Incubators vs. accelerators: which is the right fit for you?
The terms incubator and accelerator hold the same meaning for many people. Although there are several overlaps in their function and operational model, they differ in a few ways.
Keep reading to learn about the similarities and differences to help you decide which one is a better fit for your startup and business goals.
The differences between incubators and accelerators.
Here are the main areas where incubators differ from accelerators:
The purpose of an incubator is to test the viability of ideas and work on them to create minimal viable products (MVP) and get market approval.
An accelerator aims to help established startups and businesses find investors and skyrocket product development and the company’s size.
Incubators accept people or groups with ideas for a startup. Participants of an incubator want to improve their business plan, and their products are often in the research and development (R&D) phase. These groups generally seek mentorship and help with idea development. They want to create an attractive business case for investors rather than seek immediate funding.
On the other hand, accelerators are for established startups that have already proven their worth or business model and are looking to expand their startup and learn business development from mentors. Participants of an accelerator aim to secure seed funding and grow their business.
Incubators help you refine your idea and conduct market research to find product-market fit. In addition, mentors guide you regarding every aspect of starting a business. They also connect you with other aspiring entrepreneurs in your niche or with their professional network.
Accelerators prepare you to pitch your startup to inventors. They provide you with mentors and resources to refine your business plan to accommodate expansion and highlight your unique selling point to convince investors.
Incubators generally have a flexible timeline.
Accelerators work under strict timelines, and you generally stay with them for weeks to months.
Here are our picks of the five best startup incubators in Switzerland in 2023:
1. Venture Mentoring.
Venture Mentoring is a mentoring for startups service by Basel Area Business & Innovation. The program aims to answer all your questions regarding your business idea that only an industry expert can answer.
This incubator program doesn’t fund startups itself. It prepares them to convince investors about the viability of their idea. A major pro is that the Venture Mentoring program isn’t industry-specific. Hence you can apply regardless of your niche.
It welcomes aspiring founders with an idea for a startup but no established business plan.
The Venture Mentoring program has helped dozens of founders develop meaningful connections in their industry and launch their startups.
Unitelabs is a successful startup that emerged from this incubator. Its niche is industrial automation for life scientists. The Venture Mentoring helped them solve challenges they were facing in the beginning and connect them with an IT expert.
Seniors@work connects people aged 50 and older and retired professionals with employers who value their experience. Seniors and companies find each other at the online job market – whether for a short project or a long-term contract. The Venture Mentoring Program helped with the company’s marketing strategy and enabled partnerships.
- You should apply for this startup incubator if:
- You have established your business in the cantons Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft or Jura or plan to found your startup here.
- Your product has the potential for commercialization.
- You’re close to product incorporation or at the level of pre-seed or seed funding.
- You can protect your idea and the resulting products through intellectual property or software copyright.
Venture Mentoring offers:
- Advice on high-level strategic questions by industry experts.
- Business case checkup and mentorship to develop a solid business case for investors.
- Match-making with an expert in your industry to conduct one-on-one meetings and refine your idea.
How to get in.
Contact Dr. Adrian Sprenger and pitch your idea to join the Venture Mentoring program. If you meet the criteria for entry, you’ll be registered with the program.
The best part? There is no application deadline, so you can apply whenever you’re ready. And there isn’t a selection committee. The process is swift and everyone who qualifies can benefit from this startup incubator.
Click here for the application page of the Venture Mentoring startup incubator.
Innosuisse has incubator and accelerator programs for startups and small to medium enterprises in Switzerland.
The primary goal of its startup innovation projects program is to provide funding to a selected group of startups in all subject areas each year. It covers 70% of direct project costs but doesn’t have a CHF cap. Projects can receive funding for up to 36 months.
There are no startups yet supported under this program. The first projects are expected to begin in summer 2023.
- Startups in any industry with up to 50 FTEs (Full Time Equivalent).
- Prior to market entry.
- You should have a science-based innovative and scalable product or service.
- Headquartered in Switzerland.
- Less than 5 years old.
Innosuisse’s startup innovation projects program offers project funding.
How to get in.
Submit your application to be evaluated and interviewed. Once selected, you will sign a contract and begin the project immediately.
Click here for the application form for the startup innovation projects program.
VentureLab is an incubator for some startups and an accelerator for others. It’s not sector-specific. Any startup can apply for its programs.
The curriculum and event lengths vary depending on the specific program. Some last for only a day or two, while others can go on for weeks.
