The IMPACT Index is a survey about the economic impact of incubators, accelerators, coworking spaces, and other types of entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs) in communities across the globe.  For each item reviewed, side-by-side visualizations are available to allow immediate comparisons across geography, organizational type, and community density. The majority of respondents representing the ESOs serve in senior management positions.

While there are 143 complete responses, sample sizes for individual analyses are shown below (n).

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For full definitions differentiating each type of center that responded to the survey, please view the operational definitions.
Respondents By EC Type
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The IMPACT Index survey is a reflection of the impact that ESOs have on small businesses or entrepreneurs considering starting a company.  The following survey questions asked entrepreneurship support organizations across the globe how their current, as well as graduate, portfolio companies are performing in terms of revenues, investments or grants obtained, jobs created, and more.

COMPANY REVENUE REPORTS These graphics provide the combined revenues (in USD) for all the companies that participated in a particular ESO’s program.  Each section has two graphs, one that shows combined revenue since ESO inception and the other that shows just FY2019.

Key Questions

  • How does my client revenue compare to other organizations in the same region?
  • How does the revenue generated by ESO clients in rural areas compare to urban areas?

COMPANY INVESTMENT REPORTS The investment received and associated valuation of client companies is a hot topic for ESOs and can be used to demonstrate economic value and proof of concept.  Understanding the level of investment achieved by ESO-assisted companies links ESO services and economic success.  Survey participants were asked to share the amount (in USD) of equity capital obtained, from sources not affiliated with the ESO, for all the companies that participated in their programs, both current and graduated, since ESO inception and during fiscal year 2019.

Key Questions

  • Are my clients receiving similar investments to other ESOs in my region?
  • How does the equity and capital raised by ESO clients in my region compare nationally and to other regions?
  • What is the role of population density in outside capital received by client companies?

CLIENT JOB NUMBERS These figures answer the question “How many jobs are ESO client companies creating?”  Participants were asked to share approximately how many people (full-time and/or part-time) have been employed by their portfolio companies since ESO inception.

Key Questions

  • Are my clients creating jobs like other ESOs in the same region or population density?
  • How does the job creation of ESOs in one region compare to other regions?  What about nationally?
  • What external factors influence the number of jobs created by client companies?

CLIENT VOLUMES SERVED An important question in evaluating ESO progress is “How many companies have you helped create and grow?”  The survey asked respondents to share the number of clients they worked with during fiscal year 2019 and since the ESO was founded.

Key Question

  • Do I serve a similar number of clients to other ESOs in my region?  If not, why not?

ESO IMPACT TRACKING EFFORTS Data collection and analysis at the ESO level is a critically important activity for ESOs to have the information they need when seeking funding and demonstrating program efficacy. These graphs show the categories participants selected when given a list of what data elements they track. They were asked to select all that apply.

Key Questions

  • Does my program collect sufficient data to demonstrate the work that we accomplish?
  • What data elements are other ESOs of my type collecting?
  • How does the impact data collected by ESOs vary by geography?


The following graphs demonstrate the diversity of the survey’s respondents, particularly by their location within the US, the population density of the area in which they are located, and the type of ESO m model they most identify with.  Additionally, this section contains information on center clients/tenants.


ESO CORPORATE STRUCTURE Different ESOs have different types of corporate structures. These graphs reflect responses to the question of what type of organizational structure best describes your ESO.

Key Questions

  • Does organizational structure differ across ESO types?
  • What are the advantages of each organizational structure?
  • How does structure influence the types of program funding that ESOs can obtain?


INDUSTRY SEGMENTS REPRESENTED BY CLIENTS/TENANTS ESOs serve client companies representing a multitude of industries.  In some cases, the industry focus of the ESO influences operations, facilities, staffing, and other important characteristics.  The survey asked respondents to select up to three industry segments their ESOs serve (respondents could check more than one).

Key Questions

  • How does industry vary with ESO type?
  • Do industry clusters exist within regions?
  • Is my ESO serving industries that are duplicated or unique in my area?
  • What differences exist with respect to industries served across the rural, mid-density, and high-density divide?

DEMOGRAPHIC/GEOGRAPHIC FOCUS Many ESOs have a demographic or geographic focus for their clientele.  Participants were asked to select any particular demographics/representations of entrepreneurs/founders they specifically target or focus on serving.  Participants selected all that apply.  Selections included:

  • College or university students
  • Economically underserved populations
  • Foreign/international companies
  • Minority populations
  • Native Americans
  • Women
  • Youth

Key Questions

  • What types of ESOs tend to focus on specific demographic groups?
  • Are there other ESOs in my region that are focused on similar demographic groups?


The following data visualizations explore the financial, staffing, and other operational elements that sustain ESOs around the US.


ESO TOTAL ANNUAL REVENUES ESOs vary in terms of funding and size.  Survey participants were asked to indicate the average range of their organization’s annual revenue in USD, including money received via subsidies.

Key Questions

  • How does organization revenue vary across ESO types?  Do certain ESO types require more funding than others to operate?
  • How does my ESO’s revenue compare to that of other ESOs of the same type?

*Note: this does not correspond to the revenue of client/member companies.


TYPES AND PERCENTAGES OF FUNDING/REVENUE SOURCES Maintaining a steady revenue stream is important for ESO growth and stability.  Participants were asked to indicate how much of their funding/revenue, including grants, was derived from the following methods:

  • Membership/rent for office space
  • Educational program offering participation fees
  • Event and networking program revenues
  • Corporate sponsorships/subsidies
  • Donations
  • Returns from client equity
  • Grant funding from government agencies
  • Grant funding from corporate/philanthropic foundations

Key Questions

  • Does my ESO receive funding from similar sources to ESOs of the same type?
  • How does the funding and revenue mix differ across service area densities?
  • What differences in funding exist from a regional perspective?

