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Incubators and Accelerators

What is best for your startup? Incubators, Accelerators, Startup Academies, or Mentoring Communities? Here in Utah, leveraging several resources can be advantageous.

Early-stage startups often need guidance and input on how to grow their ideas and businesses to succeed. Luckily here in Utah, there’s a thriving community of experts that can provide ad-hoc and proven support to develop companies from the pre-startup to high-growth stage. Often, startups seek support from incubators and accelerators, while also joining a mentoring community hub or a startup academy. There are so many resources that work together to support the entrepreneur and expedite startup success. This article summarizes how incubators, accelerators, academies, and networking groups can work together, and it also highlights a few that have formed partnerships here in Utah.

Difference between Incubators and Accelerators, Academies and Mentoring Communities

Incubators, accelerators, and mentoring communities are designed to improve your business competency, however, each entity takes a different approach to accomplish this goal. Many entrepreneurs incorrectly assume that incubators and accelerators are similar. However, incubator and accelerator programs are designed according to the startup’s maturity and development needs. Both incubators and accelerators provide expert services, but the cost of support and expected return can vary.

Startup academies and mentoring communities are also different in how they are structured, the length of the membership or program, as well as in the cost structure. Both, however, place a major emphasis on education by connecting neophyte entrepreneurs with those who are more experienced.

Incubators focus on “innovation.”

Incubators support startups that are in the early stages of innovation development. Incubators test innovation ideas against market needs and existing competition, verify business plans, and the product/ market fit. To supplement the founding teams’ talent deficits, incubators insert a range of expert service providers who contribute to specific business projects, such as legal, financial, or sales and marketing advisors, to ensure business plans are in place and complement the innovations. Incubators can also provide access to resources for further business validation. Resources often include data analytics, physical business location, investment readiness, or networking opportunities.

Is an incubator right for my startup?

Incubators often select clients based upon previous success criteria, such as business models (i.e. SaaS or direct-to-consumer) or innovation type (such as enterprise technology, IoT, health and wellness). This is because incubators have proven approaches to new innovation launches, and offer in-house experts who can effectively contribute to growing the business to maximize the innovation’s potential.

Incubator business model

Incubators generally do not provide capital and don’t usually take equity in the companies they support. Incubator services are commonly paid for by the startup company.

How incubators benefit companies

Companies using incubators benefit primarily from entrepreneurial education (especially helpful for first-time CEOs), supplemental expert staffing support, third-party target market research and product validation, a viable and fundable business plan, and meaningful introductions to prospective customers, partners, and investors. Incubator programs lead innovations to a path to capital from angel or early-stage investors, state governments, or economic-development coalitions.

Accelerators focus on “scaling businesses.”

Accelerators develop or drive companies with business models in place, and assist them in becoming more productive and profitable. Companies within an accelerator are typically incorporated, have formed a team, and created some traction in the market. Accelerators prepare startups for larger investments and major influencers.

Accelerator business model and program structure

Because accelerators sharpen operational efficiency, they often structure their programs during specific timeframes with pre-defined programs, mentors, and program deliverables. Traditionally, accelerators are run like boot camps or schools, where not all companies that enter the programs will graduate.

Is an accelerator right for my startup?

Accelerators use a screening process that is stringent and automated. Often accelerators ask for a minority equity share in the company to ensure a greater contribution and impact on the startup’s success. Accelerators are popular with startups because they often offer a cash investment and a facility from which to operate. Some accelerators are moving away from the in-person model to provide online, self-paced programs. 

How accelerators help companies

Companies that graduate from accelerators have an improved chance of raising venture capital from a third-party entity, and are often network well with other graduating cohorts. Accelerators benefit startups with their fast-paced shared learning and mentorship programs, access to capital, and the PR value and exposure after graduating from accelerator programs.

Accelerators often work with incubators to help startups build out their ideas, products, or technologies into scalable businesses. 

Mentoring communities focus on “impact.”

Utah is home to many exceptional mentoring and networking communities that affect business growth by creating a cross-pollination network that acts as a catalyst for impact. Some entities cultivate new business formations within under-supported or under-represented communities. We see this in rural location emphases, founder diversity initiatives, and so on. Mentoring communities outside of Utah are also finding similar-minded influencers from a variety of backgrounds and organizations who are willing to connect and construct a supportive ecosystem so the path to success is smoother for future startups.  

How do mentoring communities work?

Mentoring communities often have a two-tier structure with a knowledge source, expert-level that provides direction, structure, and management of the community, and the support recipients. Some communities have three tiers: service providers, mentors, and mentorees.