This incubator helps startup founders shape their business ideas into successful plans and provides startup training of various types.
The accelerator helps established startups secure seed funding and gain access to specialists to refine their business models.
Amal Therapeutics SA is a successful example of what VentureLab can do for startups. The biotech startup that develops cancer vaccines acquired over CHF 33 million after VentureLab programs helped with research and development and provided startup training.
VentureLab welcomes startups and small-to-medium-sized businesses to enroll in its programs. You might not even have an idea or already be in the late stages of developing your startup and you’ll find a program to benefit from.
Here is what you can get from the VentureLab incubator programs:
- Training events for young startups. That includes sector-specific training programs for all stages of business development.
- Networking opportunities with qualified mentors, including successful founders, top academics and leading industry experts.
- Keynotes, workshops and matchmaking/networking for aspiring startup founders.
How to get in.
Register for the incubator or accelerator program you want to join at VentureLab.
VentureLab has several programs for startups. You find the applications for all startup programs here.
4. Tenity (formally F10).
Tenity is located in Zurich, Switzerland, with hubs across Europe and Asia. It incubates startups in the FinTech and InsurTech industries. Founders from any country can apply and enroll in the programs, on the condition that you’re physically present in Zurich for the duration of the program.
You can receive CHF 50,000 or SGD 70,000 funding from Tenity’s pre-seed incubator for an equity stake of 2.5% and a program fee. Tenity incubator programs are usually around five to six months long.
This incubator has impressive case studies. Pelt8, a climate tech startup, is one such example that quickly raised CHF 0.5 million in pre-seed funding, primarily through the Swiss ICT Investor Club (SICTIC) after enrolling in Tenity.
You should join Tenity’s incubator programs if your startup idea relates to FinTech and InsurTech. Tenity has deep industry connections, so you’ll have many industry-specific guidance and fundraising opportunities.
- Startup coaching and business support through the pre-seed incubator program.
- Mentorship by industry leaders and successful businesspeople.
- Networking events with international startups, investors and entrepreneurs in the FinTech world.
- Fundraising for pre-seed and seed financing with top industry investors.
How to get in.
You must fill in an application form for each program and enter details of your startup idea, founders, location and personal information.
Click here to apply for the upcoming incubator programs.
5. Swiss Startup Factory.
This incubator is based in Zurich, Switzerland.
The Swiss Startup Factory works with founders from all industries in the very early stages of their startups. The mentors analyze ideas or products, test them to find a product-market fit and work together to create a market-leading company.
Its incubator programs last for nine months. During this time, they train you in business and refine your business plan in preparation to secure funding for growing your startup. The Swiss Startup Factory also provides funding for innovative startups.
Startups and aspiring founders with innovative ideas should apply to the Swiss Startup Factory.
This incubator for startups offers the following:
- A support system to test your idea and create a successful business plan.
- Mentorship by entrepreneurs and networking opportunities in and around Zurich.
- Startup investment.
- Business development, including product assessment, valuation, due diligence and exit advisory.
How to get in.
Contact the team to find out the details.
BaseLauch is a bit different: it combines the best traits of incubator and accelerator, and it was launched by Basel Area Business & Innovation.
This incubator and accelerator focuses on early-stage startups in the biotech industry, particularly those with a therapeutic product.
An attractive feature of BaseLauch is the absence of a predefined curriculum for programs or courses. Instead, you receive tailored training based on your needs.
You have the freedom to follow your timeline. You choose where you work. If you need a desk or lab space, BaseLaunch will provide it.
You can acquire up to $500,000 in direct funding through BaseLaunch. Engimmune Therapeutics is a startup that succeeded through BaseLauch’s funding, advice and network of global biopharma companies. Many more made huge progress thanks to BaseLaunch: in total, BaseLaunch portfolio companies raised more than CHF 550 million in financing from European and US venture funds since 2018.
Scientists, academic researchers, individuals and entrepreneurs with a biotech product or service are ideal for the BaseLauch accelerator. You can apply at any stage of your startup, even if all you have is an idea.
Startups already at or past Series B aren’t a good fit for BaseLaunch.
- Networking events with partners, global biopharma and investors to secure funding and collaborate. It also provides help with negotiations with investors.
- Startup training, support with IP licensing and opportunities to grow your team (employees) and business.
- Access to state-of-the-art laboratories and infrastructure for product development and testing.
How to get in.
