The Real Difference Between Incubators and Startup Studios

Dianna Lesage
5 min readJul 8, 2020

Within the startup ecosystem, there are those who build and those who help others build. The criteria for helping others build is very simple.

An organization must have the following resources:

  • Mentors (people who have been there/ done that and can shed light on specific obstacles a founding team may face) and Advisors (people who can help a founding team execute by working hand-in-hand with them develop business plans, pitch decks, and strategies)
  • Networks (of talent, investors, and partners)
  • Education (blueprints on how to accomplish objectives like fundraising, hiring, setting up legal entities, etc.)

Beyond the above resources, most organizations helping entrepreneurs build offer seed funding and exposure opportunities (i.e demo days).

There are 3 entities that fall under the “helping others build” umbrella: accelerators, incubators, and Startup Studios (also known as Venture Builders).

Each of these structures has a unique value proposition.


Wikipedia describes accelerators as “fixed-term, cohort-based programs, that include mentorship and educational components and culminate in a public pitch event or demo day.” Accelerators help founding teams move their venture from the “initial traction stage” to the “series-A stage”. Accelerators typically only accept ventures into their program if said ventures have market traction and some form of the product built. They run cohorts at specific points during the year (typically winter and spring) and only accept applications for those cohorts within a specific time frame. These entities are not for entrepreneurs who just have an idea.

Examples: Y-Combinator, TechStars, 500 Startups


Incubators function much like accelerators but they’re more open to working with…

Dianna Lesage

Venture Studio expert. Creator capitalist. Lover of innovation.