What are the best startup accelerators?
A difficult question to answer, especially looking at an international landscape. The number of startup accelerators keeps growing almost daily worldwide. On f6s.com, the larger database of startup accelerators, it is possible to find a staggering 4148 results. But how to spot the best startup accelerators?
Depending on what we look at, a startup accelerator can have added value to one startup or another. But, what does it really matter in a startup accelerator?
Existing network, funding options (money vs. equity), mentors and alumni portfolio are characteristics that every startup founder considering a startup accelerator as a funding option should examine quite carefully. It is crucial to take this analysis seriously, as a bad experience can ruin the startup dream we might have.
Creating a worldwide ranking is perhaps impossible. Every region has a different reality and a different access to top-tier mentors or VCs. The most interesting market to start from is the States. Its cash availability combined with the high number of successful startups is a perfect ground for researches.
The 2016 Ranking.
Seed Ranking Accelerator Project is an interesting program developed in U.S.. It takes a look at data coming in from different startup accelerators, analyzes and summarizes it every year, since four years.
In 2016, the analysis has moved away from past approaches focused strictly on numerical ranking. This year, they decided to group startup accelerators by tiers (Platinum, Gold, Silver). The data taken in consideration is the result of fieldwork and interviews with several investors, startup accelerators directors, and alumni.
Important factors that contributed to the final ranking were:
1. Valuation – Mean and median valuation across all portfolio startups.
2. Qualified Exit – IPO or acquisition above $5M.
3. Qualified Fundraising – Raised funds above $200K.
4. Survival – Percentage of companies that are still alive.
5. Founder Satisfaction – Opinions by graduated startup founders.
6. Alumni Network – Number of companies graduated.
The startup accelerator industry is difficult to tackle. Most of these programs who define themselves as accelerators, do not actually meet its standard definition. To add to the confusion, the continuous evolving of many of these programs creates a complicated landscape to analyze and find data for.
An interesting data coming out from the study is that on average startup accelerators take 6% equity stake with a funding option of $39.5K.
The 2016 study took in consideration 150 startup accelerators country-wide. Here below the final results:
Gold tier: Brandery, Capital Innovators, Dreamit, gener8tor, Healthbox, Mass Challenge, Surge
Silver tier: Alphalab, Betaspring, Health Wildcatters, Iron Yard, Lighthouse Labs, Plug and Play, Zero to 510
It is understandable that some startup founders might find the ranking interesting but not actionable. After all, we are not all in the same position and do not have the same possibility to access top-tier startup accelerators.
The most important thing is to evaluate how the startup accelerator can actually help you achieve what you are looking for. Take the time to talk with people who are attending or have attended and look for signs that might be alarming. Past alumni tend to be relatively sincere and open. It is the best shot you get to understand what you can get out of the 3-4 months you might be spending there.