What is the business model behind a mentoring community?

These communities often have a recurring membership fee, however, the returns are much more valuable than the payment. These communities often present highly-vetted introductions to prospective clients and investors, branding and advertising opportunities, select networking events, and access to public and private sector influencers to help align policy with the impact intention.

Accelerators and incubators will often recommend startups to join these impact-based mentoring communities to stay within the epicenter of growth that directly relates to their business.

Academies focus on “education.”

Startup academies take an educational, classroom-style approach to educating the entrepreneur about growing a viable business. Like a traditional school, startup academies follow a curriculum, develop plans through assignment work, and have a graduation aptitude requirement. Choosing to attend an academy is a wise path for those who want to gain a deep understanding of business creation, yet aren’t inclined to attain an MBA at this time.

What are the benefits of academies?

An academy may be associated with a university, and program completion can lead toward a degree. Other organizations are non-profit entities that provide tax advantages. Academies bolster the reputation of the entrepreneur as program completion highlights their competence and perseverance through supplemental education. Academies can also introduce graduates to prospective investors or customers. Academies validate the business plan and the founder’s business leadership.

Academies business model

How entrepreneurs compensate academies vary. Some offer a membership plan during the educational process. Others ask for equity or future revenue sharing. When considering an academy, ask about the financing approach and how that will affect your company. 


Important questions to ask an incubator, accelerator, startup academy, or mentoring community

  1. What is the application process? What is the entity’s thesis, and application timeframe?
  2. Outside of the time commitment, what does the entity ask from your organization (payment or equity)?
  3. How is the program structured for your company? What resources are provided to your startup?
  4. What value will your company get out of the program? How long will the program take?
  5. Do you need to be physically present to engage specific programs, or is it necessary to relocate your company for a specified time period?
  6. What other companies have used these services, and what did they achieve?
  7. Will you become a part of their expert group once you complete the program, and mentor future companies?

Utah-based business incubators, accelerators, academies, and mentoring communities

Utah has dozens of accelerators, incubators, academies, and mentoring communities providing services to improve and cultivate the next generation of startups. Within Utah, it is not uncommon for these entity types to partner up (such as Womenpreneurs and Beta Boom) to stimulate an underserved sector. Check out these leading organizations (each logo is hyperlinked to their section):

Beta Boom is a startup academy and pre-seed fund focused on helping overlooked founders of software startups build a strong foundation, grow their startup, and raise funding with daily coaching from product, marketing, and fundraising experts.

Visit Beta Boom

Cohort Application Window/Timing

The Beta Boom application window is open a few times each year. Please check the website for submission timing.

Online application

Criteria/Profile of Applicants

In 2020, Beta Boom teamed up with Womenpreneurs to run a program open exclusively to female-run, for-profit software companies. Admitted teams must be on-site in Salt Lake City, Utah for at least three immersion weeks (similar to an executive MBA program). Participants will be expected to speak with customers and run product and marketing experiments on a weekly basis.

What Companies Get if Accepted

Admitted teams will receive daily coaching from various product, marketing, and fundraising experts to help them grow their startup while developing internal capacity. In addition, startup teams will be paired with mentors and introduced to angel and venture capital investors. There is the possibility of investment after the program concludes.

 Kimmy Paluch, co-founder, managing director, and head coach says, “I’m super excited about the amazing impact our partnership with Womenpreneurs can bring to bridge critical access gaps facing female founders.”

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BoomStartup is a nationally ranked seed accelerator that has helped more than 175 startups launch their businesses and raise over $55 million in capital. Boom Startup operates virtually through a cloud-based interface and flips the traditional accelerator model by accepting all companies that apply through their user-friendly platform.

BoomStartup believes technology-driven innovations are changing the world and wants to provide more entrepreneurs with access to mentors, investors, and industry experts.

Visit Boom Startup

Cohort Application Window/Timing

Companies can get started on the BoomStartup online platform 24/7, 365 days a year.

Begin online application

Criteria/Profile of Applicants

BoomStartup supports technology-driven companies at all maturity stages. BoomStartup can even help startups build their MVP.

What Companies Get if Accepted

BoomStartup accepts all companies! Startups receive a scorecard on their business maturity, paired with a personalized acceleration plan that they can get started on immediately and work through at their own pace.

For a small fee, they can book meetings with BoomStartup’s network of mentors, or enroll in video modules to learn about launching a business from trusted experts who have been there. They will also have access to a marketplace of products and services specifically designed to help startups scale their companies.

As companies mature through a 5-level program, they become eligible to receive investment in exchange for equity, which is deployed in increments on a performance-based investment model.

