Many founders pursue incubation programs for their startup projects. While the concept isn’t necessarily a guarantee for success, it offers a helping hand during the hardest time of development.
Among others, incubators help founders avoid common first-time mistakes. They also bring founders, industry experts, and investors together.
They are sometimes government-funded or established by universities. In some cases, they can be founded by serial entrepreneurs to help with the growth of a particular industry or by a VC fund in order to get early access to a pipeline of new startups.
Startups that join an incubator gain access to:
- Free (or low-cost) co-working space
- Industry-relevant business resources
- Investor contacts for funding opportunities
- Mentorship & 1-on-1 training
- Useful perks that expedite growth
In this article, we will list, in no particular order, the 16 best incubators for startups in 2020. Make sure you explore each option carefully, to understand the specific industry each incubator operates in. Based on that you can determine if your company is an eligible candidate.
Best incubators for startups in Europe
The incubators listed below are located in European countries. While most options are open to startups from all over the world, some have strict limitations for their selection process.
Location: Edinburgh, Stirling & Aberdeen, Scotland
Established in 2014, Codebase is one of the best incubators for startups in Europe. The organization is present in 3 cities and holds strategic corporate partnerships with Barclays and PwC.
- Has raised over $600m for 90+ startups.
- Hosts an annual 10-week pre-accelerator program.
- Delivers mentorship sessions in 24 cities all over Scotland.
Location: Barcelona & Madrid, Spain
SeedRocket is an incubator and accelerator focused on tech startups. Due to their partnership with Google For Startups, the organization offers a large number of perks to the startups they choose to work with.
- Offers a 13-week accelerator program with a no-equity business model.
- Selected projects can work in more than 50 co-working spaces worldwide.
- Early-stage companies can be nominated for the Spark program which offers a 6-figure package of Google-related perks.
- According to an analysis published by Expansión, if you had invested in every single startup that won the SeedRocket accelerator program, you'd have a 3.7x ROI.
Si hubieras invertido en todas las startups ganadoras de @seedrocket habrías obtenido un 3,7x en dinero devuelto y todavía tendrías en cartera startups como para hacer un 7x (Endado, Micolet, Ratedpower, Flanks,...) . Hoy el @expansioncom saca un artículo interesante 👇🏾 pic.twitter.com/4Je68GV4wL— jesus monleon (@jemonleon) July 13, 2020
Location(s): Madrid, Barcelona, & Galicia, Spain
Conector is a Spanish startup incubator and accelerator that provides mentorship services for entrepreneurs and seed-stage startups. Located in Madrid, it focuses on tech-oriented early-stage companies and is considered to be one of the best incubators for startups.
- Hosts a travel tech accelerator - Conector Travel-Tech - that supports seed-stage startups with launched MVP products.
- Accepted startups at Conector receive perks valued at more than € 400,000.
- As of 2020, Conector has raised more than $200m for 126 startups.
Location: Menorca, Spain & Mayakoba, Mexico
Decelera is the world’s first Startup Decelerator. They offer accelerator programs to second-time founders, aiming to help them to find the best performing growth model to scale their latest startup sustainably.
- Offers a 2-week accelerator program followed by an 18-month support period.
- Focuses on projects that have a tested MVP with solid metrics with the aim of global expansion.
- The “deceleration model” takes away the focus on speed and places it on building meaningful relationships, adopting sustainable business models, and solving global-scale issues.
- Selects startups that are aligned with at least one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.
Location: Delft, The Netherlands
Yes!Delft is one of the leading European startup incubators with a diverse range of accelerator programs. The facility supports tech projects, from inception to exit, by offering funding support, mentorship opportunities, and a network of experienced professionals.
- Ideation projects can participate in the 10-week Validation Lab and get insights from 100+ potential customers.
- YES!Delft receives no equity from accelerator projects. Instead, it works on a split success fee which is reinvested into the incubator.
- A separate 10-week program is offered to help startup founders become more attractive to potential investors, improving their funding chances.
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
ACE offers a 9-week incubation program to tech startups that are affiliated with Amsterdam Universities, as well as the UMC or NWO institutes. The company offers support to early-stage startups but also established tech companies that are ready to scale.
- Idea stage incubator - applicants don’t need to have a pre-developed MVP, but there is a large list of selection criteria.
- Incubation programs occur bi-annually, in May and November.
- Provides a startup visa for selected candidates that wish to develop their product in The Netherlands.
Best startup incubators in the USA
The US has a rich presence of business incubators for startups in tech-related industries. Some are open to international startups, while others are focused on state-specific projects.
Location: Alachua, FL
UF Innovate supports an innovation ecosystem at the University of Florida. The organization has two business incubators known as The Hub and Sid Martin Biotech. The Hub (shown above) recently expanded in size, providing more than 100.000 square feet in space for tech startups.
- Both incubators solely consider startups built by UF-students.
- The Hub is a mixed-use incubator, providing both a co-working area and acceleration programs.
- Sid-Martin Biotech is solely focused on biotechnology startups.
Location: Chicago, IL
MATTER supports healthcare startups in all their growth stages. The founders and entrepreneurs that become part of their community are introduced to a large network of industry executives and investors, which expedites the growth of their business.
- Organizes multiple seminars, workshops, problem-solving roundtables, and fireside chats focused on healthcare innovation.
- Network opportunities through curated programs with fellow industry leaders, healthcare experts, and passionate founders.
- No-profit and no-equity business model with a focus on building an inclusive community.
