What do Airbnb, Reddit, Coinbase, and Stripe all have in common?
It’s simple: accelerators pushed their success.
Startup accelerators are organizations that offer mentorship, capital, and connections to startups with promising ideas and founders as a way to scale growth rapidly. Research indicates that while 90% of startups fail, startups that graduate from an accelerator program have a 23% higher chance of survival.
Compared to 2014, the total number of accelerators has doubled, while US-based accelerator-backed startups have seen a 4x increase, indicating significant growth in the industry.
In this post, we present the 10 best startup accelerators in the world. But before then, let’s explore what a startup accelerator is and why startups need one.
What Is a Startup Accelerator?
Simply put, a startup accelerator is a boot camp for new companies. It’s a program that offers early-stage startups access to mentorship, investors, and other support that can help fast-track their growth. These programs typically last a few months and are designed to help early-stage companies overcome common challenges that often lead to failure.
Typically, startup accelerators invest small amounts of seed funding/capital in addition to a wealth of resources—including office space, product development tools, and networking opportunities—to help companies grow quickly within a short amount of time.
The strength of a startup accelerator lies in its structure and network. Accelerators are often run by seasoned entrepreneurs or experienced industry professionals who have been through the startup process themselves and have a wealth of knowledge and contacts to share. They also frequently feature a highly competitive selection process, ensuring that only the most promising startups are accepted into the program.
Why might your startup need an accelerator?
Here are a few key reasons your startup may require support from an accelerator:
- To speed up growth: As the name suggests, an accelerator’s main goal is to accelerate/speed up a company’s growth. This is achieved through intensive mentoring, workshops, and networking events that expose startups to a variety of perspectives and experiences. This, coupled with the pressure of a fixed-term program with set goals, can often result in rapid development and growth.
- Access to funding: Many accelerators provide seed funding to help startups get off the ground. While the amount is usually small, it can be instrumental in helping startups develop their product or services, conduct market research, or cover other initial costs. Moreover, being part of an accelerator often increases a startup’s visibility, making it easier to attract further investment down the line.
- Network expansion: Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of joining startup accelerator programs is the access it provides to a network of mentors, alumni, investors, and other industry experts. These connections can be invaluable when it comes to seeking advice, finding potential partners, or attracting investors.
- To learn from experts and peers: Accelerators often feature a curriculum of workshops, talks, and training sessions. Not only does this provide startups with a solid foundation of business knowledge, but it also offers a platform for entrepreneurs to learn from each other’s experiences.
- Credibility: Being selected for a reputable accelerator program can significantly boost a startup’s credibility. This may be beneficial when seeking further investment, as it signals to potential investors that the startup has been vetted and deemed promising by a trusted organization.
- To avoid common pitfalls: The guidance provided by mentors and the accelerator program can help startups avoid common mistakes, saving them precious time and resources.
It’s important to note, however, that accelerators aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution — the benefits they offer can vary greatly depending on the specific program and the startup’s stage and needs. Therefore, startups must do their research and choose an accelerator that aligns with their goals and business model. We’ve done important research analyzing the 10 best startup accelerators for different business ventures or ideas, as we’ll see below.
The 10 Best Startup Accelerators in the World
Now that you fully understand what startup accelerators are—and their importance to your organization—let’s dive into our comprehensive list of standout startup accelerators, ranked in ascending order.
10. Alchemist Accelerator
- Number of Investments: 560+
- Number of Exits: 45+
- Supported Industry: All enterprise startups
Alchemist Accelerator, a globally recognized platform, prides itself on being the top accelerator for early-stage startups that intend to monetize from enterprises. This unique accelerator is built on a foundation of expertise from seasoned enterprise entrepreneurs, which can be invaluable for fledgling businesses.
Each year, Alchemist accepts around 25 teams into their program. These teams are provided with $25,000 in funding, with an average equity ask of 5.0%. This figure is often negotiable for later-stage companies, which provides flexibility for startups at various stages of their growth journey.
One standout feature of Alchemist is its expansive network. With over 3,000 faculty members and mentors and a global investor network exceeding 5,000 members, startups have an abundance of resources and expertise at their disposal. This network is instrumental in helping startups monetize from enterprises and navigate the often complex world of business.
Alchemist Accelerator boasts a successful track record, with over 560 investments leading to more than 45 exits. Among the most notable of these is Wise.io, which was acquired by General Electric.
