Top Startup Accelerators in 2024
Becoming the next big unicorn is the dream of many startup founders. But with the startup failure rate being disappointingly high, it's very tough to build profitable chart-topper products, especially if you're new to entrepreneurship. Where do you get the needed guidance and help? What can serve as the "nitrous oxide boost" to make your startup's engine roar and press you into the seat as you dash toward desired growth in today's hyper-competitive business landscape?
On this page, we'll provide our collection of the best startup accelerators that have become the essential pit stop helping entrepreneurs who seek to turbocharge their businesses. We'll also go over the possible benefits and challenges of entering such programs and the additional perks entrepreneurs can get hold of.
What Are Startup Accelerators?
An accelerator isn't just a popular startup term, such programs are designed to help startup teams take their business to the next level. Hence, accelerating growth and development is the main aim.
Typically, the duration of an accelerator program is fixed. On average, it lasts three months (but may vary from one accelerator to another, at times, it can last up to six months). Depending on the accelerator, the programs are run a few times a year, often in cohorts.
The specific areas of focus (e.g., certain niches the accelerator specializes in or is involved in) could differ as well. Therefore, some accelerators are tailored around a distinct industry or sector like FinTech, EdTech, Healthcare, SaaS, or others. Moreover, the application process is usually quite difficult, with the average applicant selection rate below 3%.
Assisting teams with startup scaling is exactly what accelerators do. Throughout the program, they give startups the support, resources, mentorship, and guidance they're craving, helping them grow and develop their products and businesses. Yet these programs are highly intensive not only in terms of pace, they're demanding, challenging, pushing you through the limits, and a lot may be controlled by the accelerator.
Importantly, participation generally implies that the teams already have a product or launched MVP with some traction. Unlike incubators, accelerators are all about taking the business a step further instead of getting it off the ground. Hence, they're generally interested in more mature, inspiring products and those who are at later stages of startup development.
At times, they even provide funding, investing in select projects. Yet accelerators aren't fairy godmothers for startups. Participation comes at its own price, that is, usually teams have to provide startup equity of up to 10% in return for the gained knowledge and help.
Why Do Startups Apply to Accelerators?
Getting accepted into a reputable program can trampoline a startup and its product to success. Dozens of renowned companies got their spotlight and went global after going through top accelerator programs like Y Combinator, including such names as Coinbase, DoorDash, and even Stripe (which is among the best payment gateways used by thousands around the world today).
What are the gains? Here are some things startups can get a hold of from accelerator programs:
- new skills and fresh perspective;
- business advice, consultations, and guidance;
- allocating growth areas or ways to expand operations;
- aid with feature prioritization and product development decisions;
- assistance with vitals like product promotion and building a strong user base;
- help with business planning and refining the business model;
- valuable connections, partners, and networking opportunities;
- sometimes even additional funding.
In the end, startups can achieve a lot more during a few months than they could have in a couple of years. It's like a growth stimulant injection when entrepreneurs get invaluable insights that would have been impossible to obtain otherwise. Not to mention that many programs finish off with Demo Days, where startups get the chance to present their projects to raise funds and pitch investors.
And as you might have guessed, there are hundreds of startup teams competing to secure their spot in the programs, but getting in isn't that easy. It's tough to get admitted, as accelerators are picky about who can get in, expecting at least a built MVP of decent quality and traction. But if the team makes the cut, this can really change the game.
Top Startup Accelerators: An Overview of the Best
If you've made up your mind that it's worth it for you to take a shot at entering accelerator programs for startups, how do you choose the right one to apply to? We've compiled a collection of some of the top options for you to consider, noting the must-knows about each.
Often ranked as the best startup accelerator there is, Y Combinator is an accelerator pioneer that has an impressive list of alumni since its start in 2005. The accelerator funded over 4 thousand startups with an overall startup valuation of more than 600 billion USD.
Startups at various stages of development can apply to Y Combinator, in fact, more than half of the companies that went through the program had no revenue when applying. Plus, the rate of funding that companies raise after participation in YC is impressive. A lot of that is due to YC's extensive investor network that participants get invitation-only access to at the end of the program on Demo Day.
The YC community has over 6 thousand domain experts within the community, so startups can continue networking and collaborating with them after the batch. The competition for entering the program is intense, only 1.5% - 2% of the average 10 thousand applicants get accepted.
