Leveraging Incubators & Accelerators as a Start-Up

Incubators and accelerators play a pivotal role in fostering start-ups and enabling them to research and ultimately commercialize their products, as well as offering numerous other services. In this article, find out how a biotech start-up can benefit from joining an incubator or accelerator.

Some key differences separate incubators from accelerators. One of the most crucial is their focus. Incubators seek to nurture early-stage start-ups for a period of up to several years, while accelerators, as the name suggests, typically look for organizations with a minimum viable product and work under a period of around three to six months – offering a more intensive environment. Accelerators also have a more competitive selection process, with start-ups often joining as part of a cohort with other companies.

Support Network

Incubators and accelerators serve as nurturing environments where biotech entrepreneurs receive mentorship, guidance, and support from experienced professionals and industry experts. The guidance available helps provide companies with advice spanning business development, fundraising, product validation, regulatory compliance and more. This support network enables start-ups to make informed decisions and avoid any common pitfalls.

Resources & Infrastructure

One of the primary advantages of incubators and accelerators is access to state-of-the-art facilities and essential resources to aid in biotech research and development. These programs often provide start-ups with laboratory space, equipment, and specialized facilities necessary for conducting trials and testing prototypes. Alongside this, they also have access to specialized services such as legal counsel and regulatory affairs support that enable start-ups a more efficient route toward commercialization.

Networking Opportunities

Networking opportunities are also available through joining an incubator or accelerator where start-ups can connect with potential collaborators, investors and industry partners. Most institutions offer networking events, pitch competitions and demo days where these companies can showcase themselves to a wider network.

Access to Funding

Perhaps the most vital aspect for start-ups is being able to access funding. Generally, an accelerator and incubator go about this differently. Accelerators often take an equity stake in the start-ups that they enroll, typically between 5-10%, in exchange for seed funding and the services that they provide. Incubators, meanwhile, charge membership fees or rent for office space or facilities. In return, start-ups gain access to an environment that helps develop their organization and gain exposure to investors through the incubator’s networking events.

Notable Examples

Many prominent biotechs have emerged from an incubator or accelerator. Here are two notable examples:

  • Ginkgo Bioworks: Ginkgo Bioworks, a synthetic biology company focused on genetic engineering and organism design, joined Y Combinator in 2014, one of the world’s most renowned startup accelerators. Becoming the first biotech to join the accelerator, during their time there they closed USD 1.2 million in milestone contracts.
  • Caribou Biosciences: Caribou Sciences, a biotech pioneering CRISPR-based gene editing for various applications, was incubated in the California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences belonging to the University of California. They currently have four assets in development and have gone public on the NASDAQ.