Esports Incubators, Accelerators, & Studios (Oh My)
In the startup world, “incubator” and “accelerator” are sometimes used interchangeably. There is a difference, though. This short post helps in two ways. For new entrepreneurs in gaming and esports, it answers that basic-but-important “what’s the difference?” question. For ventures considering a relationship with Rivals HQ, it also shares more about our structure and how we work with you.
What’s an Esports Incubator?
In simple terms, an incubator helps entrepreneurs during their earliest stages. In this part of an esports venture’s lifecycle, founders often have a concept and not much else.
The value that an incubator adds lies in several important areas. They can help pressure test the product-market concept, especially if your advisors have deep experience in the specific industry that you want to enter. Incubators can also help you define, identify, and evaluate your initial target markets. Finally, most incubators offer on-premises collaborative working space and high-value networking opportunities.
By the end of an incubator relationship–assuming a strong product-market fit and competitive differentiation/advantage—the venture should have a compelling product definition, business plan, and initial revenue model.
What’s an Esports Accelerator?
You’ve got a product, service, or platform tailored for the esports industry or audience. You have some traction with a certain amount of sales and pipeline and revenue growth. So far, so good. But you know that to stay ahead of the competition, you have to move farther, faster. That’s where accelerators come in.
An esports accelerator helps your existing venture more forward much faster than if you were to grow it on your own. Good accelerators will help you cover in a few months what my typically take you a year or two. Acceleration is especially critical if your specific product or service finds itself under unexpected competitive pressure from new challenger brands.
When your tenure at an esports accelerator comes to an end, you should have a stronger pipeline, a well-differentiated position and value proposition, and be in a position for a significant round of funding—or be able to self-fund due to increased traction/revenue.
That All Makes Sense. So, What’s a Studio?
Traditionally, incubators and accelerators have taken structural inspiration from university: a generally standardized curriculum and timeframe that mimics a post-graduate semester. At the end, there are one or more presentations to angel investors and venture capitalists (a “demo day”), and the venture moves on, becoming an alumnus of the program. This academic-inspired format allows the incubator or accelerator to handle a large number of member companies—sometimes dozens at a time–across a predictable timeframe.
The studio concept has three significant advantages for early-stage esports ventures. First, the number of companies served by the studio is smaller, often under 15. Second, the programming is tailored to each member. Finally, membership duration is flexible. Combined, these traits create an environment that is geared towards optimizing an esports startup’s chances of success.
So when we describe Rivals HQ as an “Esports Incubator & Accelerator Studio,” you know that we serve both concept-stage ventures as well as startups that already have some growth and traction. You also know that we have a smaller number of members at any given time. We provide collaboration, support, and assistance that is tailored to each member. Finally, we work from a timeframe that doesn’t rush a new company out of the program before it’s as viable as possible.