Recently, Alchemist has seen 22 companies debut from a wide spectrum of industries during their demo day, showcasing the diversity and potential within their current cohort. Also, the accelerator has expanded its geographical reach by launching the Memphis Hub Accelerator Program, marking its first US location outside Silicon Valley.
In terms of upcoming opportunities, the next application deadline for Alchemist is December 29th, 2023, with the next program starting on April 4th, 2024, and running for 6 months. The accelerator continues to evolve and adapt, providing a robust and supportive environment for startups.
9. On Deck
- Number of Investments: 650+
- Number of Exits: N/A
- Supported Industry: All industry startups
On Deck is not your typical startup incubator; it’s a dynamic, blossoming community that’s making waves in startup circles. Founded in 2016, this innovative platform brings together the world’s top talent to connect, collaborate, and potentially create groundbreaking ventures.
Over the past couple of years, On Deck has seen remarkable success. In just 18 months, the community has fostered the creation of over 650 companies and facilitated the raising of more than $800 million in funding. This accomplishment underscores the platform’s ability to catalyze creativity and materialize potential.
Going beyond networking, On Deck’s 8 to 10-week programs offer an immersive experience that promotes deep connections and accelerates startups’ entrepreneurial journey. These programs are designed to equip participants with the necessary skills and resources to turn their innovative ideas into thriving businesses.
In 2021, On Deck launched its formal startup accelerator program, ODX, to further support aspiring founders. ODX invests $125K for a 7% equity stake in selected startups, providing critical early-stage financial support.
However, as per the latest updates, On Deck has been pivoting its approach. The platform has been refocusing on cultivating a founder-led future for its startup community. This shift is likely to bring even more targeted and effective support for founders.
Moreover, the company is leaning toward a fully in-person experience in San Francisco, starting with an intensive week of activities. This decision reflects On Deck’s commitment to fostering strong, real-world connections among its community members.
With its unique approach and proven track record, On Deck is indeed a valuable resource for any startup looking to make its mark in the startup world. So, if you’re harboring entrepreneurial aspirations, OnDeck is definitely worth checking out.
- Number of Investments: 900+
- Number of Exits: 7+
- Supported Industry: All industry startups
Antler, a global early-stage venture capitalist firm, was established in 2017 in Singapore by a seasoned team of entrepreneurs, investors, and company builders. It’s distinguished by its mission: to enable and invest in the world’s most exceptional people to build the businesses of tomorrow.
With its global reach and unique methodology, Antler has made a significant impact on the enterprise startup ecosystem. It runs cohorts in more than 25 locations worldwide, with most programs spanning around 6 months. The focus during this time is on finding a co-founder, developing a viable business idea, and validating it. At the end of the journey, promising startups have the opportunity to receive approximately $100K in funding from the investment committee in exchange for a small equity stake in their company.
As of November 2023, Antler has supported the creation of over 900 companies, boasting a combined value of over $3.7 billion. This achievement underscores Antler’s effectiveness in identifying potential and nurturing it to fruition. The firm’s portfolio is diverse, spanning various industries and geographical regions, reflecting its commitment to fostering innovation across the globe.
The Antler program is designed to be intensive and demanding, but it also offers unparalleled support to its participants. From seasoned mentors and industry experts to investment support and business development resources, Antler provides its cohorts with everything they need to succeed.
Antler’s success stories are a testament to its impact. Companies such as Sampingan, an on-demand workforce platform, and Xailient, a computer vision technology provider, have thrived under Antler’s guidance. These are just a couple of examples of how Antler is creating a lasting legacy in the world of startups.
In a nutshell, Antler is more than just a VC firm; it’s a breeding ground for innovation and a launchpad for aspiring entrepreneurs.
7. Entrepreneurs First
- Number of Investments: 500+
- Number of Exits: 32+
- Supported Industry: All industry startups
When discussing accelerators, it’s impossible not to mention Entrepreneurs First (EF). Founded in 2011, EF has gained significant traction, backed by the founders of notable companies such as Stripe, LinkedIn, WordPress, and Github, among others.
Unlike traditional accelerators, EF positions itself as the top talent investor globally. Its unique approach involves selecting the world’s most talented individuals to join their cohorts, even before they have a business idea. It’s a testament to EF’s belief in the power of people and their potential to create transformative businesses.
