Looking for the best startup accelerators? Cool, we got you! And the rankings are sure to surprise you. (Hint: they are not Y Combinator or Techstars!)
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, our list focuses on the thing that matters most to founders: the accelerators’ ability to set your startup on the path to success.
To judge accelerators’ ability to “accelerate,” we took a look at how many of their portfolio startups actually had an exit, such as an acquisition or initial public offering (IPO) on a major stock exchange. We measure this as a simple ratio of total number of portfolio companies 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. Below is our list for 2023:
The Best Startup Accelerator in the U.S. Is AngelPad
Top accelerators in the U.S. are AngelPad (34% exit rate), Stanford University’s StartX (25%), Microsoft Accelerator (21%), Google Launchpad Accelerator (21%), and StarveUps (19%).
Below is the full ranking:
Y Combinator, Techstars or 500 Startups Are NOT the Best
If you’re looking for popular accelerators like Y Combinator, Techstars or 500 Startups to top the list, we’re sorry to disappoint you. According to exit rate, YC and Techstars are ranked 16th and 17th respectively. 500 Startups is ranked slightly higher in 11th place. (If you are a woman or underrepresented founder, check out our list of top accelerators for women and underrepresented founders.)
Y Combinator’s exit rate, by contrast, was 11.15%, or less than a third of AngelPad’s. That basically means that if you get into AngelPad, you have three times higher probability of getting your startup to an acquisition or IPO than if you went to YC.
If you care about getting to an exit, perhaps it’s worth looking beyond the usual suspects such as YC, 500 Startups, and Techstars.
Bigger Is Not Better
Another interesting point to note is that all top 10 accelerators have fewer than 300 investments, whereas those with more than 1,000 investments tend to cluster toward 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 and Starve Ups.
Accelerators at the bottom of the list have exit rates of one or two percent or one-tenth that of the best-performing ones. That means that startups getting into the top ten accelerators on this list have a 10X higher chance of reaching an exit relative to participating in accelerators at the bottom of our list.
The Best Small Startup Accelerators with Fewer than 100 Portfolio Companies
Since it’s clear that bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to startup accelerators, we wanted to see which micro-accelerators, or those with fewer than 100 portfolio companies (but more than 10), come out on top.
Not surprisingly, smaller startup accelerators seem to be much better at getting their portfolio companies to an exit than the big, popular ones!
Here are the top micro-accelerators based on the exit rate of their portfolio companies:
The key takeaway is that it might be worth taking a closer look at smaller accelerators, which seem to be better able to help portfolio companies reach an exit.
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, 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.
An Important Caveat About this List
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.
About Beta Boom
Beta Boom is a pre-seed and seed VC fund investing in software startups addressing impactful problems for society.