The main goal of an entrepreneurship program is to make ideas or running businesses succeed, this is why they are so helpful for entrepreneurs, they provide them with the necessary tools, techniques, knowledge, and in most cases even resources to succeed.
It sounds amazing, right? Well, many entrepreneurial programs are out there looking for applicants, and the offer is always growing. But no worries, we got you! In this post, the Impactivs team will explain to you the key elements you should look at when searching for an incubator/accelerator, besides that, you can also access our curated list of impact entrepreneurship programs: +80 incubators and accelerators for social and environmental impact entrepreneurs in Europe.
The more the merrier they say… well, it means a more complicated choice for entrepreneurs. All programs are not equal and don’t deliver the same value. So there are a few things to look at when selecting your program and we have put this list together to help you do so.
Pick a program aligned with your development phase
It seems obvious, yet too often we see entrepreneurs being confused and targeting programs that are either for an earlier development phase, or seeking to join an accelerator program while they are not ready just yet. In general terms, Incubators are for the earliest stage of the development of an idea while an Accelerator is designed for entrepreneurs with proven traction, and it varies from program to program. We recommend you to check the selection criteria to make sure you are at the right stage before applying. Also, try to identify what is the value the program proposed to deliver. Is it about launching an idea, preparing for fundraising, etc? Does it match with your current priorities?
Check the program content, delivery format & schedule
A good entrepreneurship program offers up-to-date managerial tools, methods, and strategies, including training on the latest trends, technologies, and of course tools for sustainability. When screening the program, dive into the program content. What are the areas of focus? Does it address your core challenges or can add significant value?
Some programs are 100% online, other hybrid, other fully presential. Check this out before investing too much time in the application process and, if hybrid or presential, consider the relevance for you of this program. Some programs might be worth it.
Check also the time required from founders. How many weeks does it last and how much time does it represent per week. Are you able to handle the workload associated with the program?
Explore the expertise & network
The first key ingredient of an Impact entrepreneurship program is access to knowhow. And a great program includes great mentors. This gives you the possibility to work with experts that based on their experience can give you advice for specific matters of your startup.
An excellent entrepreneurship program will give you access to a strong and active network of experts, investors, founders, and corporates, both during and after the acceleration process.
Besides, many programs are specialized. Check for the ones who have a special focus on your industry or business model to bring more relevance to what you’ll go through. Some generalist programs also deliver great value by bringing in the vertical knowledge within the program content and network of mentors, yet having a special industry focus can be a positive signal for you.
Identify funding & corporate partners opportunities
Some programs don’t include funding or partnerships and focus solely on know-how. Others include equity-based fundraising and others equity-free funding and access to a network of venture capital companies and business angels.
Also, depending on the partnerships of the program, you might get to connect with important corporate partners from your industry which could help land big R&D, customers or resellers deals.
Investigate the coworking opportunities & additional services
One of the reasons why an entrepreneur would apply to an incubator/accelerator is to have access to a place where they can not only work but also a place where founders can meet, connect and share knowledge. Some programs offer it too.
Besides coworking space, more and more programs offer additional services such as marketing, legal and administrative support. Try to identify these to see the complete value brought by the program.
Tap into the Alumni & after program care
Some programs continue to be involved even after the program is finished and this in different ways. The most common one is the alumni network which can help nurturing valuable business relationships, find mentors and connections through the extended network.
All in all, picking an entrepreneurship program requires strong commitment, in time, in focus and sometimes in equity or money. On the positive side, it has the potential to make a strong difference in your entrepreneurial journey. It is worth investing some time to explore all opportunities open for you and pick the best match for your current needs.
If you are a founder working on an social/environmental impact idea, we have created a database of programs in Europe to help you find the best fit for your project. check it out here and follow us on linkedin to discover the latest!