Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators

Building a Curriculum

A question that almost every incubator or accelerator wants to answer is “What makes a valuable curriculum?” Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this, as every context will require its own set of skills, and every entrepreneur cohort will have their own areas that they wish to develop.


This section looks at how to navigate the infinite pathways that an incubator or accelerator program could take, with insights from five experienced intermediaries. It provides an overview of the key skills that an entrepreneur will need, as well as strategies and techniques for assessing the needs of your particular cohort.

Key Skills for Success

In order to build an incubator or accelerator program that truly benefits the entrepreneurs in your cohort, you first need to understand the kinds of skills that small businesses and social enterprises need in order to be successful.

Every sector and context will require their own unique set of skills to operate successfully, however, there are a number of fundamental skills that will benefit all entrepreneurs.

These are:

  • Impact management
  • Financial management
  • Partnering
  • Risk management
  • Communications/marketing
  • Lean start-up
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Collaboration

Practical Tip

No incubator or accelerator program will be able to teach their entrepreneurs all of the above, so be selective.

You know your ecosystems and can identify the gaps in knowledge and skills.

  • A question that you need to ask as you’re wrestling through curriculum is “what is truly essential for you?

    Banks Benitez, Uncharted

Beyond Skills Development

Social enterprises and small businesses look to incubator and accelerator programs for more than just skills development. It is equally as important to think about these areas and how you might best provide them for your particular cohort of entrepreneurs.

  • Coaching

    Coaches are employed by intermediaries for the sole purpose of asking questions. They are not experts.

    As you think about your curriculum design, it is encouraged to think less about what can you talk about, and more what are the key questions that you can ask your cohort that they can reflect on, that they can develop.

  • Mentoring

    Mentors are people with specific skills. They give advice more than ask questions.

  • Access to money (capital)

    Capital raising rather than just straight capital e.g. cash flow, non-equity programs.

  • Access to buyers

    Access to markets they were unable to break into, or had not previously considered.

  • Links to the Ecosystem

    Partnerships with governments, businesses and the public.

Constructing a Responsive Program Design

Rather than providing the same curriculum year after year, the most valuable programs are the ones that address the needs of your specific cohort.

Four questions to ask yourself with every new cohort are:

What is special about this cohort?

What are we trying to achieve with this cohort?

Are they focused on a special area?

Are they lacking a certain thing, and have we been able to identify that?

Where to Focus

Your organisation will also have your own set of goals and ideals about what you want to achieve for and with your programming.

Maybe you are running an accelerator for a specific sector, within a specific region or your country. Alternatively, you may be looking to scale your program around the world, with the intention of licencing out your curriculum to other accelerator programs. These two very different goals, and will require very different areas of focus.

Below are some examples of where incubator and accelerator programs choose to focus, and how this affects the design of their curriculum.


Building Viable Businesses with Uncharted

  • 1.

    Focus: Creating an essential curriculum that can be licenced out to other accelerators.


    Uncharted sees entrepreneurs as having two basic needs when entering an accelerator program:


    1. A viable business

    2. An investable business


    Uncharted’s approach to building the curriculum is therefore focused on validating the entrepreneur’s business model, and preparing them for investment.


    Business Model Validation 

    What problem are they solving?

    Push the entrepreneurs to a process of customer discovery, prototyping, and making sales. Hold them accountable for growing revenue numbers and sales figures.


    – Identify the foundational assumptions that underpin their venture

    – Learn a repeatable methodology for how to do customer discovery

    – Design and run experiments to validation/invalidation for the entrepreneur’s foundational assumptions by interacting with customers

    – Build 2-3 prototypes of a key element of their venture and test with customers

    – Conduct a break-even analysis of their business and identified the key cost and financial assumptions of their business

    – Evaluate product-market fit by completing an audit of sales efforts to identify what’s working and what’s not.


    Investment Preparedness

    Is this enterprise and team ready for the type of investment and terms of investment that the investor is offering?

    Can they produce the results they are promising?


    – Understand the steps of the investment process and what is needed

    – Diagnose where a venture is in preparedness for those steps, build a full plan for how to get ready, and actively work to get more prepared

    – Work on various elements to become more prepared to raise funding (e.g.: develop their financials, write a strategic plan, clarify their funding ask, develop their pitch materials)

    – Identify funder profiles

    – Pitch and meet with actual funders

    – Build out a strategic plan


    Source: Uncharted


Preparing for Investment with Invest2Innovate

  • 1.

    Focus: Preparing entrepreneurs to engage with investors.


    I2I has built their curriculum around four essential elements, each designed to support entrepreneurs in their engagement with investors.


