The Best Startup Accelerators — The Definitive List for 2021

Looking for the best startup accelerators? Cool, we got you! And the rankings are sure to surprise you.

Did you know there are over 3,000 accelerators worldwide and over 1,000 in the United States alone? No wonder it’s confusing to figure out which ones are worth applying to.

Unlike other lists that are totally subjective or focused on size alone, this list focuses on the thing that probably matter most to founders: the accelerators’ ability to set your startup on the path to success.

To judge the accelerators’ ability to “accelerate,” we took a look at how many of their portfolio startups actually had an exit such as an acquisition or IPO. We measure this as a simple ratio of total number of investments to exits, which we call “exit rate.”

Those accelerators with the highest proportion of startups that had an exit, or exit rate, are ranked at the top.

Alright, here we go. Here’s our list for 2021 including the top accelerators for women and multicultural founders.

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Best Startup Accelerators with 100+ Investments

If you’re looking for popular accelerators like Y Combinator and 500 Startups to top the list, we’re sorry to disappoint you. According to exit rate, YC and 500 Startups are ranked 18th and 16th respectively. Techstars overall is ranked 21st although individual Techstars programs like Techstars Seattle are ranked at the top.

The best accelerators on this list see more than one in five (more than 20%) of their investments reach an exit, which is astounding.

Another interesting point to note is that all of the top 15 accelerators have fewer than 300 investments, whereas those with more than 1,000 investments tend to cluster at the bottom of the list. The four most active accelerators have an exit rate of about 10% or half that of the top ones like AngelPad, Founder Friendly Labs, and Starve Ups.

Accelerators at the bottom of the list have exit rates of about 2% or one-tenth that of the best-performing ones.

Below is the full ranking:

RankAcceleratorNumber of InvestmentsNumber of ExitsExit Rate
1Techstars Boulder Accelerator1624024.7%
2Techstars Seattle Accelerator1252721.6%
3Founder Friendly Labs1212520.7%
5Techstars Chicago1142219.3%
6Starve Ups1432517.5%
7Techstars Boston Accelerator1953316.9%
8Microsoft Accelerator2373816.0%
9Techstars New York City Accelerator2173315.2%
10StartX (Stanford-StartX Fund)2914114.1%
11Boost VC1792011.2%
12Google Launchpad Accelerator1171311.1%
14Capital Factory1531610.5%
15Dreamit Ventures2802810.0%
16500 Startups2,50525010.0%
18Y Combinator3,2853199.7%
19Mucker Capital138128.7%
20plug and play1,076898.3%
23Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator242197.9%
27Berkeley SkyDeck14196.4%
28Alchemist Accelerator515326.2%
29Capital Innovators11676.0%
30MedTech Innovator13585.9%
32MIT delta v13064.6%
34Quake Capital Partners15642.6%
35Boomtown Accelerators15742.5%
Data via

Beyond individual Techstars programs like Techstars Boulder, top startup accelerators include Founder Friendly Labs (20.7%), AngelPad (20.3%), Starve Ups(17.5%), Microsoft Accelerator(16.0%), and Stanford’s StartX(14.1%).

If you care about getting to an exit, perhaps it’s worth looking beyond the usual suspects such as YC, 500 Startups, MassChallenge, and Techstars unless you’re looking at those Techstars programs at the top of this list.

Now, let’s take a look at which accelerators invest most frequently in diverse founders.

Best Startup Accelerators for Diverse Founders

Given that tech startups are increasingly being founded by women and the New Majority, it’s interesting to take a look at which accelerators are most likely to invest in women and underrepresented founders.

We rank those accelerators with the highest proportion of diversity investments at the top using this measure as a proxy for their propensity to invest in women and multicultural founders.

I do want to point out, however, that Crunchbase only recently started tracking diversity investment metrics, so this data set might be a bit off. In case you curious to know what Crunchbase defines as “diversity investments,” it is my understanding that this number includes any investment in a startup that has been founded or is led by a founder that identifies with any of the following groups: Black or African American, Native America, Middle Eastern/North African, South Asia, East Asian, Southeast Asian, Pacific Islander, or Woman.

Here are the rankings for the best accelerators for diverse founders:

RankAcceleratorNumber of InvestmentsNumber of Diversity InvestmentsDiversity Investment Rate
1Quake Capital Partners1566944.2%
3Techstars New York City Accelerator2178036.9%
4MIT delta v1304635.4%
5Techstars Chicago1143833.3%
6Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator2427028.9%
7StartX (Stanford-StartX Fund)2918328.5%
9Boomtown Accelerators1574428.0%
11Starve Ups1433927.3%
12Capital Innovators1163126.7%
14Mucker Capital1383626.1%
15Techstars Boston Accelerator1954925.1%
16Berkeley SkyDeck1413323.4%
18Techstars Boulder Accelerator1623521.6%
19Capital Factory1533321.6%
20Dreamit Ventures2805921.1%
21MedTech Innovator1352820.7%
22Founder Friendly Labs1212520.7%
24Y Combinator3,28565620.0%
26Techstars Seattle Accelerator1252318.4%
27Alchemist Accelerator5159117.7%
28500 Startups2,50543817.5%
31Boost VC1792715.1%
34ASU Venture Devils1311713.0%
35plug and play1,07613612.6%
38Microsoft Accelerator237218.9%
39Google Launchpad Accelerator11765.1%
Data via

Dead last on this list is Google Launchpad Accelerator with the Microsoft Accelerator not doing much better. Once again, the data might not be the most reliable, particularly for diversity investments, which Crunchbase only recently started tracking. (As a Xoogler, I hope that’s the case!)

Once again, the most popular accelerators like Y Combinator, 500 Startups, MassChallenge, and SOSV rank toward the bottom of this list as well. Only specifc Techstars programs such as Techstars Chicago rise to the top in terms of their rate of investment in women and founders of color.

Smaller accelerator programs such as Quake Capital and FOOD-X along with university-affiliated accelerators have the highest proportion of diversity investments.

What does this mean for female or underrepresented founders? Perhaps the best accelerators are smaller programs that both have a high exit rate as well as diversity investment rate.

In Summary

I recognize that this analysis, although based on data, is imperfect. It would have been nice to also look at satisfaction rate, mark-ups in valuation, and other factors not captured here. At the same time, it’s interesting to see that smaller accelerator programs tend to perform better on both exit rate and diversity investment rate perhaps casting into scrutiny the value of bigger, more established programs.

Hopefully, this article helps you, the founder, identify those accelerator programs that are likely to be the best fit for your startup.

Some Important Notes and Caveats About this List

First, we pulled data on accelerators from CrunchBase. I’m sure there are some gaps in the data, but it’s probably more than good enough to get a reliable ranking. However, there probably isn’t much of a difference between, say, number fifteen and sixteen on the list.

Second, I only included U.S.-based accelerators with more than a hundred investments. That’s pretty arbitrary, I know, but we wanted those with enough data points, so we can be more confident with the ranking. Having said that, there are probably great small accelerators not on this list.

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