Accelerators and business incubators in Russia: what to choose?

Hello, Habr!
More than once or twice in the process of launching our first accelerator, we, at the Internet Initiatives Development Fund, have come across a misunderstanding of the difference between startup accelerators and incubators. At some point, arguments from the series “they differ like mitballs from meatballs” sound. Leaving the culinary theme to the harsh metropolitan hipsters, we conducted a thoughtful study, looking at about two hundred Russian accelerators and incubators, and decided to talk about the results.

The modern startup market in Russia requires considerable support, and both business incubators and accelerators are ready to come to the aid of young entrepreneurs. So what is the difference between them? Partially already answered this question on Habré colleagues from Ingria last year, but they mostly looked at how they were abroad. We described how this works in Russia.

The main and fundamental difference is the time of support. An incubator supports a startup at all stages of its development, from creating an idea to moving into the phase of a mature business. Accelerator, however, exists for quick and effective point assistance, which can ensure the development of the project in the shortest possible time - from the prototype stage or MVP (minimal viable product) to the product with well-established business processes.

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Areas of application differ. If accelerators mainly specialize in Internet projects (although there are examples, including in Russia, of accelerators for such specific markets as the restaurant business) and are launched by business stars (read investment funds), then incubators can support almost any undertaking. Very often, state and municipal institutions and large universities, as well as companies of various profiles, have their incubators. It is worth recalling the 219 decree of the Government of the Russian Federation , according to which business incubators were created in several dozen Russian institutes. Incubators themselves often exist at the expense of donations from the "donor" - the institution in which they were created.

If the accelerator usually has a clear temporary development program, the observance of which is followed by a mentor, then the incubator is based on the pattern of a large community of people who know the “topic”. Usually, these are not only startupers themselves, but also consultants (some of which “bring” the incubator), mentors, and also investors who come by chance or not by chance. Accordingly, the behavioral essence of the incubator consists precisely in mutual assistance.

There is a difference between the audiences of the two business support models. One of the main functions of the incubator is to provide startups with a workplace and office for rent or sublease, as well as maintaining the technical condition of this place. At the same time, a share is not taken from the project, and the incubator acts as a "good uncle" who is ready to help newcomers free of charge - or not free of charge, but for a fixed rent, which, of course, is much less than renting a full-fledged office or even using it in such quality apartments.

Teams can come to the incubator at the very early stage - for example, when there is a founder and a half in the project (he and his great desire) and an idea, without a business architecture or even a product prototype. The length of stay in the incubator is about 12 months, but it can reach three years - there are already working, earning and mature businesses that continue to use the incubator as the main platform.

Accelerator is another matter. Usually a team comes into it that already has a legal entity (or appears when entering the acceleration program) and, at least, MVP. The main interest of the startup in the accelerator is expert support and investment.

Accelerators, existing with the money of funds, help the project to develop into an effective business in a short period of time - in the case of the accelerator IIDF it is three months. The standard stages include verification (verification that the product is made as it was intended), a working prototype and validation (confirmation of the product’s performance). Participation in the accelerator and subsequent seed investments helps the startup to quickly switch not only to a working and efficient model, but also to scale into a mature business. It is important to note that the organizer of the accelerator, as a rule, takes a share in the project for participation.

Summarizing: if you are just planning to start working on a project, you have an idea, but you don’t have a team, and you have the opportunity to spend your own money - an incubator can help you. Especially if it is in your city. And if you already have a prototype and need expert and financial support - a direct road to the accelerator.

In the coming days, we’ll finish preparing a list of all Russian accelerators and incubators that we have found and will post them separately in our blog on Habré and on our sites.
By the way, we will gladly accept the wishes from the habrasociety regarding those that we want to analyze in detail: with research, analytics and expert opinions - one of our main tasks consists precisely in creating a market and creating infrastructure for the startup movement.)