Sydney Suttor, Managing Director of BoomStartup says,  “BoomStartup’s virtual model enables us to work with more founders with big ideas from Utah, the United States, and across the world. When we can link companies to the right mentors and resources to help them push the boundaries of technology in our daily lives…there is nothing more inspiring than that.”

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Hen House Ventures is a highly efficient technology startup incubator that helps companies analyze and improve their marketing and sales strategies to rapidly scale when entering a massive or emerging tech markets. 

Hen House’s programs are uniquely designed for each startup according to their specific development and funding needs. These programs leverage market data and benchmarks to ensure positive transformation. Hen House uses a SaaS platform that prepares startups for funding including professional pitch deck creation and funding education plus investment analysis that compares an entrepreneur’s pitch to other comparable pitches.

Request a consultation

Deal Genius Investment Readiness

(Deal Genius requires login and account creation)

Cohort Application Window/Timing

Hen House Ventures works with no more than three startups at one time with our go-to-market services. However, our Deck to Deal entrepreneur platform has no restriction on the number of entrepreneurs it can serve. We accept inquiries at any time of the year.

Begin online application

Criteria/Profile of Applicants

Ideal companies to receive our go-to-market services meet these criteria:

  1. are a technology-enabled company
  2. have formalized their corporate strategy, but are validating their product/ market fit or are preparing to scale
  3. need outside expertise to either validate, iterate or pivot

Companies that participate on the Deck to Deal platform are preparing for a funding event, and require expert-level guidance prior to meeting investors.

All services are paid for by the entrepreneur.

What Companies Get if Accepted

Hen House has systems, people, and programs designed to roll out startup programs quickly and effectively. We have over 20 highly-skilled staff and trusted advisors who are ready to serve startups. If you choose to work with Hen House, we identify the right programs for you using these simple steps:

  • Assessment – we evaluate your current situation and identifying opportunities.
  • Comparison – we measure your company’s progress to similar successful examples.
  • Recommendation – we present a plan that fits your runway and resources
Tara Spalding

Tara Spalding, Founder and President says, “Our purpose at Hen House is to combine education and perspective for entrepreneurs in a proactive fashion, so they can maximize their company structure and development based on their innovation, and attract the best investors. We appreciate the deep trust and commitment that occurs with every company that we work with.”

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PandoLabs is Park City’s entrepreneurial community; connecting Park City entrepreneurs to one another and with the rest of Utah. 

PandoLabs is not a traditional networking group. It’s an execution network managed by GroupCurrent. It comprises an invite-only network of the most active and engaged entrepreneurs, capital providers, and service providers in Utah. The focus is on matching people, setting the stage for collaboration, and creating an atmosphere for entrepreneurial success. 

PandoLabs prioritizes behavior and relationships above programming and profits. This helps ensure quality interactions and sustainable relationships between members, while also protecting members from mentor fatigue. The nearly 100 Founding Members have worked very hard to revitalize PandoLabs and look forward to continuous improvement and growth!

Visit Website

Cohort Application Window/Timing

PandoLabs is always open for new members and partnerships to join our community.

Begin online application

Criteria/Profile of Applicants

All eligible members must complete an online application. Eligibility guidelines include: 

  • Be an entrepreneur, capital provider, or service provider.
  • Be willing to engage with the Pandolabs community.
  • Act in accordance with our core values: collaboration and authenticity.

What Companies Get if Accepted

PandoLabs is a member-based community supported by partnerships. Members benefits include:

  • Socialize, learn from, and collaborate with like-minded professionals at our events and workshops.
  • Share your expertise and challenges within the PandoLabs community.
  • We’ll help you meet others through curated introductions, setting the stage for collaboration.
  • PandoLabs perk partners provide exclusive discounts and access to local services, products, and experiences.
  • Investment in Park City’s entrepreneurial community to grow and thrive.

Membership is $19.99 per month, and there is a one-time initiation fee of $149.99. You may cancel at any time.

Perk Partners’ fee is $500 per year. Being a PandoLabs perk partner is an opportunity to develop relationships with PandoLabs members by offering exclusive deal perks. Perks must exceed $100 in value to members to be eligible. 

Community Partners’ fee is encouraged to be $999 per year. Being a PandoLabs community partner is an opportunity to invest in Park City’s entrepreneurial community and connect Park City entrepreneurs to one another and with the rest of Utah. Community partners receive one PandoLabs membership.

Supporting Partners fee is $10,000 per year. Being a PandoLabs supporting partner is an opportunity to develop relationships with the most active and engaged entrepreneurs, capital providers and services providers in Utah. Supporting partners receive two PandoLabs memberships. 

