The startup community is one-of-a-kind.
Founders know that their success relies on their ability to build connections and develop ideas alongside other smart, motivated individuals. As a result, many people in the tech world follow a very different work-life approach compared to those in a traditional 9-5 environment.
Accelerators, incubators, and coworking spaces all play a special role in the startup community. The tech industry formed these unique environments and spaces to bring people together for collaboration.
This guide will tell you everything you’ve always wanted to know (but didn’t want to ask) about these 3 pillars of startups. We’ll also help you advocate for bringing one or more of these spaces to your community.
Coworking space: What is it?
A coworking space is a shared workspace that welcomes a variety of members, companies, and investors to work, collaborate, and network. It offers the amenities workers need to be productive — desks, communal tables, meeting rooms, and phone booths.
On any given day, a coworking space may see:
- A pair of startup founders interviewing prospective hires
- A freelance software engineer focusing on a project
- A local tech meetup group convening to share ideas during happy hour
- A pitch fest event
- A startup company signing a 6-month lease for dedicated office space for their growing team
Coworking spaces may vary location by location, but their purpose is often the same. They’re the foundation of many tech communities by encouraging the exchange of ideas. And they help get people up and out of their solitary home offices.
Coworking spaces also often empower remote workers and freelancers to have dedicated workspaces outside their homes.
Accelerator vs. incubator: What’s the difference?
Accelerators and incubators are also critical to tech startups. While both provide education and resources, let’s explore the ins and outs of each.
Incubators are just what they sound like — a space where new business and product ideas are born, nurtured, and given the resources they need to stand on their own.
Incubators are spaces for budding entrepreneurs to develop and refine their ideas in community with one another. You’ll learn more of the fundamentals, such as the questions to explore to help validate (or reject) a new business idea. Typically, you’ll follow a program curriculum set over a specific period of time in a group environment.
Some incubators will work towards graduating you with a minimum viable product (MVP).
Accelerators work with early-stage entrepreneurs that already have a solid idea in place. This means product or software companies will already have their MVP and use this time to undergo rigorous testing and experimentation.
The accelerator experience sometimes provides access to funding — or funder relationships — and additional, in-depth resources to support the future launch of your MVP.
By the way — did you know you can join an accelerator program in Eastern Kentucky? CO.STARTERS provides practical guidance and step-by-step execution of business processes in a group of your peers. Learn more here.
The relationship between startups, accelerators, incubators, and coworking space
Startups rely on accelerators, incubators, and coworking spaces to fulfill tangible needs:
- Community: These spaces facilitate interpersonal connections that can lead to new business and product ideas, high-performing talent sourcing, and introductions to local tech investors.
- Energy and growth: Coexisting with other like-minded, motivated startups and freelancers creates exciting momentum.
- Meeting space and office amenities: These spaces often provide flexible, competitively-priced access to practical office needs.
- Events and programs: Pitch fests, networking events, and group meetups provide additional opportunities to build community and achieve your goals.
It’s harder to fulfill these needs in traditional office buildings, considering they’re typically furnished with single-person cubicles and isolated offices. These environments present roadblocks to how startups operate — which require near-constant collaboration. Plus, traditional offices often come with costlier, less flexible lease terms that don’t always appeal to this crowd.
Does your community need an accelerator, incubator, or coworking space?
Maybe you don’t have a startup culture in your town or county — yet. Don’t let that deter you. Creating these spaces can help call in people interested in entrepreneurship and remote work.
In 2019, coworking spaces worldwide had an average of 185 members.
Coworking spaces also encourage remote workers and tourists to extend their stays. With freelancers occupying the largest share of coworking memberships worldwide, bringing one to your town can help attract that community to visit — or live.
In 2018, the median fundraising amount per startup that graduated from an accelerator was $339,000.
Before you work on bringing in an accelerator, incubator, or coworking space, define your reasons and goals by asking yourself these questions:
- What role do you want startups to play in your area’s economic development and culture?
- Can I align this space with existing strategic investments in remote work and tech careers in Eastern Kentucky?
- Do I want to welcome more remote workers and long-term tourists to our community?
- Are there community partners who can help lead and program the space?
To get started, consider your community partners who can get involved.
Your local government may be able to support you with grants and subsidies. Schools launching entrepreneurship programs may want to partner to develop programming. Local commercial real estate owners may be able to donate or lease space at a reasonable rate.
Ask your small business community leaders whether they’d see themselves utilizing a coworking space for their expanding teams. Get in touch with nearby entrepreneurs to see if an incubator or accelerator program could align with their interests.
And SOAR Innovation can help facilitate connections, promote your projects, and offer entrepreneurship resources to get your project off the ground.
Spotlight: Invest 606 Accelerator
SOAR is partnered with Invest 606, a nonprofit that supports Eastern Kentucky entrepreneurs with resources, programs, and funding connections.
Invest 606 just launched applications for their rigorous, six-month program. The experience culminates with the Invest 606 Challenge, a pitchfest with a $15,000 grand prize.
Learn more about the program and apply here by September 25.
Spotlight: Coworking spaces in Eastern Kentucky
If you’ve ever wanted to check out the coworking options already up and running in Eastern Kentucky, be sure to visit:
- THE EDGE Business Center, Russell
- Infusion Solutions Building, Ashland
Conclusion: Launch an accelerator, incubator, or coworking space in Eastern Kentucky
SOAR Innovation — powered by Kentucky Innovation — is committed to helping the Eastern Kentucky startup community succeed.
We offer a competitive accelerator program taught by the SOAR Innovation team of entrepreneurship experts. We also provide a wealth of actionable resources, from the Complete Guide to Entrepreneurship in Eastern Kentucky to a blog chock-full of helpful startup advice.
If you’re planning to launch an accelerator, incubator, or coworking space in EKY and want to bounce your ideas off our team, please reach out.