Coworking, accelerator or incubator, what’s the best choice for a startup?

Coworking spaces have grown exponentially in the last ten years across the globe, taking different shapes and transforming the way we work. This phenomenon has introduced the CO-culture sneaking itself into different kind of spaces and businesses such as research and development institutes, incubators, accelerators, innovation hubs, maker spaces, etc, and nowadays even hotels and/or corporations.

Finding the right balance between collaboration and competitive advantage

Coworking spaces host large creative communities where synergies are maximised and the possibilities of personal and professional growth are broadened. They have become a real source of talent where collaboration and innovation occurs naturally between the members of their community but also thanks to the daily dynamics driven by the community builder. The community builder, who is a serendipity accelerator expert, designs a calendar of activities to stimulate the community, including social activities, workshops or talks to strengthen personal and professional relationships between the members. Since its beginning, coworking spaces have been considered a phenomenon of startups and freelancers because they offer flexibility, relative affordability and integral networking opportunities. Nowadays, companies are occupying this type of space to get inspiration from the freelancing movement and attract young talent to collaborate.

Acceleration or incubation spaces are by definition a real source of innovation, unlike coworking spaces where collaboration is basically promoted, they offer startups the opportunity to validate the business model and increase their chances of business success. In this process, startups have access to intensive training, mentorships by experts and corporates of the sector, partnerships with related companies, specific workshops, talks with experts, contacts, and coaching. In these spaces, collaboration is also promoted, however it is focused on a commercial relationship of innovation-investment between startups and organizations. This collaboration is materialized by offering knowledge and support to accelerators by organizations, accelerators that have the ability to attract talent in a dynamic and sustainable way, connect startups with organizations for the creation of new projects by creating scalable business models.

Accelerators and incubators are great because of the built-in counsel and workshops typically offered, but to their disadvantage, I’ve also generally found a comparative lack of interdisciplinary collaboration that I’d not only appreciate, but also need for the nature of work my company is doing. Yasmin Mattox, founder and CEO at the startup Arkatecht.

What does thrive a startup to join a collaborative workspace, whether is a coworking space, accelerator, incubator, or flex workspace?

Currently, coworkings, accelerators and incubators compete for getting the startup’s attention. Each option offers advantages for an incipient business but at the same time very different alternatives and opportunities. To simplify, both the accelerators and the incubators offer vertical programs that help startups to grow the business through mentorship and financing opportunities; Incubators offer support services to startups at their early stage, while accelerators offer mentorship programs for a limited period to grow the startup business in a more advanced state. In both cases, they offer financing support in services or investment. On the other hand, coworking spaces may or may not offer acceleration and mentorship programs to startups, but their value proposition is the offering of warmer working experience to a multidisciplinary community of like-minded people that collaborate and grow spontaneously.

Which is the best option?

It will depend on a very personal decision of the startup, depending on their economic needs, needs for collaboration, the degree of development or maturity of the project and future plans.

Coworking is a natural first step for many startups. Alex Valentine, co-founder of 121with, has just taken on a coworking space at Runway East Finsbury Square (UK).

Coworking is the first natural step for a startup or an entrepreneur who needs a space to interact and collaborate with other talents, more economical and flexible. As the business matures, startups need the competitive advantages offered by acceleration services.

We wanted to get into a top accelerator in the US to increase our chances of raising a seed round. It allowed us to build a network in the valley, raise a small round, and move out here to recruit and build out our team. AngelPad is considered one of two in the highest platinum plus tier in the latest rankings. – Terry Kim, CEO and Mentor at NexGenT.

It can be difficult when you have to choose between the three spaces, but they can be complemented perfectly. What startups will get is a level of assistance at a different level beyond their home or traditional office space where they are separated from the rest of the community. And true open innovation will be achieved through collaboration and accompaniment at each stage of the entrepreneurship journey.

This was written by HWL agency partner Vanessa Sans and also posted on her Linkedin.

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