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Startup founders have a range of different funding options to choose from in order to raise capital for their companies. If you’re looking at different ways to fund your bootstrapped business, you might be looking at startup accelerators vs. startup incubators.

Of these options, startup accelerators are one of the best tools available for helping new founders grow their businesses once they already have some traction. 

Some of the most well-known tech companies, such as Airbnb, Dropbox, and Stripe, went through accelerator programs in their early stages.

It's important to understand that startup accelerators offer more than just capital, but the amount of capital you can get from them is small compared to other funding options. 

However, this is compensated in many other ways as they offer benefits for entrepreneurs looking to learn, make connections, and scale their businesses.

What Is a Startup Accelerator?

Startup accelerators are cohort programs for startup founders that offer mentorship, venture capital, and connections to potential investors and/or business partners. These programs are designed to support early-stage startups with a minimum value product (MVP) to help them rapidly grow and scale.

Startup accelerators are usually fixed-term and offer a set amount of capital in return for a certain percentage of equity in the companies they select for their programs. 

The selection process for every startup accelerator varies. Still, there is generally some application and assessment process that founders must go through for a chance to be chosen.

Startups are usually admitted to accelerators in batches of a set size, with startup accelerators typically selecting 1-3 batches of new companies yearly. Most startup accelerators are open to supporting early-stage startups across different industries, but some focus on companies in specific sectors.


Top 15 Startup Accelerators

There are more than 200 startup accelerators in the United States alone and many more worldwide. With so many to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start looking. Here are 15 of the best startup accelerators for you to check out and consider applying to:

1) Y Combinator

Y Combinator's website

If you’ve heard of one startup accelerator, it’s probably Y Combinator. Founded in 2005, it’s one of the oldest startup accelerators and is considered a pioneer of accelerators. 

Y Combinator provides early-stage seed funding for a fresh batch of startups twice a year and works closely with the companies it funds during the bi-annual, 3-month-long accelerator program.

Location: Mountain View, California, USA

Industries: No specific industries.

How to apply: Sign up and fill out an application here.

What they give: $150,000 in exchange for 7% equity.

Other Information:

  • Founded date: 2005
  • Startups funded: 4,469
  • Exits: 444
  • Top companies: Airbnb, Stripe, and Instacart

2) Plug and Play Tech Center

Plug and Play Tech Center

Plug and Play Tech Center is one of the most active VC firms headquartered in Silicon Valley. It has locations in many different countries, including Germany, France, Spain, The Netherlands, Mexico, Brazil, China, India, Japan, and more. 

Plug and Play Tech Center also partners with hundreds of corporations, government agencies, and universities to run unique accelerator programs for its network of 30,000+ startups worldwide.

Location: 30+ locations around the world.

Industries: 20+ industries, including AgTech, energy, enterprise tech, fintech, health, smart cities, and more.

How to apply: Start the process here.

What they give: Depends on the specific accelerator program.

Other Information:

  • Founded date: 2006
  • Startups funded: 1,447
  • Exits: 140
  • Top companies: Dropbox, PayPal, Rappi

3) TechStars

TecStars' website

Founded just a year later than Y Combinator, TechStars is another venture capital and startup accelerator that pioneered the way for others to come. 

The big difference between TechStars and Y Combinator is that TechStars offers mentorship-based accelerator programs in more than 15 countries worldwide. 

Startup founders who complete TechStars’s 90-day accelerator program also gain lifelong access to the company’s global network of resources.

Location: Present in more than 15 countries.

Industries: Tech industry.

How to apply: Apply for a current accelerator program here.

What they give: $20,000 in exchange for 6% equity.

Other Information:

  • Founded date: 2006
  • Startups funded: 4,116
  • Exits: 951
  • Top companies: SendGrid, Zipline, and SalesLoft

4) 500 Startups

500 Startups’ website

500 Startups offers one of the world's most active seed funding programs. Their flagship San Francisco-based accelerator program is four months long. It provides founders with access to the company’s community, investors, and mentors, as well as free office space, support, and global connections.

Location: San Francisco, California, USA

Industries: No specific industries.

How to apply: Apply for their San Francisco-based seed program here.

What they give: $150,000 in exchange for 6% equity.

