The Support of Incubator and Accelerator Programs in the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem with COVID-19 : A Collective Case Study for Germany
Abstract: The aim of this thesis paper is to analyse the support of incubator and accelerator programs inthe German entrepreneurial ecosystem with the impact of COVID-19. Incubator and accelerator programs have been established across multiple innovation hubs worldwide over the last decade. They have become a substantial support system for entrepreneurship providing help for young companies to innovate. The benefits offered usually include access to capital, network, mentorship and office space in exchange for equity or to simply foster innovation. With a lot of uncertainties deriving from the current pandemic, entrepreneurship has an increasingly relevant role to ensure a flourishing economy in the future. As the world is adapting to new circumstances, incubators and accelerators need to reevaluate their support to startups as well. The literature review consists of relevant literature by elaborating on the existing entrepreneurial ecosystem theories. It further discusses incubators and accelerators and the German entrepreneurial market before introducing the theoretical framework for the paper. As part of the research, this thesis uses a collective case study method by conducting interviews with startup founders and employees of incubator and accelerator programs in Germany. The qualitative data collection will undergo a deductive reasoning approach to analyse the research phenomenon and to contribute to the field of entrepreneurship. After introducing each company from the collective case study, the empirical findings systematically lay out the data from the interviews by separating the data into a section for incubators and accelerators and a section for startups. The data highlights relevant changes regarding the support of the programs with and without the impact of COVID-19. The discussion chapter points out the findings by comparing the data with the literature and the theoretical framework. The findings are broken down into subsections that point out the importance of the support programs as well as the proposed changes in the offerings. Concluded, changes can be made in the area of mentorships and coachings as there is a need for more individuality. Also regular feedback cycles, a higher capital support and the change to a hybrid model with a remote and on-site structure as well as the use of software to stay connected are possibilities for accelerators and incubators to help the startups.
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