Startup accelerators are funding, mentorship, and a community, all in one. They can be a nice bridge from early stage/pre-seed, to raising your first VC round. Better yet, they are often optimized for helping you raise that next round.
The problem is, there are lots of accelerators out there. It's hard to find good ones. And, many have a tedious application process, with long forms to fill out, with roughly the same questions requiring nuanced responses. Worse, there are several bad accelerators out there.
In this post, we single out the top startup accelerators. We even share their application in an editable Google Doc form so you can draft your application and get feedback. And to top it all off, we provide tips from alums and experts on how to nail the application.
One thing to note - most, if not all, accelerators are currently being run remotely. Below, we share their normal location but expect the cohorts to actually be conducted on Zoom.
Probably the most well-known accelerator in the world. YC runs two cohorts a year (Winter and Summer) in San Francisco. They’ll have a deadline to apply for each cohort, generally 3 or so months before the cohort kicks off, so make sure to check out the website to see when the next deadline is.
Brad Dwyer, co-founder of Roboflow (a computer vision developer tool), and YC alum, gives his tips for your application:
YC does a pretty good job of it themselves I think! The most common piece of feedback I’ve left on people’s applications I’ve reviewed is to be more ambitious and think bigger. Don’t just think about how you could build a billion dollar company. Think about what it would take to build a trillion dollar company. And then paint that picture. I’m also a huge fan of this video in general. It’s great not just for applying to accelerators or pitching investors but also for honing your communication which is, in my opinion, one of (if not the) most important factor in your company being successful
It also doesn’t hurt to do Startup School, YC's free school for founders. You get great content, a community, and weekly check-in calls. It's a great way to prep for your YC application. Our friend Kavir also but together a YC Application Resources page which is super helpful.
San Francisco-based accelerator started by This Week in Startups host, and early Uber investor, Jason Calacanis.
It's a 14-week program, with 7 startups per cohort.
According to Launch alum Shun Yamada from Remote Hour:
Launch is an accelerator aimed at helping startups with about 10K traction raise money for the next round. There is a heavy emphasis on pitches, and once a week they host a pitch event with about 15-20 outside investors. Jason Calacanis is a great investor and he gives us an honest opinion on the pitch and the product. It’s important to build a good relationship with him.
They take applications on a rolling basis, so there’s no deadline to worry about.
The best thing you could do is connect with Presh or Jacqui from LAUNCH during one of their open office hours on Fundraising Hour. You can also listen to This Week in Startups, and check out the TWiST Slack group to get a sense of how Launch operates, and what they are interested in.
🌍 Location: Multiple locations worldwide (Boulder, London, Los Angeles, Austin to name a few)
🔗 Website: techstars.com
📝 Application Form in shareable Google Doc
💰 Investment: $120k
📅 Next Application Deadline: October 6th, 2021
Techstars runs several 3-month accelerator programs of (usually) around 10 startups each cohort. They have programs all over the world, sometimes in partnership with a corporate partner, and/or centered around a specific theme.
Applications open six times a year for specific programs. You can find all the Techstars programs here.
Attend office hours and meet some of the program managers before you apply (you'll find open office hours here).
Read this thread from Saba Karim from Techstars on tips for filling out your application. And, if you are applying to Boulder specifically, they’ve marked up their form with what they are looking for.
Pioneer is a remote-first, global accelerator. They focus on the very early stage startup - often before incorporation or even before the founder is sure they want to build a business around their product or idea.
The way you get in is by playing a tournament, where you submit weekly updates, and get voted on by the community of other participants. If you crack the global top 50, you have a chance at being selected as a Pioneer winner.
Pioneer is also building lots of other tools to help founders find product market fit and help you launch.
We at Taskable are among the Pioneer winners, and it’s been a huge positive for our development as a company. In addition to cloud credits, mentorship, and other perks that you get with other accelerators, you also have the weekly check-ins with the community and the leaderboard. Both of these have been a huge source of users for us.
You won’t need to worry too much about the project description when you first sign up for Pioneer. Most of your momentum will come from your weekly updates. The description becomes important once you crack the top 50 on the global leaderboard and the Pioneer team reviews your profile.
Read this post by Brad from Roboflow on how to win Pioneer, and do what he says. The tl;dr is, set clear measurable goals in your weekly updates, exceed those goals, communicate your goals clearly and avoid jargon, and show receipts/proof that you’ve hit your goals.
The one thing we’ll take issue with is their decision to no longer use emojis in their update 😉
ODX is a brand new accelerator from On Deck, delivered in partnership with Village Global. Accepting applications on a rolling basis, ODX gives you $125k in exchange for 7% equity. Cohort members are paired with an On Deck Build Partner who will help you get the most out of the program. You also get the benefit of access to the On Deck network of 7,000 like-minded fellows.
ODX runs quarterly demo-days as well to assist with fundraising.
Six-month accelerator program with locations in London, Paris, New York, and Johannesburg. They focus on beauty, fintech, health, home, media, retail, travel, and AI. Founders Factory partners with large corporate scale-up partners.
4-month long accelerator program for early-stage startups in Silicon Valley. 500 invests in companies across the tech industry. Alumni include Talkdesk Neighborly, RapidAPI and many more.
New York City accelerator which runs two four-month programs per year. ERA focuses on software or software-related startups to fund.
In addition to hundreds of thousands in cloud credits, you get access to mentorship, regular workshops, an alumni network, and a demo day and access to ERA's 700+ member investor network.
ERA holds office hours, which is a great way to connect with the team, and learn more about the program. Apply for a slot here.
Accelerprise is focused on the future of SaaS. Working on small cohorts of maximum 10 companies, they focus on helping their companies fundraise through pitch competitions, demo days, and direct connections to angels and VCs.
Normally run physically in NYC, Toronto, or SF, Accelerprise is fully remote for Covid.
🌍 Location: Remote (normally New York City)
🔗 Website: dreamit.com
📝 Application Dreamit has a short application form, and require a pitch deck
💰 Investment: Rights to invest up to $500K and receives a small amount of equity
📅 Next Application Deadline: TBD
Dreamit is a venture fund that runs an accelerator focused on healthtech, securetech, and urbantech. They structure the program around four two-week customer sprints and 3 two-week investor sprints.
In customer sprints, founders meet with a curated group of decision-makers in their space. This gives you a pipeline of prospective customers from the Dreamit community. The investor sprints are one-on-one meetings with interested investors.
🌍 Location: Remote (normally San Francisco, but companies can participate virtually)
🔗 Website: villageglobal.vc/accelerator
📝 Application Form in shareable Google Doc (you can also apply by emailing your application to another accelerator to email@example.com)
💰 Investment: $150k for 7%
📅 Next Application Deadline: TBD
Village Global Accelerator is a three-month program, backed by some big name founders, including Magic Johnson, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Diane Greene. They get some amazing speakers during the program, including Reid Hoffman, Stephanie Zhan, and Eric Ries.
The kind of startups they are looking for are formation stage companies, that are venture scale, using software and IT to create or transform global industries.