Trending: Earthquake experts lay out latest outlook for the ‘Really Big One’ that’ll hit Seattle
Inside the UW's new Startup Hall.
Inside the UW’s new Startup Hall, home to Techstars Seattle and a co-working space.

With the birth of Y Combinator in Silicon Valley a decade ago, the number of accelerators, incubators, and co-working spaces has increased exponentially over the past decade, with more than 200 in the U.S. alone today.

They are everywhere these days, and we’ve checked in with several on our travels to Tampa, Phoenix and Dallas in recent weeks.

We’re noticing the same trend here in the Seattle region. Even five years ago, it may have been difficult to find more than a handful of these startup hot houses. But a quick tally today shows 21 accelerators and incubators, in addition to 34 co-working spaces in the Seattle area — we’ve listed them at the end of this post, or you can check out this map:

While some may put “accelerator,” “incubator,” and “co-working space” in the same basket — all are designed, in one way or another, to help startups grow — it is important to define how each business model differs.

Accelerators generally take a small equity stake in startups, have a more rigorous acceptance process, last three-to-12 months, and take a long-term view.

Galvanize, a new co-working space in Seattle, offers rooftop views.
Galvanize, a new co-working space in Seattle, offers rooftop views.

Incubators, meanwhile, will typically not make investments, but offer short-term resources and a supportive community for like-minded entrepreneurs.

Co-working spaces are similar to incubators, but sometimes only offer a place to work without the resources that may come with an incubator. They typically charge a monthly membership fee.

With regard to accelerators and incubators, one may think that the more, the merrier. If you have more places for entrepreneurs to land investment and hang with fellow entrepreneurs isn’t that beneficial?

Some would argue otherwise and refer to an “accelerator bubble.” Even though there are more accelerators today, critics argue that the number of graduates who go on to find success are still slim. Others simply say that accelerators don’t help most companies.

Chris DeVore keynoting the 2013 GeekWire Awards.
Chris DeVore keynoting the 2013 GeekWire Awards.

But Chris DeVore, who just took over as managing director at the Techstars Seattle accelerator, said that “it can’t hurt to have more choice in the market.” However, he did note that this puts more responsibility on founders to make sure a specific accelerator will deliver on the promise of “acceleration.”

“In the worst case, choosing an accelerator that can’t deliver on its promise is worse than not doing one at all, because it takes away a ton of time, attention, and usually a decent slug of equity — none of which a startup can afford to lose at that fragile stage in its early development,” DeVore said.

Sanjay Puri, co-founder of Seattle-based B2B accelerator 9Mile Labs, said he isn’t seeing an “accelerator bubble” in Seattle. However, Puri did note that the rise in accelerators is causing more entrepreneurs to re-locate.

“Because many entrepreneurs are willing to make the 3-to-6 month commitment to a specific location, the impact of a new accelerator extends beyond its location,” he said. “The evidence is that today, the proportion of applications that 9Mile Labs sees from non-Seattle entrepreneurs is substantially higher than what we saw a year or two years ago.”

Sanjay Puri.
Sanjay Puri.

This trend doesn’t concern Seaton Gras, who founded the SURF Incubator six years ago. Gras said with every introduction of new technology, there will be more business opportunities. Some of these new startups, in turn, will want help growing their companies.

“I feel that these two paths (incubators and accelerators) are distinct, yet quite parallel,” he said. “…Both here to stay for the foreseeable future because the need for support is never going to disappear.”

Gras added that there’s a growing worldwide trend of people wanting launch their own startups as a way to save money and time that may have been otherwise spent at college or while earning an MBA.

Seaton Gras at the old SURF Incubator space in Seattle.
Seaton Gras at the old SURF Incubator space in Seattle.

“So, why not bootstrap an idea and build a really great business where the founders can define their own aspirations?” Gras said. “Along the way, these founders will learn a lot of great skills that will be very valuable for a career path, should their startup fail to gain traction. An incubator is a great place for founders to work beside other founders, gain a broader perspective, get inspired every day and advance their business faster than they could ever hope to do while sitting at home or in a cafe.”

Here’s a list of the accelerators, incubators, and co-working spaces in Seattle. If you have an addition, feel free to email information to or leave a comment below.



Co-working spaces

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