Other Information:

  • Founded date: 2010
  • Startups funded: 2,600
  • Exits: 339
  • Top companies: Udemy, Grab, and Canva

5) MassChallenge

MassChallenge's website

MassChallenge is a global non-profit startup accelerator dedicated to supporting innovation and entrepreneurship through collaboration and development. 

Startups accepted into a MassChallenge accelerator program go through four months of curriculum, mentorship, and exhibition events to drive growth, funding, and third-party collaboration.

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Industries: All industries, with a focus on high-impact, emerging sectors.

How to apply: Register and submit an application here.

What they give: No up-front funding, but participating startups can compete for cash prizes.

Other Information:

  • Founded date: 2009
  • Startups funded: 2,103
  • Exits: 562
  • Top companies: Kickstarter, Bitso, and Spring Health

6) SOSV

SOSV

SOSV is a multi-stage venture capital investment company that runs various global accelerator programs for 3- to 6-months-long. SOSV funds and works with 150 new startups annually and offers 1,000+ mentors worldwide. 

The company has various market-specific accelerators in Europe, Asia, and the USA. Notable SOSV programs include HAX, IndieBio, Chinaaccelerator, Mox, and Dlab.

Location: Princeton, New Jersey, USA

Industries: Hardware, gaming, software, consumer services, and more.

How to apply: Check their programs and apply here.

What they give: Depends on the specific accelerator program.

Other Information:

  • Founded date: 1995
  • Startups funded: 2,369
  • Exits: 58
  • Top companies: NotCo, Perfect Day, Upside Foods

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7) Founder Institute

Founder Institute

Founder Institute operates programs across 180+ cities worldwide in 9 languages. The company helps pre-seed entrepreneurs and teams build traction and raise funding by establishing a critical support network of local startup experts.

Each global chapter of the Founder Institute has local directors and mentors who are some of the world’s top startup leaders.

Location: San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA

Industries: B2B, B2C, mobile, TMT, and technology sectors.

How to apply: Fill out the application form here.

What they give: Depends on the program.

Other Information:

  • Founded date: 2009
  • Startups funded: 591
  • Exits: 259
  • Top companies: Peerby, Udemy, FightCamp

8) Alchemist Accelerator

Alchemist Accelerator's website

Alchemist Accelerator touts itself as the world’s best accelerator for startups that monetize from enterprises rather than consumers. 

In other words, it’s for startups who want to target large enterprises instead of individuals. The company offers a 6-month accelerator program in the San Francisco Bay Area for 25 teams.

Location: San Francisco, California, USA

Industries: Enterprise-monetized startups.

How to apply: See upcoming application deadlines and apply here.

What they give: $36,000 in exchange for 5% equity.

Other Information:

  • Founded date: 2012
  • Startups funded: 569
  • Exits: 51
  • Top companies: Privacera, Groove, and EngFlow

9) NFX

NFX's website

NFX is a venture firm focusing exclusively on accelerating pre-seed and seed-stage startups. 

The company refers to its community of founders and startups as the “NFX Guild,” a collaborative platform for entrepreneurs to connect, network, and collaborate. NFX works intensively with founders through their exit from its portfolio.

Location: Palo Alto, California, USA

Industries: No specific industries.

How to apply: You can contact them for investment inquiries here.

What they give: $120,000 in exchange for 5% equity.

Other Information:

  • Founded date: 2015
  • Startups funded: 469
  • Exits: 99
  • Top companies: Doordash, Lyft, and Playtika

10) Startupbootcamp

Startupbootcamp's website

Startupbootcamp is an intensive 3-month accelerator program that offers opportunities for startups in various cities around the world. Notable tech hub cities where the accelerator programs take place include London, New York, Singapore, Berlin, and Amsterdam.

Location: Many different international cities.

Industries: FinTech, FashionTech, Sustainability, Sport and EventTech, and more.

How to apply: Check their website for different accelerator programs.

What they give: €15,000 for 6-8% equity.

Other Information:

  • Founded date: 2010
  • Startups funded: 541
  • Exits: 39
  • Top companies: SendCloud, Kuda, and Datumize

11) AngelPad

AngelPad's website

AngelPad has been ranked as the top US-based accelerator company by MIT’s Seed Accelerator Benchmark every year since 2015. Twice a year, the company selects 15 startups to join their 3-month-long accelerator program in either San Francisco or NYC. 