You have to fill out a form called expression of interest and then the application form if the interest is mutual. After that, the BaseLaunch team will consider your application and contact you.
Click here for the application page of the BaseLauch program for startups.
Have a look at the top five startup accelerators in Switzerland in 2023:
1. DayOne Accelerator.
This accelerator is for startups based in Basel-Stadt, Basel-Landschaft and Jura, Switzerland. Its most distinguishing and attractive feature: it doesn’t require equity in the startups it accelerates.
The DayOne Accelerator supports early and mid-stage startups in the digital health and medtech space and provides them with business support and mentorship to launch their startup in bigger markets.
The DayOne Accelerator has helped dozens of health tech ventures secure funding and skyrocket their business growth each year. IBDrelief (UK) and OptiChroniX (Switzerland/US) are two examples of successful ventures of this startup accelerator.
The duration varies from regular 12-week intense programs for digital health startups to 12 months. It also offers a three-month funding program. In addition, this accelerator provides funding of various amounts to selected startups.
Entrepreneurs, scientists, corporations, startups and founders with an idea or prototype for a product in the digital health and medtech industry are welcome to apply to join the DayOne Accelerator program.
- DayOne Accelerator offers the following:
- Networking opportunities with Europe’s leading health innovation partners, pharma and medtech companies, researchers and startups.
- Access to successful founders in the industry and in one of the most important digital health ecosystems in Europe.
- Coaches and tailored training.
How to get in.
First, complete the application form. If you’re selected, you pitch your business to the partners and the selection committee. If you convince them, you can move to the next step: enrollment in the program.
Click here for the application page of the accelerator.
The i4Challenge is a startup accelerator by Basel Area Business & Innovation. It’s based in Basel, Switzerland, and it’s focused on startups with ideas, products and solutions related to industry 4.0 transformation.
The winners of the i4Challenge take part in the acceleration programs which lasts a couple of weeks.
Startups, individuals and subject matter experts with a business idea related to automation, machine learning, real-time data and AI are welcome to apply for the i4Challenge.
The i4Challenge for startups offers:
- A platform for founders to promote their products and secure startup funding.
- Mentorship for business development and increased marketing visibility.
- Support for technology and business model development.
How to get in.
Fill in the application form for the i4Challenge. Conditions for eligibility include:
- You or your business must be located in Switzerland; Grand-Est, France; or Baden-Württemberg, Germany.
- You must demonstrate a proof of concept, product or prototype.
- Your product or service must have a unique selling point targeted at industrial transformation.
The applications are closed as of March 2023. However, you can sign up for the i4Challenge newsletter here and receive updates when the next application phase opens.
3. Impact Hub.
This accelerator for startups has hubs all over Switzerland. It provides a space for startups focused on delivering services, solutions and products for 5 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations.
Social entrepreneurs and sustainable innovators with ideas for positively impacting their community and the world are welcome to apply to join the Impact Hub accelerator or incubator. Post-ideation startups are well-suited for this accelerator.
At Impact Hub, you’ll find:
- A coworking space where you can connect and collaborate with other sustainable startup founders.
- Startup programs to gain access to the global markets and receive expert guidance for developing your business plan.
- Mentorship by industry experts and successful founders.
How to get in.
You can become a member of Impact Hub by using this link to register.
4. Venture Kick.
This accelerator program is based in Schlieren, Switzerland. It supports spin-offs at Swiss universities and helps innovators of high-tech products develop successful businesses that can thrive in global markets.
Its program lasts for nine months. During this time, founders receive startup training, business development advice and marketing visibility. In addition, they can acquire CHF 10,000 to CHF 850,000 in funding based on how far they make it in the selection process.
Aerotain AG is among the hundreds of successful startups from the Venture Kick program.
Venture Kick offers:
- Up to CHF 150,000 in pre-seed capital.
- A structured entrepreneurial path to success. It includes providing young entrepreneurs with the right tools and mentors for succeeding in a competitive marketplace .
- Business boot camps and networking opportunities with industry leaders and partners.
How to get in.
After completing the application, you pitch to a selection committee that picks the most promising startup ideas.
Click here for the application page of this accelerator for Swiss startups.
Need help picking a startup incubator or accelerator?
Talk to our experts, if you need help deciding on an incubator or an accelerator. They’ll point you in the right direction.
”If you want to connect with the medtech industry in the Basel Area, I’m the right contact.Florian SanerManager DayOne Tech Accelerator