The startup accelerator remains one of tech’s most popular ways to get a business up and running. But which ones are the best for new startups?
With hundreds of programs to choose from — the most popular receive more than 5,000 applications for each class — and the average program taking 6% of equity in any hosted company, not all accelerators are created equal.
Would-be founders can take some comfort in an annual effort by a team of researchers to classify the best of the bunch. Called the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project, the ranking announced this week is compiled by researchers from Rice University, the MIT Innovation Initiative Lab for Innovation Science and the University of Richmond. And the group takes into account a range of quantitative factors and feedback scores to tap the leaders in a crowded category of startup support.
The SARP project invited more than 150 accelerators to participate in their ranking, defining an accelerator as one with fixed cohorts and program lengths, a pitch day and an existing alumni base. The researchers then compared accelerators by the valuations of their companies at each year removed from the program, IPOs or acquisitions of at least $5 million from the portfolio and amount raised by investment dollars. They also factored in the survival rate of the alumni companies and received satisfaction scores from more than 1,000 alumni.
Reception for such a ranking, says Rice professor Yael Hochberg, one of the three researchers along with colleague Daniel Fehder and University of Richmond professor Susan Cohen, is generally positive from the accelerators themselves, though “There is always someone who thinks they were unfairly assigned a tier lower than they deserve.” Among entrepreneurs, however — the group who can learn the most from this sort of exercise — there’s more appreciation. “The startups love it,” says Hochberg. “There’s not a lot of info for them to use to differentiate between programs or evaluate quality.”
For the second year in a row, SARP ranked the accelerators by tiers rather than a numerical ranking. The big winners are AngelPad and Y Combinator, for which the researchers created an entirely new tier, “Platinum Plus.”
New risers in 2017 included hardware accelerator HAX, which operates in Shenzhen and San Francisco, IndieBio, a biotech accelerator in San Francisco, Internet of Things accelerator R/GA and UC Berkeley’s SkyDeck program.
You can see the full list of winners below and compare to last year’s list here.