With offices and cohorts scattered worldwide, EF’s global presence enables it to tap into diverse markets and perspectives. The program itself runs for 3 months, during which EF funds participants as individuals in the ideation phase. This support provides entrepreneurs with the freedom to explore, innovate, and refine their business concepts.
EF’s commitment doesn’t end at the ideation phase; they offer to invest £80,000—in addition to the stipends paid in the program’s first part—for a 10% equity stake in the emerging company. This investment provides crucial early-stage capital that can be instrumental in the company’s growth trajectory.
Again, EF’s support extends beyond just financial investment; they provide access to world-leading advisors and venture partners, offering invaluable insights and guidance. Participants also get the opportunity to pitch for pre-seed funding and are introduced to EF’s extensive network of investors. This comprehensive support system is designed to equip entrepreneurs with the resources and connections they need to succeed.
As of November 2023, EF’s approach has proved highly successful, with over 500 companies founded through their program. These companies have a combined portfolio value of over $10 billion, a testament to EF’s ability to nurture and catalyze startup success.
If you’re an individual with talent and ambition but are still searching for a co-founder and a concrete business idea, EF is undoubtedly worth exploring. It’s more than just an accelerator; it’s a platform that invests in your potential to shape the future.
6. Plug & Play
- Number of Investments: 1,300+
- Number of Exits: 140+
- Supported Industry: 20+ (See List)
Plug and Play is more than just an accelerator; it’s a global innovation platform that bridges the gap between ambitious startups and large corporations. Operating in 50+ offices worldwide, it runs comprehensive acceleration programs designed to drive growth and facilitate industry connections.
Well-known tech startups like Dropbox, Paypal, and N26 are alumni of Plug & Play, a testament to the platform’s ability to foster and nurture world-class businesses. With over 1,300 investments and 140 exits to its name, Plug & Play’s impact on the startup ecosystem is undeniable.
Recently, Plug and Play launched an Internal Inclusive Fintech Accelerator in partnership with Visa. This new initiative aims to further support diverse founders within the fintech industry. In addition, the first batch of Silicon Valley startups in 2023 have been accepted into their program and concluded with a summit in June 2023.
Plug and Play doesn’t stop at acceleration programs, either. They host innovation events worldwide, offering startups the opportunity to network, secure investments, and forge industry connections. In fact, their recently concluded Silicon Valley June Summit in 2023 showcases over 145 batch startups from various industry-focused innovation programs.
So, if you’re a startup looking for a platform to accelerate growth or a corporation seeking to tap into the world’s best startups, Plug and Play could be the ideal place for you. It offers an unparalleled environment where innovation thrives, connections are forged, and impactful businesses are born.
- Number of Investments: 2,300+
- Number of Exits: 57+
- Supported Industry: Deep tech
SOSV is a powerhouse in the venture capital sphere, renowned for its commitment to supporting entrepreneurs with breakthrough technologies. Providing multi-stage investment, it kickstarts its accelerator program with pre-seed startup development programs, nurturing ideas into viable businesses.
Operating on a global scale, SOSV’s accelerator programs are concentrated on deep tech, health tech, and climate tech, reflecting its commitment to addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Its vast portfolio boasts over 2,300 investments with 57 exits (of which 7 are unicorns), indicative of its significant influence on the startup ecosystem.
In 2023, SOSV has continued to make headlines. Their Human Health 100 list was released, showcasing the top companies in their portfolio, from unicorns making a considerable impact to pre-seed startups just embarking on their journey. This initiative underscores SOSV’s dedication to promoting health tech innovations that can shape the future of healthcare.
Moreover, SOSV just concluded the second annual Climate Tech Summit set for September 2023, another testament to their commitment to climate tech solutions. Plus, the 2023 edition of the SOSV Climate Tech 100 added 22 new companies to their portfolio. These companies, along with the others in the list, have an aggregate valuation of a staggering $11 billion as of April 2023.
In summary, SOSV isn’t your ordinary venture capital firm. It’s a catalyst for change, a platform for innovation, and a launchpad for startups committed to making a significant impact in deep tech, health tech, and climate tech.
