Over the past six years, a new method of incubating technology startups has emerged, driven byinvestors and successful tech entrepreneurs: the accelerator programme. Despite growing interestin the model from the investment, business education and policy communities, there have beenfew attempts at formal analysis.
This report is a rst step towards a more informed critique of thephenomenon, as part of a broader effort among both public and private sectors to understand howto better support the growth of innovative startups.The accelerator programme model comprises ve main features. The combination of these sets itapart from other approaches to investment or business incubation:
An application process that is open to all, yet highly competitive.
Provision of pre-seed investment, usually in exchange for equity.
A focus on small teams not individual founders.
Time-limited support comprising programmed events and intensive mentoring.
Cohorts or ‘classes’ of startups rather than individual companies.The number of accelerator programmes has grown rapidly in the US over the past few years andthere are signs that more recently, the trend is being replicated in Europe. From one acceleratorprogramme, Y Combinator in 2005, there are now dozens in the US that are funding hundredsof startups per year. There have already been a number of high prole startup successes fromaccelerator programmes.Early evidence suggests they have a positive impact on founders, helping them learn rapidly,create powerful networks and become better entrepreneurs. Although incubators are sometimesstigmatised as providing ‘life support’ to companies, these accelerator programmes are notablefor the high quality of both mentors and startup teams they work with and the value they add tocompanies.The rise of accelerator programmes is closely associated with the changing economics of startingup. Costs associated with early-stage tech startups have dropped signicantly in the last decade,creating an opportunity to invest with very small amounts of money (£10,000-£50,000) comparedto previous eras of investment in digital businesses.Angel investors and venture capital investors have supported accelerator programmes becausethey create a pipeline of investable companies, scouting for and ltering talent and connectingthem with a concentrated stream of mentors and strategic resources. The connections they createhave a positive effect on the local ecosystem in which they operate, providing a focal point forintroductions and building trust between founders, investors and other stakeholders.