Accelerators and incubators can provide everything startups and scale-ups need to grow, including access to experienced mentors, potential sources of funding and a supportive community. This guide covers the differences between the two, the various types that are out there, and the resources you need to find them. So what are you waiting for? Apply today!


Startup accelerators

What exactly are startup accelerators? Generally, they’re fixed-term, cohort-based programmes that include mentorship and coaching – the grand finale might be a pitch event or demo day. While traditional business incubators are often government-funded, generally take no equity, and rarely provide funding, accelerators can be either privately or publicly funded and cover a wide range of industries. There are plenty of startup accelerators that cover the main industries in Amsterdam:

  • Business Accelerator offers a two-day intensive Scaleup Bootcamp – either online or live – looking at micro-strategies to promote growth and revenues. The next one is coming up on 5 and 6 November 2021.
  • Startupbootcamp aims to empower startups and scale-ups to build successful businesses. It offers three-month accelerator programmes focusing on different areas, depending on your business – including Smart City & IoT, Commerce, and FinTech & Cybersecurity – all designed to support ambitious early-stage companies in the most relevant industries.
  • Startup Launch Class is a 10-week accelerator programme that focuses on startup-corporate collaboration, providing participating startups with their own ING coach and mentorship from Strategiemakers.
  • Leading global startup accelerator Plug and Play runs an accelerator programme in central Amsterdam that focuses on finding, piloting and bringing much-needed innovations to market without the need for equity participation from startups.
  • Aiming to simplify growth by supporting businesses in setting up a solid strategy for it, the Scaleup Company relies on a three-part methodology: ‘Discover’, ‘Set up’ and ‘Master’.
  • Brought to you by Ground Control, NEXT Startup Ventures is an Amsterdam-based accelerator and early stage investor. Hands-on entrepreneurs are available for software-driven startups that solve real problems, helping them to find the right business model.
  • More of a startup generator than an accelerator, Antler seeks out exceptional founders from all over the world, investing in and working with entrepreneurs from the very start to build a strong team, connect founders with mentors, coaches and advisors, and provide funding and support. Antler Amsterdam can help facilitate a startup visa for any nationality, so there’s no barrier to growth for international entrepreneurs.


Startup incubators

In a nutshell, startup incubators are collaborative programmes designed to help new startups succeed. Incubators help entrepreneurs overcome some of the issues they commonly face in early stages by providing workspace, seed funding, mentoring and coaching, with the goal of helping entrepreneurs grow their business. Startup incubators are generally non-profits and are usually run by both public and private entities – like universities, business schools, governments, civic groups, startup organisations or successful entrepreneurs. But there’s often overlap between accelerators and incubators, so many of the organisations listed here cover both:

  • A non-profit organisation, Hive01 helps students and young professionals start their own company with a special five-month programme. The deadline to join the next round of the programme is 24 September, so apply soon!
  • Rockstart helps startups in Amsterdam become scalable by providing them with access to capital, market, community and expertise in the domains of emerging tech, energy, health and agri-food.
  • As the world’s largest pre-seed startup incubator, the Amsterdam-Silicon Valley Founder Institute helps aspiring entrepreneurs, solo entrepreneurs and small teams get their initial traction and funding. The next programme is scheduled for autumn 2021 – apply now!
  • The clue is in the title at ACE Incubator, which supports students, academics and tech professionals who are starting or growing their business – including via training, coaching and introductions to a network of industry leaders, investors and service providers.
  • Impact Hub focuses on sustainable innovations and has a network of 17,000 entrepreneurs and innovators in more than 50 countries and over 100 locations worldwide  – including Amsterdam. Impact Hub is also a co-working space, which makes it an ideal meeting place for entrepreneurs.
  • Demonstrator Lab is an entrepreneurship laboratory that helps you transform ideas into a tangible product or service. Run in a learning-by-doing environment, it’s open to students and staff members with the aim of boosting research-driven innovation.
  • From idea to success, 15KM is an incubator and facilitator that gives startups everything they need to achieve their goals.
  • Made possible by Nonprofit Ventures, the Post Growth Incubator Programme is a 10-week training course catering to entrepreneurs who want to actively apply the post-growth model to their business endeavours.