During the intensive program, AngelPad works with founders in areas like finding product-market fit, defining a target market, and getting the first validation for the company.

Location: San Francisco, California/New York, New York, USA

Industries: No specific industries.

How to apply: Start your application here.

What they give: $120,000 in exchange for 7% equity.

Other Information:

  • Founded date: 2010
  • Startups funded: 150
  • Exits: 37
  • Top companies: Postmates, Pipedrive, and Vungle


12) Seedcamp

Seedcamp

Seedcamp is one of Europe’s most considerable startup accelerator funds. They emphasize startups with ambitious goals for the world who use technology to succeed. They have backed over 400 industry-changing businesses, including nine unicorns in Europe.

Location: London, England.

Industries: Technology

How to apply: Start your application here

What they give: Check sizes from £300,000 to £500,000

Other Information:

  • Founded date: 2007
  • Startups funded: 612
  • Exits: 159
  • Top companies: Wise, Revolut, Popup


13) Founders Factory

Founders Factory

Founders Factory co-founds businesses from the ground up, creating high-growth firms from innovative concepts, technology, and business models.

They provide a six-month program and £30,000 in capital for qualified startups. It also has access to a large network of corporate partners and experienced staff.

Location: London, England.

Industries: FinTech, Health, Climate, Media & Telecoms, Consumer and Web3.

How to apply: Start your application here.

What they give:  Check size of £30,000.

Other Information

  • Founded date: 2015
  • Startups funded: 119
  • Exits: 13
  • Top companies: Feedr, Flourish, Airsupply

14) Boost VC

Boost VC

Boost VC has invested in more than 250 businesses. They concentrate on startups with an international focus and great ideas. They seek teams that can carry out their vision and have a long-term perspective on their company. 

Boost VC offers a three-month onboarding program that aids entrepreneurs in leveraging their demo day to gain access to stronger networks and funding.

Location: California, United States.

Industries: Aerospace, VR/AR, energy, climate, robotics, cryptocurrency. 

How to apply: Start your application here.

What they give: Each company they invest in gets a $500,000 check.

Other Information:

  • Founded date: 2012
  • Startups funded: 423
  • Exits: 132
  • Top companies: Coinbase, Drapr, Hypersense


15) Microsoft Accelerator

Microsoft Accelerator

Microsoft Accelerator is a worldwide startup accelerator program from one of the biggest corporations in the world. They operate in 14 countries and have aided over 1000 businesses. They provide entrepreneurs with coaching, connections, and resources to help them grow.

Location: Many different international cities.

Industries: Technology.

How to apply: Start your application here.

What they give: Check sizes from $1,000 to $150,000. 

Other Information:

  • Founded date: 2013
  • Startups funded: 235
  • Exits: 43
  • Top companies: Cloudflare, Digime, Neura


How Long Do Startup Accelerators Last?

A typical startup accelerator program lasts from 3-6 months. During this time, startup founders are often relocated to the program’s base, which may be in Silicon Valley or another global tech hub. 

While California naturally has one of the largest offerings of startup accelerators, there are programs worldwide. Some programs even split time between different locations, allowing greater exposure to global networks and expanded learnings.

How Much Do Startup Accelerators Invest?

The amount of venture capital your startup can receive from an accelerator ranges from about $20,000-$150,000. Almost all startup accelerators offer a lump sum in exchange for a certain percentage of equity in your company, usually around 5-7%. 

However, some accelerators ask for as much as 15% equity or as little as 1%. Some startup accelerators don’t even ask for any equity, particularly those run by colleges and universities.

5 Benefits of Startup Accelerators

1) Networking Opportunities

One of the most significant benefits of joining a startup accelerator is the access it gives you to one-of-a-kind networking opportunities. Established accelerator programs are communities of like-minded investors, program alumni, mentors, and other founders. 

Making so many connections through a shared program can come in handy, especially when looking for investors, partners, or team members to boost your business even more.

2) Personalized Guidance and Mentoring

Another huge benefit of startup accelerators is personalized, often one-on-one, mentoring and guidance provided to founders. This mentorship is usually given by serial entrepreneurs, founders, and investors, who have the knowledge and skills it takes to drive a new company to success. 

These individuals work closely with chosen startups on skill development, help them overcome early-stage challenges, and prepare them for raising seed investment down the road, among other things. The mentors who work with an accelerator program may even invest in startups who graduate from the program themselves!