TYPES AND PERCENTAGES OF GOVERNMENT-BASED FUNDING SOURCES The survey asked participants to get even more specific on the category of funding received from the government. The survey asked “how much of your funding/revenue came from the following government-based sources?”

  • Local government or economic development agencies
  • State/province government or economic development agencies
  • National government or economic development agencies
  • Universities

Key Questions

  • How does my government funding split compare to other ESOs in my region?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of national versus local funding?

ESO ANNUAL EXPENSES Understanding how ESOs utilize their funding/revenue is important for benchmarking as well as identifying over- and underfunded areas.  Participants were asked to indicate the range (in USD) of their total annual expenses.

Key Questions

  • How do high impact ESOs spend their funding/revenue?
  • Do certain regions have different expense structures?

DISTRIBUTION OF ESO ANNUAL EXPENSES This data shows how ESOs are spending the funding/revenue they receive.  ESOs strive to secure funding and generate revenue to offer  programs that drive impact. Expense categories captured in the survey include:

  • Staff salaries
  • Facility mortgages/leases/rent
  • Utilities/internet/telephone
  • Education or training for staff
  • Legal and/or accounting
  • Consultants/outside contractors
  • Marketing
  • Event costs

Key Questions

  • How do the expense breakouts differ across regions and rurality?
  • What differences in expenses exist across ESO types?  Do certain ESO types require more staff?
  • Is my ESO over- or under spending in certain categories?  What ramifications does this have for impact?


The next section of the survey focuses on how ESOs relate to their ecosystems and beyond, specifically through their mentor program (if offered).


MENTOR BACKGROUNDS Critical to the success of a mentor program is the quality of the mentors who advise ESO client companies.  Participants who indicated they had mentor programs were then asked to identify the backgrounds of their mentors and to share how many mentors of each background type were in their mentor programs.  Background experience selections included:

  • Experienced entrepreneurs, non-technical industries
  • Faculty researchers
  • Experienced entrepreneurs, technical industries
  • Technical experts with small business experience
  • Angel or venture capitalists
  • Fortune 1000 corporate leaders
  • Lawyers
  • Bank or private equity executives
  • Accountants
  • Human resource professionals

Key Questions

  • What kinds of mentors are most in demand at your ESO or among ESOs of your same type?
  • What does each mentor type bring to the table in terms of driving impact for client companies?
  • What role does rural or high-density location play in accessing mentors for an ESO program?

ESO GOALS ESOs operate with specific goals for their clients and the entrepreneurial ecosystems in which they are located.  The survey asked respondents to rate the importance of the following goals to their organization from “Very Important” to “Very Unimportant”:

  • Achieving Welfare to Work
  • Fostering Corporate Innovation
  • Generating Investor Returns
  • Commercializing University Research
  • Encouraging Women and Minority Entrepreneurship
  • Growing a Local Industry
  • Job Creation
  • Growing Local Entrepreneurial Culture

The results indicate that ESOs pursue multiple goals simultaneously.

Key Questions

  • Are goals different across ESO types?  If so, why?
  • How do goals vary across geography and rurality?
  • To what extent do organizational goals influence the daily operation of an ESO?


The following section of the survey highlights the programming, services, and facilities/assets that ESOs provide to their entrepreneur clients/tenants.


STAFFING INFORMATION Participants were asked to identify which of the following types of staff they employ:

  • Senior level staff (directors and above)
  • Full-time operations staff
  • Part-time operations staff and/or contractors
  • Paid mentors and/or entrepreneurs-in-residence
  • Student interns

Key Questions

  • What effect does staffing have on program impact?
  • How does my client’s staffing compare to other ESOs of the same type?

EDUCATIONAL/TRAINING PROGRAMS A critical element of ESOs is the provision of programming and training designed to increase the impact of their client companies.  Participants were asked which of the following educational or training programs they offered to their clients.  Participants selected all that apply.  Selections included:

  • Business fundamentals workshops
  • Business plan development workshops
  • Raising capital workshops
  • Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) or Small Business Tech Transfer Research (STTR) grant development workshops
  • Technology education workshops
  • Commercialization workshops for students/faculty

Key Questions

  • How do the programs I offer compare to those offered by other ESOs in my region?
  • What differences exist in terms of program mix across ESO types?
  • In my experience, what are the most impactful ESO programs?


The survey asked respondents if they host events and if so, what types. The majority of respondents do host events most commonly ones focused on networking.  Participants selected all event types they offer.

Key Questions

  • How do the types of events that my ESO hosts compare to those in my region?
  • How does event type vary by organization type?
  • What is the goal of the events in terms of creating impact?


SEED FUNDING OFFERINGS Accelerator programs, as well as some other ESO types, offer seed funding to invest in companies that meet certain criteria in exchange for equity. Participants were asked if their center offers, or plans to offer within the next six months, an affiliate seed fund that provides cash in exchange for equity.  Overall, not many participants currently offer this type of program.

Key Questions

  • What are the benefits and challenges of offering a seed funding program at my ESO?
  • How do I measure success of my seed funding program?
  • What differences exist in seed funding models across those ESOs that offer them?

Have further questions about the survey and the data used?  Please contact the research team via email at [email protected]