Location: Atlanta, GA
Founded in 1979, the ATDC is one of the oldest tech incubators in America. In 2010 and 2013, Forbes mentioned ATDC in its list of “Incubators Changing the World” next to Y Combinator and the Environmental Business Cluster.
- 90% of ATDC-supported startups are successful 5 years after graduation.
- Individual mentoring by world-class entrepreneurs and tech experts as well as a community of experienced mentors.
- Support and expertise from companies that have previously been fostered by the incubator, as well as corporate partners.
Location: Worcester, MA
WorcLab is an organization that supports Massachusetts-based startups to drive innovation and create new job opportunities. The incubator that hosts WorcLab-selected startups provides low-cost office space and the necessary facilities to build and test MVP products.
- Offers dedicated event space, and additional manufacturing support. All these facilities are available in-house and come at a low cost for members of the community.
- Members have generated $3.6 million in revenue and almost $8 million in funding.
- The organization has more than 100 employees and supports the growth of more than 40 companies.
Location: Los Angeles, CA
LACI is an incubator that aims to build a cleantech community by supporting startup projects from underrepresented groups. The organization focuses on projects that create innovative solutions related to energy, transportation, and sustainable city hosts.
- Selected candidates get 2-year access to the grounds of the La Kretz Innovation Campus.
- LACI startups can use the Advanced Prototyping Center (APC), a workspace where teams can build and test new products using equipment worth well over $11 million.
- The incubator is open to cleantech startups located in Southern California.
Location: Syracuse, NY
The Tech Garden (TTG) is the hotspot of tech entrepreneurs in Central New York. Early-stage projects can make use of the incubation services they need to achieve their venture goals through a diverse range of programs, events, and resources.
- Through TTG’s HotSpot program, early-stage startups can access the grounds for up to 5-years.
- Members can apply for short-term accelerators as well as long term programs designed for early-stage companies.
- Funding is set at specific amounts depending on the stage of your company and the program you choose to apply for.
Location: Irvine, CA
ULP is a state-of-the-art incubator (and co-working space) that could be mistaken for a luxury hotel. The organization is very picky when it comes to its applicants, and accepted candidates need to pay a hefty fee for their station.
- Due to a large number of applications, candidates need to pass a screening process and an interview that determines their eligibility for participation.
- Open to Lifescience & Medtech startups; applications from other industries are rejected.
- Members need to pay $1950 per month for a 6 ft. lab bench or $5950 per month for a private lab suite.
Location: Austin, Texas
Capital Factory is a Texas-based incubator for early-stage startups. Successful applicants make use of a free co-working space, hosting credits, a company advocate, and a network of top investors and entrepreneurs in Texas.
- Capital Factory receives a 1% equity stake and the right to invest in the company’s next funding round.
- Startups are strengthened by an Investor Relations Associate, who increases your chances of successful fundraising.
- 6-months of free co-working membership and $250.000+ in hosting credits from Microsoft, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Google, and others.
Other business incubators
The following incubators are neither located in Europe nor the US.
Location: Kowloon, China
TXD is an incubator created by DeepTeck, a community of deep technology experts, and TusPark HK, one of the largest startup incubation groups in China. The organization aims to support early-stage startups in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area.
- Their 3-month Inside Out (IO) program provides support to individual PhDs or groups of scientists who want to transform their tech-related ideas into actual businesses.
- Next to IO, TXD also offers its Outside In (OI) program, which helps Asian startups utilize the latest technologies to add value to their business model.
- You can read about both programs in more depth here.
Location: Remote - Virtual incubator
Another interesting concept is that of a fully remote accelerator program. While it may not fit your typical incubator standards, Pioneer is a great helping hand for entrepreneurs all over the world.
- Pioneers can give up 1% of their equity for a large list of perks and mentorships from the world’s most successful entrepreneurs.
- A select number of startups can apply for larger funding opportunities in exchange for a larger percentage of their company (up to 10%).
- All startups that join Pioneer are required to establish a US (parent) company to receive funding.
- Pioneer also offers a very rewarding referral program. If you know any startups looking to fund their projects you could end up owning 0,5% of their company’s equity.
While incubators are not necessary for the success of your startup, they can offer several “shortcuts”. Whether it is for the funding stages, the powerful connections, or the money-saving opportunities, you can’t overlook the importance of a reliable partner.
However, some incubators are not free, and most of them limit the team to a certain location. In some cases, incubators may even take a part of your company’s equity in exchange for their services.
If you believe that an incubation program could benefit your growth trajectory, don’t wait too long. Pick one of the best incubators for startups, perform additional research, and make sure you contact the organization privately to find out more.
Frequently Asked Questions
For more in-depth information on the best incubators for startups, check the Q&A section below.
How do business incubators make money?
Before we answer this question, it is important to distinguish government-funded (non-profit) incubators from privately owned facilities that demand an equity stake in the companies they assist.
- The former will only make money through donations and government funds. As such they will usually support a smaller number of early-stage companies at any given time. It is only rarely that they will receive an equity percentage.
- The later makes money when their startups have a successful exit. When a startup is sold, the incubator will earn money equal to the % of equity that they hold. The successful number of exists is one of the factors that determine the best incubators for startups.
Who is responsible for incubator management?
There is usually an incubator manager that is responsible for the daily operations of the facility. Aside from that and depending on the incubator, there may be additional employees that take care of business relations, event planning, and mentorship sessions.
What is the difference between incubators and free co-working spaces?
Free coworking spaces are facilities that allow founders and entrepreneurs to work on their projects without the need to pay monthly rent. Incubators, however, offer additional benefits in the form of mentorships, investor connections, and exclusive events.