David Bieber, managing director of PandoLabs says, “I see so much opportunity in matching people, setting the stage for collaboration, and creating an atmosphere for entrepreneurial success. I moved to Utah for a better life and to focus on how I spend my time and who I spend it with. Access to nature and outdoor activities are incredibly important and I love the people, the mentality, and the opportunity to work with our community to turn Park City and Utah into the entrepreneurial ecosystem it can be.”

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RevRoad focuses on helping entrepreneurs grow. Each quarter, RevRoad accepts three to four companies to work with over a two-year period. The RevRoad model is an investment of services for a minority percentage of equity, to better service individual company needs, which is another option in addition to the typical venture cash model.

The RevRoad experience includes working with a team that understands the process of building and scaling a business, key service deliverables and in-house teams to working alongside you on each project, and a cool place to work.

Learn more about RevRoad

Cohort Application Window/Timing

RevRoad accepts applications on the web 24/7 and brings in cohorts quarterly. The rigorous application process is carried out in three phases. The first phase is filling out the detailed online application. The RevRoad leadership team typically reviews 60 to 80 applications each quarter, and then invites finalists to come in and pitch their business. The final phase is those selected come back in and pitch to our investor network.

RevRoad typically negotiates a minority equity stake in exchange for an investment of necessary business services to help them grow. Terms for each portfolio company are  tailored to the specific company based on their needs and stage of growth.

Begin online application

Entrepreneur competition

Criteria/Profile of Applicants

RevRoad looks for businesses of any industry at any stage. However, RevRoad requires certain criteria requirements. Those requirements are: 

  • Multiple streams of revenue
  • Recurring revenue
  • Market traction
  • Experienced team
  • Scalability
  • Unique and defensible product 
  • Minimum buyable product

What Companies Get if Accepted

RevRoad offers: 

  • Resources and professional expertise covering 12 critical business service areas 
  • Capital raise assistance and guidance
  • Getting companies to a harvest event
  • A RevRoad board advisor
  • Free office space that includes an unlimited cereal bar!

Amy Caldwell, executive director of RevRoad says,  “I’m most excited about getting to see so many new ideas and entrepreneurs working on making a difference in the world. I love being a part of a diverse group of people who truly care about helping others achieve their goals. It gets me excited to see our founders and their teams achieve so many things. It truly takes a community to help each other in our noble endeavors.”

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Womenpreneurs is a Utah-based collective dedicated to closing the wealth gap by empowering women-led businesses, igniting bold female leadership, and creating a powerful community of women-supporting-women. We do this through programming, training, and events designed to support and empower female founders, and build the leadership potential and investment savvy of women throughout our community.

Current programming at Womenprenuers includes: 

Ascendant Circles: peer-membership based training developed specifically for women looking to rise into their leadership potential

The Raise: designed to help women-led companies effectively navigate the fundraising process. 

Learn more about Womenpreneurs Uta

Cohort Application Window/Timing

The Raise and Ascendant Circles are currently accepting applicants for the next cohorts.

Apply now

Criteria/Profile of Applicants

Ascendant Circles Applicants: 

All women are invited to apply. Participants are asked to commit to three hours/month in-person, plus six hours/month of time to work on exercises and reflection independently.

The Raise Applicants: 

  • Female founders who are in the early stages of building their companies and who are preparing to seek funding
  • Founders who have raised some capital but are looking for more funding sources
  • New founders who want to better understand the fundraising landscape before launching their companies and deciding on a trajectory and growth strategy.

What Companies Get if Accepted

Ascendant Circles: 

  • Eighteen hours of in-person, small group training
  • Access to a community of peers and mentors
  • Access to ongoing events and activities curated specifically for Circles graduates. 

The Raise: 

  • Twenty hours of in-person, small group training
  • Four hours of mentorship outside of class
  • Access to a network of capital providers
  • Peer mentorship and a tight-knit cohort of other female founders

Rose Maizner, co-founder of Womenpreneurs says, 

“What we’re most excited about is moving women into positions of power. We believe that the solution to many of the pressing challenges we face is to have more female, diverse, and compassionate leadership at the helm of businesses and investments. By giving women the tools to be empowered in their financial decision-making and raise the capital they need—on their terms—to grow their companies and multiply their impact and influence, we’ll be doing our small part to create this new ecosystem of businesses that are equitable and diverse from the ground up. And we think that is pretty exciting.”

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If you have questions about incubators, accelerators, startup academies, or mentoring networks and communities, please add them in the comments below. Or, if you know of additional entities that should be featured, contact us!