Croydon Tech City: A brief guide to coworking, incubating and accelerating

By - Wednesday 17th February, 2016

Jonny Rose’s handy guide to telling your incubator from your accelerator

As startup advisor and self-styled “Growth Hacker”, Paul O’Brien, wrote, “Entrepreneurs everywhere are trying to understand not just how to connect, network, and collaborate, but how to develop relationships with the right investors. Incubators, accelerators, and coworking spaces are the place to start”.

These relatively new kinds of workspaces and startup support systems have been growing for the past ten to fifteen years. But confusion abounds as to the difference between them – and as Croydon Tech City increasingly becomes home to all three – it’s important that locals understand just what are these incubators, accelerators, and coworking spaces everybody is talking about.


Incubators provide startups with workspace and business development services – including accounting, branding, and intellectual property training – in a rent-based model offered to young ventures in a custom package. Most often investing capital in young companies in exchange for a small (5% – 15%) equity stake, incubators charge low to no up-front cost for utilising the workspace and the organisation’s cultivated resources such as mentors and networks of investors in the startup’s industry.


Accelerators are structured more like “schools for startups”, according to an article in The Economist. Complete with graduation ceremonies, accelerators are more organisation than shared work environment. Once accepted into the accelerator’s time structured program (often three to four months), startups with a developed product or record of service receive access to workspace, small amounts of seed-capital, mentorship, and formal networking opportunities.

Co-working Spaces

Coworking space is more a style of work than a structured environment or educational program. Often decidedly holistic, coworking spaces cultivate supportive and life-balanced work environments, while providing a fertile, collaborative environment for young companies to form and formulate ideas. With more peer-to-peer mentorship and greater access to talented entrepreneurs, the thinking is that early-stage startups can get ahead on launching a product and earning a profit by starting out in a coworking space.

Often beautifully designed open spaces with plenty of natural light or with floor plans that emphasise community, some of the best coworking spaces seem to reside within accelerators and incubators.

Co-work, incubate and accelerate your startup in Croydon Tech City

While they tend to look the same, the three can be distinguished by the connection to investment and the needs of the participating startups. If you are considering one of these options, you should first determine what stage of growth your startup is in. Decide to take a focused, yet flexible, look at what you have to offer in terms of competitive advantage within your industry. Then seek out collaborative networks – like Croydon Tech City – that you can tap into to learn more about incubators, accelerators, and coworking spaces near you.

This month’s Croydon Tech City event is a ‘meet the workspaces’ special where you can hear more from Croydon’s workspace founders. To register to attend the event on Thursday 18th February 7pm at Project B, please go here.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He owns a lead generation company. He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training and a Linkedin lead generation service. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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