Sector-specific programmes

Whether your startup is focused on science and technology, culture and art, fashion or food, there’s a programme to suit your business…

  • Techstars offers three-month accelerator programmes to gain funding, mentorship and access to the Techstars network. They’re currently accepting applications for several different programmes, so take a look at the Techstar’s website to see which might be right for you.
  • Startup in Residence is an innovative accelerator that’s a collaboration between the City of Amsterdam and the participating startups. The project invites Dutch and international startups to devise solutions to social issues in the city.
  • Collider 2.0 focuses on late-stage B2B or B2B2C startups with a validated product in marketing, advertising or commerce tech.
  • The Innovation Lab at the Johan Cruijff Arena runs field-lab projects (co-funded by the European Fund for Regional Development) that bring new solutions and technologies to our rapidly changing world.
  • Amsterdam Venture Studios is a hub for innovative, science-based startups: an incubator that gives students, researchers and graduates of knowledge institutes the tools they need to transform their ideas into viable businesses.
  • HealthInc helps startups and entrepreneurs in the fields of healthcare and MedTech develop their innovations and turn them into workable businesses. Their three-month, online accelerator programme for autumn 2021 has now closed for applications, but keep an eye out for future programmes on the website.
  • Promoting innovation in the cultural sector, Art-up offers an intensive five-month incubator programme, involving workshops and training, coaching and collaboration, and meeting a broad network of both peers and experts.
  • Fashion for Good’s Innovation Platform connects those working on sustainable innovation with brands, retailers and funders. The Innovation Platform is made up of three programmes – accelerating, scaling and funding – tailored to different stages of a business’s maturity.
  • Specifically for the hospitality sector, Kitchen Republic is an incubator aimed at startup and growing food concepts in Amsterdam.
  • For music-tech entrepreneurs, WeWork Labs & BW Ventures' Music Tech Accelerator opens for applications each summer and offers coaching, investment and product development know-how for pre-revenue music startup teams.


Online and digital programmes

With the pandemic still top of mind, it makes sense to follow an accelerator or incubator programme remotely. While many of the organisations listed in this article offer online possibilities, the following programmes are fully digital:

  • Startup Leap offers a free online programme to support entrepreneurs in bringing their ideas to market through a series of videos, articles, talks and activities. Startup Leap has a host of partners, including ACE Incubator, StartupAmsterdam, The Next Woman and Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship. Currently, the programme is open to all founders working on an idea, or at the first stage of your startup.
  • Accelerator Squared is an online digital acceleration platform that combines learning and tools into a full suite of online products. Its Amsterdam programme, Amsterdam Squared, is brought to you by StartupAmsterdam and Smart Health Amsterdam.


Programmes focused on female and minority entrepreneurs

Startup enterprises run by women or minority groups may face a particular set of challenges, which is why the following set of programmes have been specifically designed for traditionally marginalised groups:

  • WaiACCELERATE is the first ethical leadership and business acceleration programme aimed at female innovators in the fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science.
  • Also part of WaiACCELERATE, InnoHUB is an immersive learning and accelerating programme on the topic of ‘Open Innovation & Agile Thinking’ for women and gender non-conforming innovators from the Netherlands, the rest of the Benelux, and other global markets.
  • We Rise and Amsterdam Squared (see above) have launched a fast track for female entrepreneurs called Momentum – an intense three-month online programme to kick-start your entrepreneurial ambitions and launch your business.
  • FEM-START aims to close the startup ecosystem’s funding gap for female entrepreneurs. The programme supports women-led startups in Europe that are focused on tech or making a social impact.
  • Female Switch prepares future female entrepreneurs for success. The programme consists of two parts – an online knowledge platform and a new, data-driven educational game. Female Switch is currently seeking participants to take part in their ‘gamepreneurship’ pilot and gain essential startup skills along the way.
  • Zidi Circle is a business incubator that supports diaspora and African SMEs to launch businesses in their country of origin or internationally through business training, mentorship, access to finance, matchmaking and venture partnerships.


Growing your network

While most accelerator and incubator programmes offer some kind of networking opportunities, there are a few programmes that offer support specifically through connecting entrepreneurs to a network of their peers and other professionals. Plus, if you’re looking for investment, expanding your network to include potential investors is crucial.

  • GoFastForward is a network of over 270 scale-up entrepreneurs in the Netherlands. Its members get access to an exclusive growth programme that starts in September.
  • nlgroeit is a platform by and for entrepreneurs, supporting businesses of varying sizes to scale by providing information and inspiration, organising networking events, exchanging insights among members and facilitating mentorships.
  • Inspiring businesses to become more entrepreneurial, Yellow Walnut connects small and large companies to encourage and learn from each other, in order to build successful businesses.
  • DutchTechSF is a supportive online network of more than 200 founders and startup enthusiasts from the Netherlands and Silicon Valley. The platform helps Dutch companies break into Silicon Valley by helping them apply for the twice-yearly Y Combinator programme, which is known for birthing companies like Airbnb, Stripe and Dropbox.
  • Clever Clover invests in early-stage businesses – not only through capital but also via access to a broad network of established industry specialists from all essential disciplines. This enables startups to gain an edge by having access to world-class expertise in an easy and affordable way.
  • StartupRoulette is a monthly online speed-dating event for selected startups and relevant venture capital investors. Each startup gets three meaningful, carefully matched speed dates (20 minutes) with investors. Great for efficient network building with potential investors!

Looking for more resources to help your startup grow? Check out our guides and insights. And to stay up to date with everything that’s happening in Amsterdam’s startup ecosystem, bookmark the Amsterdam Startup Map.