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

Sustaining Scale

This section focuses on sustaining scale once you have been growing and replicating your accelerator programs. It looks at how you can keep this going and operating for the long term by ensuring basic elements of incubator and accelerator programs are in place. This section builds on the Good to Great framework and looks at how to build programs to last by developing organisational culture, leadership and momentum. It explores some of the critical success factors, survival tactics and avoidable difficulties of scaling and replication.

Incubator and Accelerator Programs: The Basics

In order to sustain scale, it is essential that you have the basics of your incubator or accelerator program in place.

Understanding Your Impact

How are the learners in your program going to put what they’ve learnt back into their organisation as action? Look at your curriculum and make sure that it is working with:

Intrinsic factors of individuals that are coming on the program (e.g. self-belief, inner game)

Help them think through extrinsic factors (e.g. what is going on in their organisation and around in their ecosystem that they can try and have an impact on or deal with how successful the ventures are).

Attend to learning effectiveness by:

  • Paying attention to different learning styles
  • Paying attention to the quality of the learning that you are facilitating
  • Ensuring the learners stand the best chance of translating what was learnt to behaviour change and action back into the workplace
  • Tailoring programs right for those that enroll into your programs


This all gives a great foundation for making a long-term sustainable product/service, mixing it with business development approaches (pace, growth, phases, dimensions of replication).

However, sustaining scale is a challenge.

  • It’s easier to become great than to remain great.

    Jim Collins

Good to Great

By applying the Good to Great Framework you can build the foundations of a great organisation.


Good to Great Framework

  • 1.

    The Good to great Framework is a seminal piece of five-year research by Jim Collins and his team from the 1990s based on corporations in the USA.


    It looked at companies that outperformed other companies by a large factor over a sustained period of 15 years.

  • 2.

    This framework revolves around DISCIPLINE.

    Disciplined People

    Disciplined Thought

    Disciplined Action

  • 3.


There is no single breakthrough moment but it is the humility of the fact that over time a lot of people contribute with their different skill sets and the graph shows the accumulation of visible results. Figure out core competencies and keep those steps forward going to keep that accumulation over time.

This is called the Flywheel Effect.


Breakthrough comes after a few years of build up (it can’t be overnight!)


A departure from the Flywheel is called the Doom Loop.

A trigger of departure from the flywheel might be:

  • A new program direction or program, leader
  • Internal or external changes
  • You react to the market without really understanding it
  • You lose a big bid
  • There isn’t enough work
  • You lose staff


The Doom Loop can be a warning sign of growth. The key is to spot if this is happening. If you do, you can change course and rebuild momentum back behind your core principles.


The key to sustainability is momentum. We need to maintain and understand our own pace of momentum if we are to be sustainable.

Running an incubator or accelerator organisation is an organic cumulative process where systems are built over time. e.g. file sharing and processes.

Organisational culture is also built over time, in the form of policies, practices and rituals.

Practical Tip

In terms of practices and behaviours, make sure that your teams are enabled and empowered to make their own decisions.

Find the right people – those with the right behaviour and values will grow your organisation.

Preserving your core and stimulating progress may seem paradoxical to do at the same time.

It is not about what core values you have, but that you have them, know what they are, build them into your organisation, and preserve them over time in terms of your organisational memory and heritage.

Practical Tip

Make sure organisational values are absolutely clear, well communicated and being referred to all the time when making decisions.


Have your ethics ever been compromised? You may have your ethics tested as you have been growing and starting your organisation and those problems will not go away as you start to scale. In fact, it is important to make sure that all of the different people involved with your organisation are equipped and able to deal with any issue that arises.

Be sure you have policies and well thought through procedures in place to address any issues.

  • Bribery and Corruption

    Stamping out bribery is very important if you are facilitating and allow many people to work with you in multiple contexts where you may not be present. See development funders examples (e.g. Bond, Australian Aid, Department for International Development, Scottish Government International Development)

  • Supply chain standards

    Track where you are spending your money. Are you spending money in the social economy/beneficiaries/beneficiary communities/big businesses? Sustainability of our operations are in those communities. Start a ripple effect of sustainability from the scaling of your operations.

    Pack supply chains with purpose. Get corporations and the world to look at you as best practice in spreading sustainability.

  • Quality control

    Have set standards in place so you know how to measure the quality of your work, and will be made aware if that quality were to drop.

  • Inequality

    Measure and monitor your teams for equal representation, especially in positions of leadership. Include quotas where necessary. Review your practices and materials to ensure they are accessible. Develop guides and practice handbooks to help navigate issues of inequality and talk actively with your teams about them.

Competition vs Creation

Be motivated by what you’re trying to create, not by the competition or by fear. Keep aware of the competition, but for long-term sustainability and growth, drive your team with the creative urge and inner compulsion to create. Not by being competitive or by the fear of losing out.


Critical Success Factors

  • 1.

    In 2010 the Scottish Government conducted research on critical success factors for establishing a social enterprise in Scotland.


    The findings that were derived from the research was from cross-sector organisations, established in rural to urban areas and was fundamental in helping to develop the government procurement for accelerators and incubators in Scotland for the social enterprise sector.

  • 2.

    1. Clear and Shared Social Mission

  • 3.

    2. Strong and Inspiring Leadership

  • 4.

    3. Close alignment with Stakeholder and Market Needs

  • 5.

    4. Product of Value to others

  • 6.

    5. Effective Relationships


    Repeat business.

    – Responsibility to grow the ecosystem, growing the understanding of the people that have the funds and ability to invest and to support those who do not have the ability to invest by ensuring they have the learning and acceleration.

  • 7.

    6. Systems ensuring operational excellence

  • 8.

    7. Entrepreneurial approach and strong business acumen

  • 9.

    8. Culture of learning, openness and innovation

  • 10.

    9. Sustainable scale and income base

  • 11.

    10. Strong grasp of financial position


    – Extremely crucial

    – Stay on top of your position every month/quarter

    Look at your cash flow and burn rates

  • 12.

Craft Your Own Critical Success Factors

1. Define your strategic objectives and goals

2. Consider success in what areas of business is essential to achieve each goal?

3. Clarify the specific action

4. Monitor and refer to CSFs at all levels – strategic and operational

Practical Tip

Be specific. What are the things that are going to lead to delivering your strategic objectives and how are you doing them? Are you measuring?

Avoidable difficulties/some common mistakes:

1. Taking on flawed ventures

2. Carrying on loss-making activities for too long

3. Growing too quickly or in an uncontrolled way

4. Becoming over-reliant on others for success

5. Inadequate management and financial controls

Survival Tactics


  • Good to Great

    A framework for building the foundations of your organisation

  • Success Factors for Establishing a Social Enterprise in Scotland

    Research by the Government of Scotland

  • The Start-Up Factories

    A Nesta discussion paper on the rise of accelerator programs to support new ventures

  • Webinar: Sustaining Scale

    A webinar recording from the Frontier Incubators program, delivered by SEA



Gender and Power

How to increase accessibility and inclusivity for people of all genders