What’s the difference between an incubator, accelerator, and coworking space?

Incubator, accelerator, and coworking space are common terms in the startup world. Before you choose one over another for your startup, it is important to understand the differences. Once you understand the differences, you can make the best decision for your startup.


Incubators help new and early-stage businesses grow by providing office space, coaching, resources, and access to capital. Entrepreneurs enter an incubator with a business idea and learn how to develop that idea into a startup. Some incubators target specific markets such health technology or food. Incubators tend to focus on developing the early aspects of a startup idea, while accelerators focus more on developing the later steps of building a successful startup.


Accelerators follow a set schedule to help accelerate the growth of startups. Even though there are similarities between accelerators and incubators, accelerators are more structured and offer scheduled programs. Entrepreneurs enter with a minimum viable product and then focus on developing their strategy, branding, marketing, and operations. An accelerator program usually concludes with a pitch event attended by investors and the press.

Coworking Space

Coworking space provides entrepreneurs with shared office space, a startup community of like-minded individuals, and access to resources. Shared space not only reduces costs, but also makes it easier to make connections with industry experts, specialists, and potential partners. Coworking spaces often include a shared space, dedicated desk, or dedicated office.

The right fit for your startup depends on your startup’s needs, its stage of development, your preference for privacy or collaboration, your willingness to pay or give equity, the location, etc. You may also find that each plays a role throughout your startup journey.