When you’re in the early stages of your startup, access to a small amount of capital and the advice from a few former founders can make a huge impact on the success of your company.
Joining a great startup accelerator provides both and can even give your startup legitimacy in the eyes of potential investors.
The difficulty is that there are so many startup accelerators that it’s hard to know which will have a big impact and which are looking to make a quick buck.
To simplify your selection process, we’ve gone ahead and built a list of the top 10 accelerators worldwide that are sure to help you scale your startup.
1) Y Combinator
Out of all the startup accelerators, there’s one that stands above the rest: Y Combinator (YC). This god-like status isn’t just known by founders, many venture capitalists see YC in the same light. This perception isn’t just a coincidence though, YC’s portfolio boasts some of the most successful startups in history including the likes of AirBnB, Reddit, DoorDash, and CoinBase. If you’re looking for a one-way ticket to VC funding, you’ll never truly find one but graduating from YC is about as close as you’ll get.
$150,000 in exchange for 7% equity.
2) 500 startups
500 Startups is the only other startup accelerator that can hold its own when stacked up against the Goliath that is Y Combinator. If you’re a startup founder, 500 Startups is the next best thing when it comes to accelerators that will set you up for success. Their extensive mentor network comes from companies such as Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, and PayPal. If you are looking for access to world-class startup support and insight, 500 Startups is an amazing second option.
You pay $37,500 to participate and 500 Startups will invest $150,000 in exchange for 6% equity.
Techstars is one of the most exclusive seed accelerators in the world. The <1% that are accepted to the 3-month accelerator program are given access to the Techstars Network for life. Being accepted into Techstars immediately validates your startup and drastically increases your chance of securing funding. Techstars invests in founders first and companies second so make sure your founding team will blow them away. With a graduate market cap of $46.2 billion, Techstars has certainly earned their place in the top 3 accelerators worldwide.
A $20,000 convertible note in return for 6% equity. Converts when you raise $250,000 or more.
Due to its size and success, AngelPad is often compared to Y Combinator. But, because of their quality over quantity approach, they are also referred to as the “Anti-Y Combinator.” AngelPad takes in 30 teams per year and has a <1% acceptance rate for its 10-week incubator. Unlike many other accelerators, AngelPad clearly outlines what they offer startups during the program. They will help you with finding a product-market fit, a target market, and validation testing. Their track record and thoroughness are the reason they have been named the top U.S. Accelerator by MIT every year since 2015.
$120,000 in return for 7% equity
5) Plug and Play
Plug and Play is the largest accelerator and corporate innovation platform on the planet. Their focus on corporate innovation is important because they will connect your startup with a larger corporation, giving you an immediate boost in traction while helping corporations to stay up to date with cutting-edge technology. With dozens of accelerator programs worldwide, they are less exclusive than some of the other companies on this list. Plug and Play manages and invests in their accelerator portfolio after graduation, so you know they are dedicated to your success and will double down if you prove to be a competent founder.
$30,000 for 5% equity.
MassChallenge is an international, industry-agnostic startup accelerator. MassChallenge is unique in that they don’t take any equity for their investment. Their startup accelerators offer 4 months of mentorship, entrepreneurship and industry training, office space, and the opportunity to win cash prizes. MassChallenge also has 6-month vertical accelerator programs which provide more funding and partner you with a top business in your industry. They are a non-profit supported by corporate partnerships with companies like Facebook, Microsoft, and Nestle. These are some of the companies you may have the chance to work with if you are accepted into their accelerator program. MassChallenge’s expert community comprises 3,000 successful entrepreneurs and industry leaders who all share a common goal: to help you succeed.
<$1M in funding for zero equity.
Online Application: https://accelerate.masschallenge.org/accounts/register/entrepreneur/
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
SOSV is a tech-focused accelerator that invests in seed, venture, and growth-stage startups. SOSV’s primary goal is to empower businesses to grow faster through their accelerator programs in Europe, Asia, and the United States. SOSV has unparalleled maker spaces and wet labs to provide your startup with all the tools needed to succeed. With a 5% admission rate, SOSV programs are selective, but they aren’t YC or Techstars. Regardless, they can and will be your introduction to corporate partnerships and late-stage VCs in your industry.
Investments vary between startups. However, SOSV continues to back its most promising startups.
8) Alchemist Accelerator
The Alchemist Accelerator is a VC-backed accelerator that specializes in seed-stage startups that monetize from enterprise companies. This is in contrast to most of the accelerators on this list which are dedicated to consumer-facing companies. The Alchemist Accelerator is also much more flexible than other accelerators because every piece of the program other than Demo-Day is optional. If you want their help, you’ll have access to 1:1 meetings with mentors and investors, day-long summits with high-level executives and VCs, and more. While you’re in the 6-month program, your network will immediately expand to include over 3,000 mentors and 5,500 venture investors. Large enterprise organizations love working with Alchemist Accelerator because they bring your innovation to the table.
$36,000 in exchange for 5% equity.
9) DreamIt Ventures
DreamIt Ventures is another unique accelerator because they don’t take equity in the beginning. Instead, they will invest $20,000 and secure the right to invest in your next round at a 20% discount. They have programs for 3 different industries: Urbantech, Healthtech, and Securetech. If your startup already has some traction and scaling potential, DreamIt may be perfect for you; they aren’t here to guide you through the beginning stages or build your product, they are here to expedite your growth. One of the ways they do this is through customer sprints, which will help you expand your customer pipeline. One interesting aspect of DreamIt is that they don’t require you to relocate, they understand that you’re busy building your company and a temporary relocation won’t help. If you want to grow your startup as fast as possible, there’s no need to search for anything else.
$20,000 in return for the right to invest in your next round with a 20% discount.
Wayra is all about empowering you and your startup to reach the next level. While they are smaller than many, Wayra is still quite formidable; they have over 100 partner organizations dedicated to working with their over 400 active startups across 9 countries. Unfortunately, they are only based in Latin America and Europe so it may be difficult to get in if you’re a startup in the US. With the help of their partner organizations, Wayra will help you test and polish your product, find your first customers, and scale your business for the future.
Up to €250,000.
Online Application: https://www.activationprogramme.wayra.com/
Location: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, Peru, Spain, the United Kingdom and Venezuela
You're generally giving accelerators a large sum of equity at a very low price. Yes, you're early stage but it's important that you join an accelerator that will adding more value than is being taken away.
Be sure whichever accelerator you are applying to offers a great portfolio, mentor network, investor connections, and has a notable brand that provides your startup with legitimacy. Smaller mid tier and low tier accelerators will never be able to provide legitimacy so it's always a good idea to reach out to their portfolio companies to gauge the quality of the accelerator.