Is Usine IO an Accelerator or an Incubator? Should it be one?

We’ve recently realized that some people around us and journalists in particular categorized us as an incubator and/or an accelerator. Why not.

We do not invest and we do not select as previously written on Medium. However, one would argue that:

  • We host startups
  • They get support (between 1 and 8 hours per months minimum of pure technical consulting)
  • They stay between 3 and 10 months, often more
  • Each member benefits from the others and our mutual network

We’d theorize that at least 3 variables make you an incubator or an accelerator rather than something else:

  • Level of selection
  • Financing partners: LP’s if you’re linked to a fund, Corporates, public money
  • Level of investment in the companies hosted/supported

Incubators are usually financed by the public sector or large corporations. They select the companies that will access their infrastructure. They provide physical resources like offices and meeting rooms. They provide a certain type of services and counsel during a limited period of time (mentoring, go-to-market, accounting, legal advice, …). They rarely invest.

Accelerators usually take a stake in the companies they support and share a common destiny with them.

They provide infrastructure (limited or extended). They act as an investor with a pre-defined valuation, technically lower considering the hands-on support they provide during a limited time. The selection happens through a call for project or as the applications come.

The models are evolving. Some incubators provide more or less support. Some accelerators do provide investment, some currently don’t. Accelerators are sometimes supporting startups remotely. The quality of networks varies as well.

We’re a service provider and we invoice at a fair price the service we provide. We have an extended scope and our model is built among other things on a critical mass of members.

What we observe though is that this model does not cannibalize the average technical quality of the projects we host. The level of maturity is so diverse that we wouldn’t even be able to quantify this average quality. We’re rather satisfied, sometimes amazed by the technical level and the business sense of the “founders-members” here.

One can also argue that accelerators are service providers as well but the exchange is more around equity and money. It is a different dynamic.

Mentoring is not always advising. Mentoring is usually not consulting. This is also where Hardware is not software.

The model might evolve; we’ll see where our adventure brings us.

We chose a specific business model. An innovative one enabling us to answer as many technical challenges as possible during our first months of operation.

We do our best to support business-wise our “founders-members”. It was partly our job in the past so we’re not improvising when we decide to take some time to do so. However, it is not part of our current offering and we don’t plan to change it.

Hardware technical expertise, industrial network and high tech infrastructure is what we do and what we provide to our members.

This answers the need from the young startups, but also the needs of SME’s and larger corporations. A growing part of our community.

It might change in the future, it most probably will as it is not set in stone. We’re totally aware of that but for the time being we’ll continue this way, whether we decide to invest in some companies we host or not.

For the record, this is no theory, not even a factual presentation. Just a feeling considering the different ecosystems we operate in. We thought we’d share it with you. Happy to discuss it over a cup of coffee any time.