Top Y Combinator alumni: Stripe, Reddit, Airbnb, Coinbase, Dropbox, Webflow, Twitch
What they give: investment before the batch even begins, a dedicated YC Group Partner as an advisor, a 3-day in-person kickoff retreat, weekly meetups, top speakers, access to exclusive founders and investors networks, startup discounts to 100+ products
Program duration: 2 batches held twice a year (January-March and June-August), each lasts 3 months
How to apply: applications for each batch are accepted as far as 6 months in advance, startups apply by submitting an application on the official YC website, followed by an interview invitation
Terms: according to the standard terms, YC gives 500k USD to those who make the program for 7% equity (the 125k USD safe) and 375k USD uncapped safe (the Most Favored Nation provision safe)
Techstars is definitely fairly listed among the best tech accelerators. It has been supporting early-stage and seed startups since 2006. Over 9000 founders have participated in the accelerator and revved up their growth with an aggregated 26.6 billion USD of raised funds. About 500 startups at various stages get selected each year, and, on average, they raise about 1 million USD after the program culminates with a Demo Day.
Techstars holds multiple mentorship-based programs a year in various locations, including the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Norway, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and others. Some programs are in-person, others have a hybrid format.
Top Techstars alumni: DigitalOcean, SendGrid, DataRobot, Chainalysis, Remitly
What they give: workshops, curated resources, mentorship in aspects like getting traction and finding the perfect market, access to capital and a world-class network of investors, founders, mentors, and industry leaders, access to more than 300 partner perks (valued >1 million USD)
Program duration: 3 months
Terms: Techstars offers up to 120k USD investment to its alumni (20k USD provided upfront) for 6% common shares equity
How to apply: startups have to fill out a detailed application for the selected program to get it reviewed
Plug and Play
Numerous renowned companies have emerged from Plug and Play, one of the top startup accelerators founded in 2006. The company serves as a bridge between startups and large enterprises, helping businesses grow and scale to new markets.
It has more than 60 accelerator programs run each year in global locations. The accelerator helped more than 2500 startups that raised over 9 billion USD in aggregate. The specific industries of interest include Sustainability, Real Estate, Energy, Insurtech, Crypto, and Agtech, which are among the 20 verticals revolving around technology and innovation. Startups of different sizes and stages can be accepted (from seed to Series C and further). A cohort could include more than 50 startups.
Top Plug and Play alumni: PayPal, Lending Club, Dropbox, Tenor, Zoosk, GroundTruth
What they give: daily networking events, help in preparing for pitches, and let large corporations discover small startups
Program duration: varies, but takes several months on average
Terms: no equity is required for participating in the accelerator program, as an in-house VC, Plug and Play offers the chance to fund startups (from 25k to 500k USD) to become a future stakeholder and participate in the next funding rounds
How to apply: startups can apply to join the accelerator all year round, they fill out an application form on the portal
The list of the best accelerator programs for startups won't be complete without 500 Global. Previously known as 500 Startups, their Global Flagship program was launched in 2010 and focuses on innovative tech startups from AI and SaaS to media, marketplaces, and beyond.
The company has invested in over 2.8k startups worldwide. It currently offers founder programs and seed accelerators for startups around the globe. Usually, there are two batches per program per year, with approximately 18 participants in each cohort.
Top 500 Global alumni: Canva, Solana, Credit Karma, Talkdesk, GitLab, Twilio, Algolia
What they give: a business-focused curriculum (covers product strategy, startup marketing, product design, sales, accounting, finance, startup culture, and more), access to a broad network, preparation for investor pitches, and access to an expansive investor network
Program duration: 3 months on average
Terms: the accelerator provides 150k USD in seed investment for a 6% stake
How to apply: it costs 37.5k USD to participate in the accelerator (the program fee could be deducted from their seed investment, which will, in this case, be 112.5k USD), startups fill out applications all year long on a rolling admissions basis
MassChallenge is also considered one of the top startup accelerators in the world. On average, this global non-profit accelerator has about 10 programs a year, and importantly, all of them are zero-cost and zero-equity.
The programs for early-stage startups accept teams from all over the world and from different industries as long as they have less than 1 million USD in equity funding and have generated less than 2 million USD in annual revenue. The terms for their FinTech and HealthTech programs are different.
