before, there are many factors fueling India’s blossoming startup scene. The Government of India is making a big contribution in creating a world-class ecosystem for startups.

There are now more than 210 incubators in India.

Niti Ayog launched the “Atal Innovation Mission,” under which Atal Incubation Centers (AIC) have been set up with a grant of 10 crores. AICs supported by the Government provide world-class facilities to the startups and also support in developing a vibrant startup culture in the country. You can find the AICs selected by the government here.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology’s Tech Incubation and Development of entrepreneurs enables startups operating in the tech domain to access help under its centres like IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, etc.

The National Science and Tech Entrepreneurship Development Board, set up under the Department of Science and Technology, runs various programs like:

Other than these incubators, India is also the home for several world-renowned startup incubators:

  1. Amity Innovation Incubator
  2. Angel Prime
  3. Indian Angel Network (IAN) incubator
  4. Khosla Labs
  5. Indavest
  6. iCreate

With the ongoing support from GoI, we will further witness the rise in the number of incubators in each Indian state.

How to get enrolled in a startup incubator

Startup Incubator Women at a Conference
Will your startup become a “unicorn” — a privately held company worth $1 billion?
Photo: Wonderlane on Unsplash

We know that startup incubators provide tremendous support for an early-stage startup, but how to find and sign up in one of them?

Finding one is relatively easier. You can find a comprehensive list here mentioning the incubators presence state-wise in India.

Startup incubators have limited capacity. The best are very selective in choosing the startup they accept.

Therefore, it is also the responsibility of the startup to present themselves in the best possible manner to enhance their chances of enrolment.

For increasing your chances to get enrolled into these incubators you should:

  1. Register your company and file all the constitution documents of the startups.
  2. Know your product to the microscopic detail and the problem it will solve.
  3. Have a good understanding of the market in terms of its size, competitors, regulations, approvals, etc.
  4. Have a dedicated team in place to build the product.
  5. Try and show some initial success of your product or concept.

Every incubator has their own set of requirements and criteria, but primarily they will ask you to provide the details about your company. These could include a product pitch, financials, audience, demo of the product and so on.

Startup Incubator Woman Making Presentation
Incubators give entrepreneurs the confidence they need to move ahead.
Photo: Product School on Unsplash

A killer pitch for your startup can work wonders. It is therefore advised you spend sufficient time and effort to hone your pitch.

In conclusion

Startup incubators not only help a startup with initial funding, but they also help them in making their innovative product a reality through experienced mentors. A startup’s journey is difficult and any guidance from those who have already succeeded on this path is really a blessing.

Government of India under its various programs, namely Startup India and Atal Innovation Mission, is providing the necessary support to these incubators in all the states of the country.

Now it’s your turn — use these valuable resources to live your startup dream!

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