Defining Incubators

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Defining Incubators
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Project Information
Has title Defining Incubators
Has owner Anne Freeman, Libby Bassini
Has start date
Has deadline date
Has project status Active
Subsumed by: Ecosystem Organization Classifier
Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved.

Working Definition

So far we are defining an U.S. tech incubator as follows:

  1. Type of Company Incubated: Focuses on the development of high-growth, for-profit tech firms
  2. VC-Backing: Some of its current or potential startups could raise venture capital in the future
  3. Affiliation: Is for-profit, non-profit, or affiliated with a corporation, academic institution, or the government (or some combination thereof)
  4. Location: Located in the US and has a physical premises
  5. Services: Provides workspace, mentorship, and other resources to support the companies' growth
  6. Duration: Startups do not all stay for the same fixed duration (though there may be a cap on duration)

* This definition will be updated/modified as we determine other characteristics that we want to include!!!

Incubator Definition Based on a Review of Definitions in the Literature's Definition of an Incubator

According to's definition of an incubator, this term refers to an organization with the following characteristics:

  1. Purpose: Supports startups entering the beginning stages of building their company;
  2. Duration: Operates on a more open-ended timeline with a greater focus on the longevity of a startup than the speed of its growth;
  3. Application Process: Generally has a less selective, competitive admissions process than an accelerator;
  4. Resources: Provides firms with workspace, mentorship, and other resources to support the companies' growth;
  5. Investment in Startups: Generally does not take an equity stake in the companies they support.'s Definition of an Incubator

According to's definition of an incubator, this term refers to an organization with the following characteristics:

  1. Purpose: Matches companies with the best resources for them to be successful
  2. Duration: generally operates on a more open-ended timeline
  3. Organizational Support: can receive support from outside organizations including VC firms, angel investors, government organizations, and corporations
  4. Market Area: can focus on a specific industry or incubate companies from broad industries
  5. Services: varied in nature, can include mentoring/business advice, connections to other resources within community, and options to lease space month-to-month
  6. Environment: collaboration in a physical space, focus on co-working environment

Small Business Administration Definition of an Incubator

According to an academic paper titled, Innovation Accelerators: Defining Characteristics Among Startup Assistance Organizations, written for the SBA, this term refers to an organization with the following characteristics (pg. 10):

  1. Clients: varied client companies, can be from various industries
  2. Selection Process: has a competitive selection process, mostly from local community
  3. Duration: longer period of involvement with companies, can range between 1 and 5 years
  4. Services: Access to management/consulting, intellectual property, and networks of entrepreneurs. Helps entrepreneurs develop skills for management and running a busineses
  5. Investment: Generally, does not take equity and does not invest directly in the company

Venn Diagram of incubators and accelerators Venn Diagram from pg.14 shows overlap and distinct qualities of incubators and accelerators

Definition of an Incubator from EDA Paper "Incubating Success"

This paper is from 2011 and may be outdated in classifying accelerators as a subcategory of incubators.

The research paper Incubating Success. Incubation best practices that lead to successful new ventures, with support from the U.S. Deparment of Commerce and the Economic Development Administration, categorizes an incubator using the following qualities:

  1. Business Model: incubators can be classified as one of the following categories (pg. 15) - physical building with on-site management, virtual, international, accelerator
  2. Industry Focus: incubators can be classified according to industry focus (pg. 17) as - manufacturing, mixed-use, technology, or service
  3. By Lead Organization: can classify incubators according to their affiliation with other organizations (pg. 21) - university/higher education, for-profit, state, nation
  4. Key Services: successful incubators provide certain key services (pg. 27) including:
  • Assistance with Business Basics - accounting, presentation skills, business etiquette, marketing
  • Legal assistance
  • Access to Resources - capital, internet
  • Networking - within the community, with other entrepreneurs