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South Florida’s Tech Incubators and Tech Accelerators – What’s the Difference?

tech-incubatorsMiami’s Tech Scene continues to surge. All the Refresh Miami events are selling out, and standing room only if you arrive late. Tech Cocktail continues to create a regular presence here, both in terms of events and coverage. eMerge Americas was a big success this past year, as the dominant tech showcase event in Miami for 2014. And best of all – the Tech Incubators and Accelerators are continuing to open, getting tons of applicants, and filling up fast. We keep hearing stories that, years ago would have been astonishing – hundreds and hundreds of applicants presenting entrepreneurial tech ideas. Developed ideas, with business plans and marketing content. Technology investment funding remains a major problem and one we discussed in a prior blog. But the wheels are moving for sure.

Some examples: The Venture Hive, Incubate Miami, and The Lab, just to name a few. Better still, the major Universities are all going in heavy and working with local Government. The University of Miami, Miami-Dade, FIU, and FAU all have active involvement in these programs, and are expanding their efforts to fill this void.

And after all, when you really think about the Miami Vs. Silicone Valley debate – why NOT Miami / South Florida? We’re an incredible gateway to Central and Latin America, we have great climate, we have a great social scene, and a reputation for a unique culture that gave us programs ranging from Miami Vice and Dexter.

Climate? Check. Fun place to live? Check. Beaches? Check. Great social scene? Check. Hip Tech-centered area of town where like-minded tech folks can congregate (Midtown/Wywood)? Check. Eager young entrepreneurs? Check. Local University investment and involvement? Check. And of course, the Incubators and Accelerators. If you’re new to the Miami Tech scene, the difference between the two can be confusing at first.

Tech Incubators are typically very, very early stage startup environments where folks who are willing to commit their time, energy, and dedication can work in a collaborate environment that facilitates great communication and mentorship. Sometimes Entrepreneurs are savvy business folks. Often they aren’t – they have passion and enthusiasm and hopefully a great idea, but they need help with the rest. That’s where Incubators come in. Think of it as a Tech + Business primer course that also provide a lot of very basic business training. There are speakers and mentors who come by offer advice and perspective. There are educational events going on constantly. An Incubator is where you go to learn the basics, get great advice, and be inspired by other creative folks around you.

Tech Accelerators are the next level up – the place you go to once you’ve refined the vision for your business, completed the early stages of your particular product design or service, have convinced others that your idea is a great one, and need help actually launching and getting off the ground quickly. This is where your go-to-market strategy is refined, and where you (hopefully) take the quantum leap to actually having a viable business, product, or service.  Accelerators tend to select the best-of-the-best coming from the Incubators – which are already very selective in screening their own applicants. The goal of an Accelerator is to have you out the door with your business started, or as close to that as possible. Therefore, Accelerators attract a lot more attention from investors, and a path to capital.

Whereas Incubators tend to be community/university funded, Accelerators tend to be investor funded. Some locations are even hybrid-facilities, offering both levels. What’s interesting to note is that lots of new Accelerators are opening or have opened – here’s a nice article explaining one:

http://www.bizjournals.com/southflorida/blog/2013/11/exclusive-startup-miami-scouts-for.html

We at SDSOL will continue to share in the excitement as the Miami Technology scene grows, and will continue to be active in the community, attending events and visiting as many of these programs as possible.

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