Today’s post comes from resident startup enthusiast and Webs’ Lead Analyst, Alex Mitchell.

One of the hottest new trends for small businesses/startups is the use of Incubating or Accelerating organizations to supercharge growth by attracting significant media attention, connecting with experienced advisors, and obtaining funding from investors.

In the past, we’ve talked on the blog about important networks you can use to promote your small business from both an Offline and Online perspective. Before we dive in here, it may be worth giving those posts a quick read to understand how Incubators and Accelerators can fit into your overall networking strategy.

What is an Incubator/Accelerator?

These terms are often used interchangeably, but actually have slightly different characteristics:

Top 5 Incubators and Accelerators:

  1. YCombinator
  2. TechStars
  3. 500 Startups
  4. SeedCamp
  5. Founder Institute

Is an Accelerator Right for My Business?

Although there are accelerators for all types of businesses, most appeal to technology-focused or technology-enabled companies. Additionally, most are focused on new ideas, emerging industries, or creative solutions to persistent, wide-spread problems.

For that reason, it’s worth considering these three questions before applying to an Accelerator:

  1. Is my business considered “traditional” (Example: Restaurant, Clothing, Lawn Care)?
  2. Am I uncomfortable trading some ownership of my business for advice and publicity?
  3. Do I live in a rural area far away from any larger cities?

If your answer to any of these questions is Yes, then an accelerator my not be right for you. Again, see our prior articles on Offline and Online resources that may be more appropriate.

How Can I find an Accelerator Near Me?

SeedDB maintains a comprehensive list of Seed-stage accelerators that you can filter by City, Country, or success metrics (companies funded).

Additionally, WebbMedia Group has a list that includes more program-specific details like program duration, equity cost, and investment amount.

If you’re in the DC/MD/VA area, we recommend checking out 1776, one of our favorite accelerators. 1776 also offers free learning and networking events every week on topics ranging from Crowdfunding to Bitcoin.

What Other Resources Can I Use to Find Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs in My Area?

Even if an Incubator or an Accelerator isn’t right for your small business, it’s worthwhile trying to enhance your small business networking using some of their techniques.

Organizations like Meetup are a great resource to find other startups or entrepreneurs in your area. Share ideas, what has or hasn’t worked, and explore potential cross-promotional or cross-functional opportunities with other businesses.

We’d love to hear your experiences and success stories with using Accelerators and Networking to help your small business. What has or hasn’t worked for you?

About the Author: Alex Mitchell is the Lead Analyst for the Webs Marketing team. Find more from Alex on Google+.

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