How to Join a Startup Accelerator Program: The Ultimate Guide
Accelerator programs are an awesome way to boost the growth of your startup. But how do you pick the right one? And how do you make sure you get value from it? Based on my previous experience with startup accelerators I’ve put together this guide. Read here about the different types of acceleration programs and how to maximize your chances of getting into one.
Should you and your startup join an accelerator
There are many accelerator programs out there and it can be tempting for startups to join one in order to grow their business. However, not every startup needs an accelerator and in some cases it can actually be counterproductive to join one. The onus is still on you to make it worth your while – after all, you’re the one who has to commit time and resources to the program.
So let’s have a look at the things to consider in your decision.
There’s more than one thing to look for when you want to join a program
When looking for a startup accelerator, it’s important to consider the benefits that the program will offer your company. Some of the most important benefits include mentorship and access to potential investors. Most accelerators offer also space to work and a great startup community.
It’s also important to make sure that the accelerator program you choose has a strong track record of helping companies they work with succeed. This will give you the best chance of growing your business into a sustainable company.
So how do you decide if an accelerator is right for you? Keep in mind this checklist:
Reason to join
What’s your goal? Are you looking for funding, mentorship, or exposure? Make sure the accelerator program you choose aligns with your goals.
Research if it firs your needs
Do your research. There are a lot of great accelerators out there, but there are also a lot of bad ones. Do your homework and make sure the program has a good track record.
The right moment for you and your team
Are you and your team ready? Accelerator programs can be intense – they require hard work and lots of time commitment. If you’re not ready for that kind of challenge, it’s probably best to wait until later on in your startup’s development cycle.
Side benefits like space and startup community
It should not be your primary concern, but it’s also good at what comes in the package. Does the accelerator offer a vibrant startup community? Is there office space you can use? This will contribute to form your decision.
A look into the different kind of startup accelerator programs
There are a few different types of startup accelerator programs. Some provide funding, mentorship and connections to help startups grow. Others only offer one or two of these benefits. As seen before, sometimes there’s also office space included.
The best way to find the right accelerator for your startup is to do some research. Look into what each program offers and see which one matches your needs the best. Don’t be afraid to reach out to accelerators directly and ask questions about their program.
Not all accelerator programs are created equal – some offer more benefits than others. Do your research before deciding which one is right for you and your startup!
Accelerators are most helpful during fundraising phases
Most accelerator programs are most helpful to startups during the fundraising season. This is when they can provide access to an investor network that a startup might not otherwise have. Additionally, accelerators can help a startup company by providing them with feedback on their progress and helping them to see things from a different perspective.
A way to benchmark the success of startup accelerator programs
When you’re starting a business, it can be difficult to know where to turn for help. That’s why accelerator programs exist–to give entrepreneurs access to the resources they need in order to grow their businesses. But how do you know which accelerator is right for your company? In the end it boils down to: can the program help me make an exit? For this reason is good to look at the data.
Crunchbase has collected exit data from the top accelerators in the world. Here’s what they’ve found out.
The top 15 best were: Y Combinator, Techstars, AngelPad, Launchpad LA (LA), MuckerLab (Austin), AlphaLab (Salt Lake City, UT), DreamIt Ventures, 500 Startups, SeedCamp, The Founder Institute, Tech Wildcatters (Dallas), Boom Startup (Salt Lake City, UT), Surge Accelerator (Atlanta), and Greenstart.
As you see, the best accelerators have an exit rate of around 24%-20%. Which is high. It still means 4 in 5 companies don’t make it. A look at the bottom of the chart and you see that only 1 company out of 10 or 12 makes it. And we’re talking about the best accelerators.
The chance to tap into a network of founders and ex-founders
Accelerators can help you connect with founders, ex-founders, and engineering talent. For example, accelerators are able to help their startups get in contact with potential investors if they are looking for funding or business development opportunities (e.g., sales).
According to a report from Crunchabse 90% of entrepreneurs surveyed said they would attend another accelerator, while 95% said it was worth the equity stake they gave up.
If you’re looking to join a program, make sure that you do your research and find one that is the best fit for you and your company. It’s not only about the size of the network, but also how relevant it is to you and your industry.