4. 500 Global
- Number of Investments: 2,800+
- Number of Exits: 330+
- Supported Industry: 7+ (See List)
500 Global, formerly known as 500 Startups, is a renowned venture capital firm that has made a name for itself through its impactful startup accelerator programs. Launched in 2010, 500 Global has since fostered an impressive portfolio, investing in over 2,800 companies and witnessing more than 330 successful exits.
Their accelerator program spans 4 months, during which they provide comprehensive assistance to founders as they navigate the multifaceted challenges of scaling a company. Moreover, they demonstrate their commitment to the businesses they support by investing $150,000 for a 6% stake.
The global footprint of 500 Global extends to every corner of the world, making their programs accessible to a diverse range of entrepreneurs. Their offices span from Silicon Valley to Tokyo, enabling them to tap into local innovation and provide resources and networks to startups on a global scale.
Furthermore, 500 Global has continued to make a significant impact in the startup ecosystem, with their portfolio companies raising over $17.7 billion in capital by the end of 2023. This showcases the firm’s ability to identify, invest in, and scale promising startups that can transform industries and create lasting impact.
So, whether you’re a founder looking for expert guidance and support or an investor seeking high-growth opportunities, 500 Global offers an unrivaled platform to connect, collaborate, and create transformative businesses.
- Number of Investments: 2,626+
- Number of Exits: 146+
- Supported Industry: All industry startups
Although not as widely recognized as some other startup incubators, MassChallenge is a powerhouse in the startup accelerator space. It offers a distinctive, global, zero-equity accelerator program across 7 strategic locations worldwide.
The MassChallenge accelerator program spans 4 months and is primarily designed to connect startups with corporations and mentors. This unique approach provides startups with invaluable insights, access to a broader network, and opportunities for growth that they would not otherwise have.
One of the standout aspects of MassChallenge is its zero-equity model. Unlike many other accelerator programs, MassChallenge does not take equity in the startups they support. This reflects their mission to prioritize the success and growth of the startups above all else.
At the conclusion of the program, participating startups have the opportunity to compete for investment. This competition not only offers a chance for funding but also serves as a platform for startups to showcase their progress and potential to a wider audience.
In 2023, MassChallenge continued to make strides in supporting startups. They launched their 2023 accelerator program, welcoming a cohort of innovative startups across various industries, including health tech, fintech, and clean tech. Moreover, the company hosted the 2023 Global Summit, offering startups an opportunity to connect with industry leaders, potential investors, and fellow innovators.
In essence, MassChallenge offers a unique proposition to startups — a chance to access a global network, receive expert mentorship, and grow without giving up any equity. This, coupled with the opportunity to compete for investment, makes MassChallenge a compelling choice for startups looking to scale and make an impact.
- Number of Investments: 3,700+
- Number of Exits: 360+
- Supported Industry: Emerging technology
Founded in 2006, Techstars is an operational investor that has been supporting entrepreneurs on their journey, from idea conception to building the most successful businesses possible, for close to 2 decades now. Built and managed by startup founders themselves, Techstars understands the intricacies and challenges of converting your ideas into action and scaling them successfully.
Techstars’ investment approach is unique and supportive. The firm provides $20,000 in exchange for a 6% equity stake in your company until the company raises equity financing of $250,000 or more. The Techstars program lasts for 3 months and is centered around mentorship and access to the expansive Techstars network, which spans over 50 locations worldwide.
Moreover, Techstars has an impressive track record, having made over 3,700 investments, leading to more than 360 successful exits. Some of the most renowned companies that have gone through the Techstars program include Sendgrid, Outreach, SalesLoft, and ClassPass.
As of 2023, Techstars continues to innovate and invest in new companies. Just recently, they announced their latest class for the Techstars Industries of the Future Program and the Techstars Anywhere class. Additionally, one of their startups, REEV, which is part of the Techstars Future of Longevity 2023, successfully collected €3M in funding. In October alone, they made 78 new investments and saw 15 of their portfolio companies close funding rounds.
Techstars’ commitment to fostering entrepreneurial growth and innovation remains as strong as ever, making it a powerful ally for any startup or entrepreneur looking to make their mark in the business world.
1. Y Combinator
- Number of Investments: 4,000+
- Number of Exits: 440+
- Supported Industry: 8+ (See List)
Y Combinator, founded in 2005 and often hailed as the trailblazer of the startup incubator realm, has been a launchpad for numerous successful businesses. With its biannual funding cycles, Y Combinator meticulously selects a cohort of startups, investing $125,000 in each in exchange for a 7% equity stake. To bolster the startups’ financial standing, a $375,000 uncapped SAFE Note is also provided.