3) Opportunities for Collaboration and Partnerships

Since startups are selected for accelerator programs in batches, you’ll also have the chance to meet and connect with other early-stage founders. This can present opportunities to learn from each other and share knowledge about facing common challenges that all startups face. It can also provide chances for collaboration and even business partnerships. 

For example, you might meet another founder developing something that could be integrated into your product or service and decide to start working together.

4) Initial Venture Capital

Of course, the nice sum of money provided by a startup accelerator is an enticing part of the deal for any founder. 

Though $20,000-$150,000 isn’t a huge amount in the world of startups, this initial venture capital can be used to hire new team members, rent office space, and pay for other key resources. It can be just what you need to keep bootstrapping your startup until you achieve significant profitability.

5) Increased Chances of Raise Seed Funding

While startup accelerators provide only a set amount of funding to their graduates, they emphasize preparing founders to raise additional capital through seed funding. 

According to statistics, approximately 38% of startups that pass through accelerator programs raise Series A funding, and accelerated companies are 50% more likely to raise seed funding than non-accelerated companies.

You may also want to read our Seed Funding guide.

When To Join a Startup Accelerator

When considering whether or not to join a startup accelerator, you should first ask yourself why you want to join. Decide whether you’re in it for the money or if you want all the other benefits of an accelerator as well.

If all you’re after is venture capital, it may be better for you to pursue other funding options. Startup accelerators offer relatively low sums of venture capital compared to other sources of capital, such as raising private venture capital with a pitch deck.

On the other hand, if you’re after mentorship and access to resources and connections, an accelerator program may be the perfect place to start looking for early-stage funding.

If you’re interested in joining a startup accelerator, it’s important to understand that not all accelerators are created equal. Just because you are accepted to an accelerator program doesn’t mean you will automatically raise more funds after the program.

So, do your research before choosing a startup accelerator to apply to, and pick one with a good track record of success that offers the types of mentorship services and other benefits you’re looking for. Choosing the wrong startup accelerator can equate to months of lost time (and money), negatively impacting early-stage companies.


Application Processes of Startup Accelerators

The first step is to fill out some type of application form. These forms usually ask for basic details about your startup, including the idea/product, your market, traction information, details about the team, and other key information. 

Startup accelerators use these forms to pre-screen applicants and select promising startups to move forward in the application process.

Suppose your startup is chosen as a promising applicant out of the initial batch of applications. In that case, it will then be evaluated on things like investment potential, revenue potential, the strength of the product/service, the quality/experience of the team, and other deciding factors. 

At this stage of the startup accelerator application process, the program will select a certain number of applicants for admissions interviews.

If you’re selected for an interview, it’s a sign that the startup accelerator program you applied for is very interested in you and your company. These interviews usually last about 20-30 minutes, and during this time, the interviewers will ask you more in-depth questions to help them decide if you’re a good fit for their accelerator program.

After the interview, you may be asked to provide legal documents to finalize the evaluation. For example, you may need proof of revenue to back up any claims you made about your startup’s current revenue.

Finally, once a startup accelerator has thoroughly evaluated all its candidates, they select a set number of applicants for acceptance into the program. 

The exact number of applicants chosen to be part of an accelerator and receive funding varies from program to program. Still, it is typically between 30% and 60% of those that passed the initial screening and made it to the final assessment phase.

Who Are Accelerators Looking For?

Startup accelerators are looking for companies with a high potential for growth within just a few months. 

Startup accelerators also require companies to have MVPs, or a minimal version of a product or service that is already working and clearly demonstrates its use case and viability. Companies that only have a prototype or a concept of a product or service are not candidates for accelerator programs.

Should You Join an Accelerator?

Depending on the stage your startup is at, an accelerator can be an excellent opportunity that can benefit both you as a founder and your company as a whole. 

If your goal is to rapidly boost your startup’s growth and success through funding and mentorship, then an accelerator program might just be what you’re looking for. Think of it as getting several years of experience in just 3-6 months.

Keep in mind that startup accelerators are looking for companies that already have an MVP and some business traction. So, if all you have is an idea or a prototype, and your company is in the pre-traction stages, it probably isn’t the time to look at applying to accelerators just yet. That being said, your company could be a good candidate for the close cousin of accelerators: an incubator.

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