Accelerators have contributed to the success of many tech and web giants. For example, Airbnb, Stripe and DropBox are all among the unicorns that have received investment support from some of the largest financial powerhouses out there – from JP Morgan to Sequoia Capital. And, now as accelerator programs pick up some speed, post-pandemic, it looks like the options are broader than ever.
Over the past decade or so, private accelerators have grown in their scope as a funding and support mechanism. Accelerators such as Y Combinator, 500 Startups, and TechStars have all started what is now an escalating approach to supporting early-stage startup companies. In 2021, as per a Crunchbase Pro database listing, 427 different private accelerators made at least one lead, seed-stage investment (see list of top 10 below).
Accelerator models combine access to talent and support services with “stage appropriate” capital in return for a stake in the company or other repayment structures. The level and purpose of funding are very similar to gap funding initiatives in that accelerators are flexible, adaptive, and capable of providing smaller, targeted investments at key early-stage development points. Traditional forms of capital are often unwilling or unable to provide funding at these early-stage development points.
In the past, the primary concern with private accelerators has been that they tended to focus on software and internet companies or other technologies with much smaller development costs and shorter to-market timelines. However, in recent years, private accelerators have become more associated with technologies that have longer development timelines. These technologies include biotechnology, renewable energy, and social impact. Lately, these accelerators have been making their models and services available to exclusive corporate and venture capital partnerships.
And while universities have had different accelerator-like talent, mentorship, and evaluator support programs incorporated into gap funding programs since the beginning, they’ve recently started to combine and formalize them into sophisticated support mechanisms alongside the gap funding capital.
“In this way, private accelerators and university gap funding programs have co-evolved and are natural partners in both funding levels and support initiatives,” Jacob Johnson, founder, innovosource, says.
Some good examples of university gap funding programs that are incorporating accelerator like models are:
SkyDeck Berkeley: SkyDeck has developed a strong global reputation and leverages its network of 500,000 Berkeley Alumni to help startups succeed. It offers all the benefits of a traditional accelerator along with the vast resources of the world’s number one ranked public university.
Formed as a partnership between UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, the College of Engineering, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, SkyDeck offers a powerful environment for startups to grow and launch. The robust and vibrant ecosystem includes a deep network of advisors, industry partners, and accredited investors.
For more information: https://skydeck.berkeley.edu/
Colombia Lab-to-Market: This is across-discipline support system that provides tactical and strategic guidance to the Columbia-affiliated accelerators in therapeutics, biomedical technology, clean energy, media, advanced materials, big data, cybersecurity, and more.
For more information: https://labtomarket.columbia.edu/
Stanford StartX program: StartX is a non-profit community of serial entrepreneurs, industry experts, tenured Stanford professors, and well-funded growth-stage startups. They believe that entrepreneurs can achieve more as a group, than they can as individuals. They help their companies hire elite talent, secure funding, and tap into one of the most powerful and innovative networks in the world: the Stanford University Alumni Network.
For more information: https://startx.com/
University of Washington CoMotion: They partner with the UW community on their innovation journey, providing tools, connections, and acumen to transform ideas into economic and societal impact.
For more information: https://comotion.uw.edu/
Top 10 Most Active Seed Stage Accelerators by Number of Investments
This raw data was sourced from Crunchbase Pro Database. It lists accelerator and number seed-stage investment for those with greater than 200 lead, seed investments:
- SOSV: 967
- Accel: 711
- New Enterprise Associates: 703
- Technology Development Fund: 694
- Sequoia Capital: 634
- Insight Partners: 618
- Andreessen Horowitz: 526
- Intel Capital: 521
- Techstars: 491
- Bessemer Venture Partners: 433
To see the complete list and to learn more about technology and startup gap funding and accelerator programs, download the summary or purchase the full Mind the Gap Report 2022.