Accelerators, pre-accelerators, incubators, pre-incubators, government grants, pitch competitions, hackathons, and more – there’s a wide range of national and international support programmes for startups of all stages.
While accelerator programmes typically get most of the attention, incubators are often the unsung heroes that can help a startup find their footing by providing invaluable resources for idea development and beyond.
Incubators differ from accelerators in:
- Duration – incubators are typically longer-term.
- Focus – accelerators run a specific curriculum for a particular industry, whereas incubation programmes offer access to a variety of support that the founder can make use of, i.e. mentoring, classes, workspace, etc.
- Intensity – accelerators are more intense in that you have to reach specific milestones in a determined amount of time, whereas incubators are more flexible, providing an extended support system.
- Equity – accelerators usually take equity in the participating startups as part of the program. Incubators usually don’t.
- Investment – investment-wise, accelerators focus on preparing the startup for an investment round and tend to tap into their networks to help find investors. Business incubators typically do not provide investment, however, startups may receive valuable financial support in the form of grants and co-payments, and they may also benefit from existing investor contacts.
As such, an incubator programme can be invaluable for any entrepreneur with a brilliant idea, but in need of resources and time to get it off the ground.
In Latvia, LIAA’s business incubator and pre-incubator programmes have been running for over 7 years and cater to both traditional businesses, as well as startups. There are 11 regional business incubators and 9 support units, as well as the Creative Industries Incubator in Riga, which specializes in providing support to companies in the creative industries.
Over the years, many recognizable Latvian startups have participated in the LIAA’s business incubator and gone on to find success. Here are four of them.
Supliful, a startup offering on-demand supplement fulfillment, helps people start a private label business quickly and painlessly. With Supliful, anyone can create their own supplement brand and start selling without having to worry about stock, warehousing, or product development.
Supliful has raised nearly $2 million across several pre-seed rounds, and made waves in international media, appearing on The Next Web, Lifehack, and Men’s Journal, as well as locally, being named one of the startups to watch by Labs of Latvia.
"Working with the incubator – specifically, Jelgava Business Incubator – has been a very positive experience. It's well-structured and I have nothing but compliments for the programme and the team managing it. For us, the primary value lies in our ability to recuperate funds through grants, thereby facilitating our cash flow and supporting the company's development. To date, Supliful has received support totalling nearly 120,000 EUR, including 40,000 EUR form the incubator and 80,000 EUR from other LIAA support programmes. The incubator is always punctual with payments and forthcoming with administration.
The companies that will benefit most from the incubator are those who already have some resources available, since receiving grant funding happens after the fact – you invest first, and recoup the funds at a later stage. For those not yet in this position, the incubator can still add value through classes, connections, and other support.” – Mārtiņš Lasmanis, Founder of Supliful.
Jeff is a fintech startup developing a data-driven financial comparison platform for the unbanked people in Southeast Asia and has serviced over 1.5 million people so far. The platform helps financial service providers reach potential borrowers, while opening doors for these borrowers, who might get otherwise rejected by traditional lenders.
In 2021, Jeff raised a $1.5 million seed round, bringing the company’s total raised to over $2.7 million, making waves in various industry media.
Swotzy is a last-mile logistics provider that aims to simplify e-commerce deliveries for businesses both big and small. Swotzy offers a single point of contact by having all key carriers in one place, allowing businesses to use their platform to ensure optimal delivery choices and little-to-no hassle for their users.
In August 2023, Swotzy secured €500K in pre-seed funding after launching its services in the Latvian market a couple of months prior.
“Before initiating collaboration with the LIAA Business Incubator, we conducted research to understand how this incubator could assist us. Our specific goal was to secure financial support for the development of our company. Here, I would like to express special gratitude to the Liepaja Business Incubator, with whose support we were able to secure €26,000 in grants.
Entrepreneurs often underestimate the opportunities offered by such programs. Our greatest benefit was gaining this information and receiving direct assistance from LIAA in administrative matters. In terms of support provided by the incubator for business development, we believe that LIAA can make the most significant contribution to companies in the idea or very early development stages. Companies that have already "taken off" and reached a certain level, in our experience, may derive less added value compared to what can be offered by venture capital accelerator programs.“ – Lauris Rutkis, Co-founder and CEO at Swotzy.
Maxaa is another local thriving fintech company. The startup offers a package of services that include both hardware and software for retail and payments, and boasts the EU's first digital-only fiscal cash register.
Maxaa was recognized as the highest-potential startup from the Baltics startup in the fintech-oriented Mastercard Lighthouse Finitiv program.
Let your ideas grow
LIAA's business incubator and other support programmes can be a fantastic kick-off point for local entrepreneurs seeking to bring their idea to life, as well as for more established companies to get support as they level up their operations.
Do note that, currently, business incubator admissions are closed, however, the incubator programme will return in 2024, so keep an eye out!
Startups interested in receiving state support should stay up to date with LIAA's website, as well as explore other national entrepreneur support programmes.