Designed to guide and assist promising businesses, incubators are a crucial component of the startup ecosystem. Through close collaboration with entrepreneurs, they provide financial and mentoring solutions to many of the common issues that plague fledgeling startups and allow them to blossom into successful enterprises – for a cut of the profits.
Indeed, your chosen partner will, among many other things, be responsible for teaching you the critical tenets of business, fostering connections to strategic partners, acquiring funding, helping pitch your products or services, providing banking and accounting advice, and teaching your staff proper business etiquette. Therefore, it's crucial that, as a business owner keen to follow this path, you commit to the right incubator.
The Best Startup Incubators
Obviously, the closer you are located to a key startup hub, then the better your options will be to choose from. To give you a guiding hand, though, we've compiled a list of some of the best startup incubators in the world today, and why they could be the right choice for your venture – should you be accepted onto their programme!
ABVenture Zone (Aberdeen, UK)
Notable occupants: EnteroBiotix, RAB Microfluidics R&D, DLVR
Based out of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, ABVenture Zone helps foster growing enterprises while furthering the development of each entrepreneur's products or services.
Already one of the top incubators in the UK, they offer a working space that fosters networking with like-minded individuals alongside access to state-of-the-art equipment. Though they are focused primarily on the digital and IT sectors, they welcome startups from any industry that display innovation and a willingness and ambition to grow.
ecentre (Auckland, New Zealand)
Notable occupants: Unleashed, Zeald, Perspective Research
Working in close collaboration with Massey University, ecentre is an essential startup consideration for any New Zealander – including the likes of two-time EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist, Chris Pescott.
By receiving extensive assistance in market research and its application to the development of a marketing plan, entrepreneurs also expand their business skills, gain the courage to take their industry by storm, and learn how to use the many modern resources that are readily available to them.
ActivSpaces (Buea, Cameroon)
Notable occupants: Skylabase, SiQueries, FEEM
Located on the slopes of Mount Cameroon, ActivSpaces is the top innovation hub within the region and is targeted at young tech entrepreneurs.
Upon approval for incubation, applicants are taught how to build self-sufficient companies, and to combine their tech skills with commercial nous. With the help of mentors and fellow entrepreneurs, the end goal is to enable young Cameroonians to bring their innovative ideas to life and become the lifeblood of a sustainable tech-driven economy within the country.
Z80 Labs (Buffalo, NY, USA)
Notable occupants: 3AM Innovations, PopBiotech, Buffalo Automation
Located in the Queen City, Buffalo's Z80 Labs is targeted at entrepreneurs who are interested in launching an internet-focused startup.
The firm makes small seed investments in companies that they believe will benefit from their experience, with each startup able to access maximum funds of $150k. They are also able to offer space and high-tech resources at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, which is perfect for health and biotech-related startups.
Sussex Innovation Centre (Brighton, UK)
Notable occupants: Synertial Technologies, LifeBox Health, ASC Aqua
Based at (and, since 2008, owned by) the University of Sussex in Brighton, the Sussex Innovation Centre targets startups all over the south-east of England in a variety of fields.
Offering a wide range of support services, invaluable access to professional networks, and office space across the region (including premises in south London), the organisation focuses on evolving startups and existing scaleups. As one of the oldest incubators in this list, the Sussex Innovation Centre also offers the benefit of experience, as evidenced by its lengthy list of success stories.
Socialab (Santiago, Chile)
Notable occupants: Lab4U, Papinotas, Brave Up
Located in the affluent Las Condes district of the Chilean capital, Socialab is a unique initiative that, in many cases, goes above and beyond the expected remit of an incubator.
Describing itself as the world's "biggest problem solver", the firm brings together entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds whose ideas can affect positive social changes in the six countries that they operate in. If you are a South American startup interested in habitability, renewable energies, recycling, social development, and human rights, then this is truly one of the top startup incubators to consider.
YBF Ventures (Melbourne, Australia)
Notable occupants: Equiem, Up Banking, Vumero Group
A highly established incubator with locations in both Melbourne and Sydney, YBF Ventures is an attractive proposition for tech and innovation-based startups.
Originally intended as a physical working space for up-and-coming entrepreneurs, the firm is now interested in helping promising startups to scale and "scaleups to succeed", primarily through the lease of premium co-working spaces and focused corporate partnership programmes. Indeed, these partnership programmes have proven a hugely successful concept, with multinational behemoths able to leverage the expertise and innovation of local startups in the area.
Venture Catalysts (Mumbai, India)
Notable occupants: GoMechanic, Global eSport, HomeCapital
India's first integrated incubator, Venture Catalysts is widely regarded as the nation's top incubator for startups – no mean feat given its short existence. They offer venture capital in the range of $500k to $1m, as well as mentorship, coaching and access to industry experts.
Collaborating closely with the likes of Microsoft, Amazon and IBM, Venture Catalysts also provides workspaces, conferences and monthly events in each of India's biggest cities (as well as in Hong Kong, London and Doha). On a practical level, meanwhile, the company has introduced a wide range of support initiatives to entrepreneurs, such as shadowing, pitch days, and review days.
Spaze Ventures (Singapore, Singapore)
Notable occupants: Luminaire AI, Tutopiya, Bitofproperty
One of the top startup incubators in the Asia region, Spaze Ventures offers initial seed funding of between SGD50k (around $37k) and SGD500k ($369k) for minimal equity.
Beyond that, though, the Singapore-based firm offers successful applicants intensive mentorship, physical office space and access to a network of industry insiders – a particular bonus, given the city state's enviable position as a global finance and tech hub.
Sting (Stockholm, Sweden)
Notable occupants: DeepMed, Freightbag, IQ Chef
Another incubator surrounded by a thriving tech scene, Sting supports hundreds of budding business enterprises within the Swedish capital and has done so for nearly 20 years.
It currently offers two incubation programmes (as well as an accelerator programme), including:
- A six to 12-month option with SEK300k (around $32k) of investment
- A 12 to 30-month cycle for deep tech projects with an investment of SEK500k (around $53k)
The company also offers free office space, personal coaching and a 5-6% stock option, and is widely regarded as one of the primary tech incubators in Scandinavia.
Launch Academy (Vancouver, Canada)
Notable occupants: The Good Stuff, Riipen, RunGo
Self-described as western Canada's "leading tech hub", Launch Academy is designed to offer entrepreneurs and their fledgeling startups an entry point into the lucrative North American market.
By offering guidance on international expansion, tools to develop and grow your business, mentorship, and connections within your industry's community, the project is nothing if not ambitious; to date, they have incubated over 700 companies. Backed by the likes of Ernst & Young, Innovate BC and the Royal Bank of Canada, Launch Academy's entire mantra can be summarised by its motto – to "get sh*t done".
Of course, while these are some of the top incubators currently in operation, it doesn't necessarily mean they represent the right choice for you.
Indeed, the key point to take away is that before you commit to the incubation process, ensure that it is the right approach for your business to take, and that whomever you choose as your partner, you feel comfortable and confident that it is an arrangement that benefits you.
What other startup incubators are worth mentioning? Feel free to give a shout out to the ones we missed in the comment section below!
All currency conversions obtained via XE Currency Converter and correct as of 19 December 2019.