Top MassChallenge alumni: Bitso, Ginger, Hyliion, Spring Health
What they give: a 3-month curriculum with goal setting and product development, access to curated mentors and one-on-one mentorship, work in virtual groups, workshops, access to a peer network
Program duration: 4 months
Terms: all programs are zero-equity, accepted teams can receive cash rewards and other prizes
How to apply: teams create profiles on the official website and submit an application to join the selected program, which is followed by one or two judging rounds, finalists are invited to the program
Startupbootcamp is among the best accelerator programs that's popular in 20 countries, including Latin America, Africa, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Launched in 2010, the accelerator has helped over 1600 startups with a total portfolio valuation of 5.6 billion euros. SBC graduates generally experience a 2.5 leap in valuation after participating in the program, raising about 1.5 million euros on average within a year.
There are more than 20 industry-focused programs to enter, including those devoted to FinTech & Cybersecurity, Renewable Energy & Net-Zero, Sports & EventTech, and others. Yet the competition is intense, as the average acceptance rate is only 1% (with just 10 startups accepted for each round).
Top Startupbootcamp alumni: Sendcloud, Kuda, Relayr, Funder, MyWorld, Curacel, Procurified
What they give: specialized guidance, access to an extensive network of industry experts, mentors, and partners, exclusive deals and perks from partners, the chance to secure funding on Demo Day at the end of the program
Program duration: 3 months on average
Terms: the accelerator provides startups that get accepted with 15k euros for 6 to 8% equity based on the specific program
How to apply: startups fill out a application, if it passes the initial review, the team gets invited to a Selection Day to pitch the startup
AngelPad was established in 2010, based in San Francisco and New York, and is ranked among the top startup accelerators in the US. It focuses on seed-stage startups and those with tech products (anything from AI, mobile, and healthcare to advertising, marketplaces, SaaS startups, and beyond).
This accelerator has already funded 150 companies, and, altogether, AngelPad's alumni received 2.2 billion USD in funding (with 14+ million USD on average for each). Around 15 teams get accepted twice a year, yet the acceptance rate for the cohorts is below 1%, meaning that it's very difficult to get accepted from the average pool of about 2000 applicants.
Top AngelPad alumni: Buffer, Pipedrive, Beamery, Iterable, Postmates
What they give: dedicated mentorship and guidance on vital business areas (like finding product market fit, defining the target market, company validation, and beyond), access to over 300k USD in cloud credits from partners, preparation for fundraising
Program duration: 3 months
Terms: AngelPad invests 120k USD in every company for 2% equity plus 5% in common stock (which adds up to about 7% of the equity)
How to apply: startups submit an application with information about the startup and its team of founders, followed by an in-person interview
The Alchemist Accelerator was launched in 2012 and is one of the best startup accelerators oriented at early-stage startups and deeply technical teams working with enterprises and larger companies (as opposed to selling to individual consumers directly). The accelerator has worked with more than 500 startups.
The programs have only about 25 participants in each cohort, and the major areas in focus are Industrial IoT, Climate Tech, Digital Health, Diversity, FinTech and Cybersecurity. The hubs are in Memphis, San Francisco, and Munich.
Top Alchemist Accelerator alumni: MoEngage, Privacera, Yotascale, FarmWise
What they give: guidance from enterprise mentors, product development help, assistance with partnerships, regional industry conferences, Demo Day, access to exclusive partner deals with a value of 400k USD
Program duration: 6 months
Terms: the accelerator offers around 25k USD in funding for 5% equity, on average
How to apply: applications are accepted on the official website (there are application deadlines for entering the program), if it passes, there is an interview
SOSV is a global venture capital firm and accelerator launched in 1995. The company supports both pre-seed startups and those at later stages. Over the years, 7 of their startups have become unicorns, and, in aggregate, SOSV portfolio companies have raised over 2 billion USD. The accelerator is based in the USA, China, and other locations.
SOSV runs two programs for startups, HAX (revolves around hard tech, including healthcare and sensors) and IndieBio (focuses on the human and planetary health industry, helping scientist entrepreneurs). Both programs are in-person and remote.