How to maximize your chances of getting into a program
So you’ve decided that you want to join a startup accelerator program? Great choice! These programs can be extremely valuable for your business. However, getting accepted is not always easy. You’ll need to put in some effort and follow the right steps if you want to maximize your chances of being accepted into one of these programs.
The best way to increase your chances of being accepted into a startup accelerator program is by following up with representatives from the program after submitting your application. Keep in mind that these programs are highly selective and require patience – don’t expect a quick response.
It often helps to research who the founders of the program are. What was their motivation to launch the program? What’s in their past? A good alignement between the people behind a program and your needs are the best way to succeed.
The last tip to maximize your chances to get into a program is to talk to other existing founders in the program. How has the accelerator provided value to them? What would they improve on the process? If you follow these steps and find a program that matches your needs, you will increase your chances of getting accepted.
Is it always a good choice to join an accelerator?
There are many reasons to join an accelerator program, but it’s not a guarantee of success. So is joining an accelerator always a good choice? It depends on what you’re looking for in terms of support and resources. If you have an idea with potential but don’t have the funds needed to make it happen, then an accelerator may be just what you need.
However, there’s also disadvantages.
First of all you’ll give up participation in your company. This means you can’t make any major decisions without the consent of your accelerator.
There’s another disadvantage, often not considered. The program itself can be distracting. The startup community, the investors events etc. can be fun, but will inevitably take your focus away. Consider this aspect as well before joining.
Some of the best startup accelerators and incubators in Europe
Here’s some of the best startup programs around Europe. Some of them are international.
Founders Factory (UK)
Founders Factory is a global incubator that assists entrepreneurs with the business side of their startups. It was founded in 2013 by serial entrepreneur and author, Gee Chuang, who has since been named one of the top 10 most influential people in European Tech.
Founders Factory focuses on early stage startups in the technology, health and media sectors. The program is a 16-week bootcamp that takes place in London, Berlin and New York. Founders Factory claims that it has helped startups raise over $1 billion.
High Tech XL (Netherlands)
High Tech XL is a Dutch accelerator program that focuses on startups in the technology sector. It was founded by Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and High Tech Campus, which is one of the most important technology parks in the Netherlands.
The program offers startups a lot of benefits and opportunities, including:
● A €50,000 investment per participating startup;
● The opportunity to pitch your startup in front of an audience of investors and other interested parties;
● Mentoring by successful entrepreneurs, business people and professors from TU/e.
The program focuses on the development of hardware and software startups. The program is open to any startup that has already developed a product or service, but it does not accept applications from companies that are still in the ideation phase.
Startupbootcamp is one of the most well-known startup accelerators. It has a global network of Startupbootcamp locations, including: Amsterdam, Berlin, Chicago, London & New York City, and Tel Aviv. The peculiar aspect of Startupbootcamp is that it provides startups with a large network of mentors and helps them to develop their business models.
Startupbootcamp accepts applications from companies that have already developed a product or service. Its main focus areas are: Big Data & Cloud Computing, Mobile, E-Commerce and Social Media.
Since 2022 I’m a mentor of the Startupbootcap program (read more here).
Sting is a Swedish accelerator that helps early stage startups. Sting focuses on companies that can benefit from access to the European market, or those with a strong technology component.
Sting has funded so far startups like Soundcloud, iZettle, Tradeshift and many more. Sting has a strong focus on the European market as well as an international network of partners in order to help their startups succeed.
Read further: The 7 best Startup Accelerators in the Netherlands
How much do accelerators invest?
When it comes to startup accelerators, there are a lot of things to consider. For one, the level of investment they put in can vary greatly. Secondly, the type of accelerator and what their focus is can also make a big difference in how much they invest. Some programs only offer a small amount of money – usually $5,000 to $25,000 – while others will invest millions into a company. However, most accelerators will take anywhere from 6% to 10% equity in exchange for their investment.
In my opinion, while accelerators are very helpful with fundraising, the investment they bring it’s not the most important aspect. Much more valuable is the contribution in terms of mentors and network.
What makes a startup accelerator successful?
There are a few things that make startup accelerator programs successful. One of the most important is the quality of the startups that they accept into their program. In addition, it’s important for accelerators to have a good relationship with the business community and to be able to provide resources to their startups. Finally, it’s also important for accelerators to have a strong network of alumni who can provide support and mentorship.