How to choose the right startup program for your business

Startup programs play an important role in supporting the growth and success of new companies and will continue to do so for years to come. They were created as an answer to help address the variety of challenges that startups around the world face as they navigate the competitive landscape of their industries.

Depending on the stage of development, sector and goals, founders may choose the type of program that is best for their specific needs. In this blogpost, we’ll explore 5 of the most popular programs for startups each with their own benefits and objectives. We believe this will help you make the suitable choice when determining which program is right for your business.

  1. Accelerator programs
  2. Incubator programs
  3. Startup competitions
  4. Bootcamps
  5. Grants

Accelerator programs

Accelerator programs are designed to help startups grow quickly. They typically provide mentorship, networking, and funding opportunities however, this may vary slightly depending on the organizer’s goals for the program. Accelerator programs often have a specific focus or industry, such as healthcare or fintech, and offer intensive support for a fixed period of time. Examples include the VC4A Venture Showcase or Y-Combinator.

If you’re looking to quickly scale up your business especially post revenue, accelerator programs may be the next step for you.

Incubator programs

Incubator programs are longer-term programs aimed at providing support and resources to early-stage startups. Many incubators may offer office space, mentorship, access to funding, and other resources to that provide some stability to help your startup grow.

Incubator programs may be run by innovation hubs, tertiary learning institutions, government agencies, as well as private organizations.

Startup competitions

Startup competitions are programs or events that bring early-stage startups together to pitch their ideas or products to a panel typically comprising judges or investors. In most cases, the process involves submitting an application and a pitch deck to be considered before you participate in the competition.

Startup competitions are energy-fueled opportunities that can be a good choice if you’re seeking exposure, validation of your business idea, networking, feedback or funding as these programs typically come with a cash prize. Some examples include the GoGettaz Prize competition, Africa’s Business Heroes and more.


Bootcamps are intensive, short-term training programs that provide selected participants with practical skills and knowledge in a specific area, such as marketing, technical assistance, or product development. They are popular with startups because they can equip founders and their employees with the skills they need to succeed in a fast-paced, rapidly evolving industry.

While bootcamps may not provide the same level of support and resources as other types of startup programs, they are still a valuable tool for early-stage startups looking to improve their capabilities and build a stronger team in preparation for other growth opportunities such as fundraising. An example of a bootcamp is the She Leads Africa High Growth Coaching Program under the Work in Progress! Alliance.


Grants are typically offered to startups that meet certain criteria and are often organized by government agencies. These programs are highly competitive as they’re commonly equity-free. Government grants are popular with startups that are working on innovative projects that have the potential to benefit society or solve important problems. As an innovative impact-focused startup, this might be the right choice for you. It is worth noting that startups will need to meet often strict criteria and demonstrate their ability to achieve specific outcomes in order to be considered.

Finally, when choosing a startup program, it’s important to consider a couple of factors beyond the type. First, consider the program’s focus and whether it aligns with your startup’s goals and needs. Some programs may be focused on specific sectors or development stages, while others may be offering general support. Second, understand the program requirements to avoid application mistakes. Lastly, research the program’s reputation and look for programs that have a strong track record of supporting successful startups. By carefully considering these factors, you can choose a program that provides the resources and expertise you need to achieve your current specific goals and help your startup succeed.