Top SOSV alumni: Temasek, Khosla Ventures, Sequoia, Artesian, Prime Movers Lab
What they give: mentorship with startup experts, scientists, and engineers, assistance in finding lead investors, SOSV investment opportunities during and after the program
Program duration: 3 to 6 months
Terms: SOSV invests from 150k USD up to 500k USD starting from the pre-seed round, post-debt equity varies and could be around 11%
How to apply: after selecting the HAX or IndieBio program, startups submit an application on the official application portal, applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, if accepted, the startup is invited to a series of screening calls
Google for Startups Accelerator
The Google for Startups Accelerator accepts growth-stage startups to their equity-free programs, which include 10 to 15 startups in each cohort and are both remote and in-person. The most popular programs include Sustainability, AI First, Circular Economy, Cloud, Climate Change, and others. The programs are run all around the world, including North America, Latin America, Europe and Israel, Asia, and Africa.
Top Google For Startups Accelerator alumni: GetSteps, Hutch, Impressivo, Localyze
What they give: mentorship and training with Google and industry experts, tackling technical challenges, sprint projects, group learning sessions, deep dives and workshops on various business areas, access to the founder's network, credits for Google Cloud products
Program duration: 3 months
Terms: no equity is required to participate
How to apply: mostly seed or series A startups that are deeply technical get accepted, startups submit applications for review to get selected for participation
Matching Platforms for Co-Founders Based on Accelerators
It's no secret that there's a specific tendency when it comes to startups: teams that strike a tech and non-tech founder balance are likelier to achieve success. Such co-founder duets or combos work well because the founders complement one other's skills (each has ample expertise and background in versatile business spheres). So, how else can accelerator programs for entrepreneurs be beneficial for you?
If you haven't heard of matchmaking platforms, then note that some of them even exist internally within startup accelerators. Co-founder matching platforms were especially designed to help founders find like-minded co-founders to partner with. Such platforms are a safe space for people to meet suitable potential founders by connecting with those in the network who have similar aspirations and complementary skills.
But don't think of these matchmaking platforms as "Upwork for co-founders", as it's not really about hiring. Consider them more of a "Tinder for co-founders" aimed at long-term relationships that'll last in the business realm. But there's more to these tools than a swipe to the right to find an ideal match.
Here are several prominent examples of сo-founder matching platforms on the basis of accelerators:
- Y Combinator Co-Founder Matching Platform — available via their Startup School program. Individuals create and fill out their profiles, marking what they are interested in and what kind of co-founder they're ideally searching for. The solution has already helped make more than 100k matches all over the world.
- CoFoundersLab — another popular service that lets you find you someone to co-found the company with. It holds various in-person events, lets you find a match online, and boasts of a rich community of entrepreneurs, investors, and mentors made up of over 650k users in over 200 cities around the globe. It's free to join if you're seeking a founder.
Basically, the major aim is to facilitate the process of searching for founders and connecting. For instance, this could be both solo founders and teams who have good business startup ideas and would like to build products yet don't want to do it alone or lack specific skills.
In many cases, it's the tech co-founder who's missing in the puzzle. And although the candidates screened for such roles are usually experienced developers or CTOs, there are other co-founder collaboration types available. As such, non-tech founders can consider partnering up with a product studio as a technical co-founder. Such a collaboration lets you team up with an entire experienced team with both a technical and business mindset and get development services at reduced rates in exchange for equity.
Best Startup Accelerators in a Nutshell
Accelerators have the power to transform and upgrade your startup so it turns into a high-performance machine capable of conquering a share of the market and outstriding the competition past the checkered flags in the race for business success. And, certainly, accelerator startup programs can help you achieve your growth objectives.
However, applying to the best accelerators and even getting into the program doesn't give guarantees, a lot is up to the founders. The responsibility levels of such partnerships are high, too (for one thing, giving up your equity). This means that you have to be positive that this path is right for your business.
If it is, ensure that the accelerators you shortlisted align with your business goals, niche, and that the terms are acceptable. Also, make sure that your product is of due quality to raise your chances of getting into the program. If you don't have a product or need to enhance its quality, feel free to reach out to Upsilon, we provide MVP development services for startups. And as a technical co-founder with lots of experience in scale-ups, we can help pick up your product's game if you're in need of development services for growth-stage startups.