Over an intensive 3-month period, Y Combinator works meticulously with each startup, offering valuable mentorship and guidance. The climax of this period is Demo Day, an exclusive event where startups showcase their businesses to an invite-only audience that often consists of industry bigwigs.
To date, Y Combinator’s portfolio boasts over 4,000 investments, which are worth a combined $600 billion in valuation and have resulted in more than 440 triumphant exits. The accelerator’s alumni include industry-disrupting companies like Airbnb, Dropbox, Stripe, and Reddit, testifying to the transformative potential of the Y Combinator program.
As of 2023, Y Combinator continues to thrive and foster innovation. This year, they have sifted through over 20,000 applications, selecting and funding 282 promising startups for their Winter 2023 batch. This addition has expanded the Y Combinator community to include over 10,000 founders, representing more than 4,500 Global.
However, the value of participating in Y Combinator extends beyond the financial investment and the intensive mentorship. Being a Y Combinator startup sends a potent signal to the market about the potential of your startup. It’s akin to earning a badge of honor in the startup world, offering a competitive edge in the bustling startup ecosystem.
In conclusion, Y Combinator stands as a formidable force in the startup world. Its potent mix of financial backing, mentorship, and market signaling offers startups an unparalleled platform to scale and succeed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are accelerators good for startups?
Yes, startup accelerators tend to be generally beneficial for startups, especially those led by first-time founders. They offer a structured program and a wealth of resources derived from past successful startups. These accelerators can connect startups to investors, providing a crucial financial lifeline.
Moreover, they offer mentorship and a supportive community, helping founders navigate the challenges of launching a business. The structured environment and network that accelerators provide can significantly accelerate a startup’s growth trajectory, making them an excellent option for many early-stage companies.
Is Y Combinator the best accelerator?
Y Combinator (YC) is often considered to be one of the best startup accelerators due to its track record of success and the prestige associated with its program. Its accelerator program has produced high-profile companies, such as Airbnb and Dropbox, attesting to its efficacy. The company is based in Silicon Valley and invests in 2 fresh cohorts of startups annually, funding $125,000 for a 7% stake.
This funding, coupled with valuable mentorship and networking opportunities, provides startups with an excellent platform for growth. However, “the best” accelerator can be subjective and depends on a startup’s specific needs and objectives. While YC is undoubtedly a top contender, other accelerators may better suit different startups.
Is Techstars better than YC?
The better option between Techstars and Y Combinator (YC) largely depends on the startup’s needs and the founder’s experience. While more seasoned founders typically favor YC with well-defined ideas, Techstars can be a better fit for novice founders. Techstars provides an environment conducive to growth, helping founders who may have a good idea but need more guidance to take it to the next level.
Thus, neither is objectively “better;” it’s all contingent on the startup’s specific situation and the founder’s experience and needs.
Is 500 Startups an accelerator?
Yes, 500 Global, formerly known as 500 Startups, is an early-stage seed accelerator and venture fund. Founded in 2010 by Dave McClure and Christine Tsai, it has a reputation for supporting and investing in a vast array of promising startups worldwide.
By providing funding, mentorship, and resources, 500 Global accelerates the growth of startups and helps them navigate their early stages. It’s an excellent platform for startups looking for a strong support system and the resources to scale their business.
What are the disadvantages of startup accelerators?
Startup accelerators, while beneficial, do come with potential drawbacks.
The intense and immersive nature of these programs often demands a significant time commitment, which could distract from other business aspects. Furthermore, most accelerators require an equity stake in your company as part of their investment. This means giving up a portion of your company’s ownership, which could be a disadvantage, particularly if your startup grows significantly in the future.
Therefore, while accelerators can provide valuable resources and support, startups need to consider these factors before committing to a program.
What is the success rate of startup accelerators?
Startup accelerators have been shown to positively impact startup success, with research indicating a 23% higher survival rate for startups that graduate from such programs. This is a significant statistic considering the often-cited estimate that around 90% of startups fail.
These figures suggest that accelerators can provide startups with a solid foundation and a much-needed edge in the highly competitive business landscape. However, it’s important to remember that success is also dependent on various other factors, including the quality of the idea, the team’s execution, market conditions, and more.