    Increasing Traction in the Business

    – I2I uses Lean Startup methodology for their cohorts to go out and test assumptions.

    – Their entrepreneurs actually do about 50 customer interviews to test assumptions in the market. They can use that feedback to come back and iterate.

    – I2I does revenue generation exercises that are focused on getting those companies to grow while they’re within the program.


    Building Trust with Investors

    – In Pakistan when investors meet the ventures they don’t tend to trust the companies.

    – Therefore i2i uses investors as judges and mentors in the program to get them building those relationships with entrepreneurs really early.

    – This helps entrepreneurs to get feedback from investors at the very beginning of the program.

    – Having this initial round of feedback allowed I2I to start helping the companies to become investment ready from really early-on in the program.


    Bringing in a Virtual Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

    – I2I brings in someone to work with all of their entrepreneurs over the course of four months.

    – The CFO starts out by doing a diagnosis of all the companies to see where they are and then based on that, works with them.

    – The CFO doesn’t just give them their financials at the end but works with them throughout, so they’re able to understand it and are able to defend their financials.

    – Their projections are based on the growth that they have in the program as well. That drastically improved the program as well as in the eyes of investors.


    Preparing for Investor Negotiations

    – Depending on where you are working geographically, there can be a lot of predatory investors in the marketplace

    – I2i does a lot of prep work with entrepreneurs on everything related to investor negotiations

    – I2I has created an Investor Toolkit to help create a greater understanding of entrepreneur/investor relationships in Pakistan. This can be localised for different markets to meet the needs of entrepreneurs.


    Source: Invest2Innovate


Creating Common Language with Village Capital

  • 1.

    Focus:  Change how entrepreneurs receive funding and how they’re evaluated.


    Village Capital has built the VIRAL (Venture Investment-Readiness and Awareness Levels) Pathway, which helps entrepreneurs and investors use the same common language around investment.


    VIRAL helps entrepreneurs become self-aware and articulate just how ready they are for investment, and it allows investors to communicate the point at which they want to invest.


    Source: Village Capital


    The Difference Incubator’s (TDi) mission is to awaken the possibility of doing good and making money by returning to the roots of business. They work across Australia and the Pacific with entrepreneurs and businesses to create sustainable business models that create measurable impact. Since 2014 they have accelerated over 400 businesses, from early stage entrepreneurs shaping their idea to those growing and seeking investment. TDi combine their significant experience in entrepreneurship, finance and investment, innovation, design, development and measurement with a flexible and relational approach that builds capacity and sustainable results.




    Uncharted is the next generation of accelerator that uses the power of an entrepreneurial accelerator to address major social and environmental issues like the future of food, urban poverty, and hate and discrimination. They scale and connect organisations in three ways. 1. Accelerate: Resourcing organisations with mentors, funders, and customised training. 2. Connect: Bringing together ventures who are all tackling the same problem so they can share insights and find collaboration opportunities. 3. Empower: Giving power away and empowering others to change the world, whether through one-off specialised trainings or licensing their world-class curriculum.





    Founded in 2008, Ākina is New Zealand’s leading social enterprise (SE) development organisation, operating in New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific region. We deliver a range of capability building programmes for SEs at different stages of development, and provide specialist capacity building and advisory services in enterprise development, financing and market access, and sector development. Ākina believes that social entrepreneurs and social enterprise are key to building an economy that regenerates the environment and creates social foundations for people and communities to thrive.




    Invest2Innovate (i2i) supports startup communities in growth markets, and has been operating in Pakistan since 2011. i2i supports entrepreneurs via the i2i Accelerator, an annual four-month program that provides business support and access to mentors and investment. Since 2012, i2i has accelerated 41 startups in Pakistan, which have gone on to raise over $6M, scaled their businesses, created over 1500 jobs, and deepened their social and economic impact in the country. i2i has licensed and customised its curriculum to support a number of initiatives, including the National Incubation Centre Islamabad, the Grameenphone Accelerator in Bangladesh, and trainings for youth in Pakistan, Ukraine and Nepal.





    Village Capital builds bridges for entrepreneurs who are creating an inclusive and sustainable world. Their programs connect high potential, early-stage entrepreneurs with the people, institutions, and capital they need to succeed. Since 2009, Village Capital has supported more than 1,000 entrepreneurs through their programs, and partnered with affiliated investment funds, including VilCap Investments, that have invested seed capital in more than 90 program graduates. Through their VilCap Communities program, Village Capital provides an all-inclusive solution for program design, management, and implementation of a venture development program.



Sourcing Capital

How to get cohorts and entrepreneurs investor-ready