Quick rant today on something that's been bugging me for awhile -- snobbery around terms used by different people who support entrepreneurs. Some things I've heard lately:
"We are not an incubator <chuckle>, we're an accelerator!"
"Incubators stand the test of time."
"Our mentor program is different."
For the sake of simplicity, I ignore labels/names. It isn't productive to get into a sophomoric debate over whether or not you "incubate", "accelerate", "catalyze", or "mentor." And if folks are focusing on this, they're not differentiating themselves in an area that actually matters to you, the entrepreneur.
The only thing that really matters is if one of these people and/or groups can really help you. What differentiated service or expertise can they provide that is better than anyone else you can choose? Then it's a matter of the payment structure -- do you pay them in advance, do they fund you, or do you share some of the risk? I think this actually changes the nature of the deal and the urgency of the people involved.
The more I sniff around, the more a lot of these groups feel the same to me. The core value proposition group to group is the same. If you want or need to work with one, you'll have to do some homework. Get to know the people. Check out their qualifications and their reputation. Ask around. And most importantly, make sure you are comfortable with them on either a personal or professional level, preferably both.
Finally, remember that no incubator, accelerator, catalyst, or mentor is going to do the job for you. You have to earn your success. The right one will make it a little easier, but you aren't going to have an easier time if you go with a "catalyst" over an "accelerator". They're a lot more alike than they think, but subtle differences will make one the right fit for you.