Accelerators vs. Incubators vs. Coworking Spaces

Accelerators vs. Incubators vs. Coworking Spaces

By Lea Hensel, UNI Business and Community Services

I don’t have a specific documented percentage but I would imagine a vast majority of startups and small businesses begin at home. In the garage, at the kitchen table, if you’re lucky, an actual office in your home.

But when it’s time to take the business out of the house or if you’re needing resources at your disposal (or just can’t take the quiet anymore), where do you go? When you’re just getting started you likely don’t want to (or can’t) spend the money on an actual office but luckily, incubators, accelerators, and coworking spaces are popping up all over Iowa and offer great options for business growth and development. Each one has a different function and can work for you at a different stage of your business.


Are you looking for rapid growth through a structured program? Then you should probably look into an accelerator. Many have different programs based on your revenue and will take you through the entire process to launch and grow your company in a pretty short time frame. Some even as short as 90 days. The accelerator programs typically offer extensive coaching and business guidance with a specific end goal in mind to build a strong foundation to make your business sustainable and fundable once you graduate the program.


Being a little bit less rigorous than an accelerator, an incubator is a great place for entrepreneurs and start-ups to build their business, primarily those in the new and early-stages. You’ll receive mentorship and coaching, networking opportunities, and office space, but without the strict programming of an accelerator. In fact, some incubators work with businesses to prepare them for an accelerator.

Coworking Spaces

Think of coworking spaces as renting an office, but without having to have an entire building or office space. Many coworking spaces do offer some business assistance and resources (examples I have seen are having an attorney come in once a month to meet with members, or holding members-only events with speakers) but the membership really just guarantees you’ve got a spot.  Most coworking spaces have multiple options from a pretty basic fee that provides you with a space at a table or desk and Internet, to actually renting out an enclosed office space monthly. Coworking spaces are ideal for entrepreneurs that aren’t necessarily looking to be part of a program, but need a professional space to work.

Curious what’s available where you live? Head over to Incubator, Accelerator, and Coworking Spaces for a list of some of the options available throughout Iowa.

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