Accelerators · Entrepreneurship

What is the best accelerator program for entrepreneurs and why?

Jennifer Byrne Co-Founder & Partner at Quesnay Inc.

December 28th, 2015

What format, length, curriculum, network, business model, benefits, perks, etc. 
Thank you

Ben Larson Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Gateway Incubator

December 28th, 2015

Each business accelerator offers different structure, benefits, experience, vertical focus, and more. The answer to your question lies in what you are hoping to get out of such a program. Here's where I would start:

Where do you hold a higher value: structured guidance or network?
What stage of business are you?
What are your funding needs?
Are you building hardware, software, or non-tech?
Are you B2B or B2C?
Who is your customer/what vertical are you addressing?

I could go on, but I think you get the point. An accelerator like Y-Combinator is great for it's network and ability to increase your company's valuation merely by being associated with it and participating in their demo day. They are able to accomplish this through their stringent admissions and amazing mentor network. However, if you're a less-experienced entrepreneur and would benefit from a higher-touch guiding environment, perhaps Tech Stars, 500, or Launch would be good for you. 

At Gateway, we are more vertically focused (Cannabis Industry) and lean on a combination of structured learning and a diverse mentor network from various industries.

Will Phillips Design Partner at SavvyPCI LLC

December 28th, 2015

Having been through one, or two - I'd say depends on the stage of your business. They offer a lot of value. But not always really what you need. You have to assess your business situation and see if it's really worth that commitment, like anything else I suppose. 

But do your homework and always be aware of what you're getting into. Make sure you're clear on what they get of your company if accepted. Don't be afraid to negotiate. Many don't, but some will cause if they really want you in their cohort, you can leverage that. Especially if they've already invested time and resources getting you deep in the application process.

That said, find ones that offer the best value for your company. It's not always who offers the most seed money, or resources, or coworking perks etc. More than seed money - look for strategic value. There's many that are specialized to certain industries, like a logistics accelerator, or one catered to woman founders, or manufacturing, fashion, apps, etc, etc. Also look at the leaders, who run the programs, what's their background? Experience? Look at the alumni companies. Has the accelerator had many hits, successes? Have some companies not made it (yes), what happened to them, how they did help those companies as they were failing, or not help? Also look at the connections. Are they sponsored or funded by companies that could offer you value? Could they provide access to connections of any value - for funding or mentorship or partnerships or anything? There's many choices nowadays. Apply to many, have your ducks in a row, know what you're talking about, and don't be afraid to challenge the conversations with them.

Hope that helps some. All the best!

Peter Kestenbaum Advisor, Investor, Mentor to Emerging firms

December 28th, 2015


Commenting on the best accelerator program is a shot in the dark..  Its about the firm and what it needs..  Some folks need pitch help.. others tech assistance.. others business modelling or developing a go to market plan..  some are a B to B ..  some B to C...  some folks are going to manufacture product.. some deliver volume software..   and in many cases you will be looking for early sales help and having an accelerator with contacts or a track record within a segment or type of clients is a big plus ... Many times accelerators are also good at finding co founders or rounding out a team...  So...  what is someones best accelerator may not be even close to a tier 1 fit for someone else...  

When our firm (1099Partners) works with a firm who is seeking an accelerator (and we believe they should be seeking one too)  we ask them to prepare a self evaluation of what they need ( which we of course help them prepare ).  Armed with that they (and the accelerator) can make a better decision...   

Bob Smith Consulting to Boards, CEO's and Key Management Teams, Strategic Investor and Fast Growth Companies

December 28th, 2015

The answer that is common throughout this thread, is that "it depends".  I would ask you to revisit your question and provide more insight into where you are and what you need.

There are oodles of great views presented here, however, I don't think you are getting anything really actionable for your situation.

I would like to suggest that you ask with your sub-components in mind:

1. Prioritize your 3 biggest needs (People, Money, Technology)

2. Ask the most specific question you can generate.  Something that you can make a decision to act from.

Example: (using the People criteria)

What is the best Accelerator or Incubator through whom I am likely to get access to knowing my best Entrepreneur Skills, meeting people who love Mobile App challenges, and have a history of bringing out the best in People as well as the Best People together?

This kind of question can help this network better know how to be helpful to you.  If you vary this questions slightly, you will also vary the answers:

What Accelerator or Incubator has a track record for producing winning start-ups in the Mobile Medical Information Space for Consumer Health access?

The form of the question sets focus.

Finally, there is the approach of using what you don't want as question base.  For example:

I have 3 - 6 months that I can invest in an Accelerator.  What I don't want to do is spe3nd that time and effort with people who aren't current in the Mobile Technology Stacks that are leading edge.  I also don't want to get buried in a Think Tank of Research without producing tangible product.  Finally, I don't want to work this without good access to experienced Entrepreneurs.

What accelerator or Incubator would be best to explore?

Sometimes figuring out what you don't want provides a faster path to what you do want.  Good luck and I look forward to your answer.

Max Avroutski Building EV Charging & Electric Energy Access company

December 28th, 2015

"What is the best accelerator program for entrepreneurs and why?"
It's like asking" "Which college is the best for students and why ?" or should I just do this face book I came up with (from point of view of Mr.Z.).
Any accelerator is better than nothing, Best one is the one that takes you, all of them are worse than really doing it if you have intelligence and drive.
Many accelerators specialize so please be specific.

Kevin Redick

December 28th, 2015

Jennifer Here’s a company I'm partnering with that might be worth a look. They're not for every startup but does have a niche. I have a detailed slideshare presentation as well.

Shams Juma

December 28th, 2015

Looks like this information is available online, but it's not centralized. May I suggest using You may be able to get a researcher to aggregate the data for you.

Justin Phelps CTO at Joors

December 28th, 2015

YC still seems to be the darling because of their network and low equity stake. 
There are an incredible amount of small accelerators that might be more specific to a niche market and have better terms, e.g., in Sweden we have Bonniers (a publishing conglomerate), which offers business network, office, mentorship and takes no equity, but their network is very Scandinavia and media centric. There are at least 6 accelerators in Copenhagen alone.  
 You should take a look at which accelerators are best geared for your market and region if you have such niches. Also here is a list for 2016:

Peter Kestenbaum Advisor, Investor, Mentor to Emerging firms

December 28th, 2015

could not agree with you more bob..  I also encourage folks to see what they really need and then see the mentors or coaches that are specific to that need...  

Jennifer Byrne Co-Founder & Partner at Quesnay Inc.

December 28th, 2015

Thank you for the insightful perspectives and advice!  Very helpful. 

As a follow up, if the objective were to commercialize your product as quickly and efficiently as possible (assuming you have a prototype/some level of validation, seed funding already), which type of program would you choose - would you do a general program or find a corporate sponsored one? Do you see a big difference in the general programs vs. corporate sponsored. Some corporate sponsored programs take equity and some do not.  

Thank you!