What is a Startup Accelerator?

A startup accelerator is a programme typically lasting 3-4 months and is designed to tweak and jump start a business and push you out into the real world.  Many accelerators invest in the business in return for small amounts of equity.  This varies from accelerator and region.  The seed capital invested may not be very much but the mentorship and connections lead to higher potential for raising capital when the programme is complete.

The workload is great and the feedback is tough but honest.  They are not for the faint hearted or sensitive.  The focus is on teams and recognising the gaps in the team.  Many programmes use tools such as the Lean Startup and the business canvas.

At the end of the programme the startups “graduate” and present to investors on what is commonly called “Demo Day”.

The first accelerators was Y Combinator in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2005, it was later moved to Silicon Valley by Paul Graham.  It remains one of the top accelerators with many high profile mentors and investors.

Growth in popularity  has led to huge increases in accelerator programmes globally.  The screening process is tough and generally involves an initial submission and at least one pitch.

Pros & Cons of a Startup Accelerator

So why would you put yourself through all this and not just concentrate on your brilliant idea?


  • The opportunity to learn and grow with peers and mentors could save you a lot of startup pain and anguish.
  • And let’s be honest, it’s lonely out there and the accelerator is full of like-minded people.
  • Also, the access to investors and potential capital cannot be underestimated.  You have to have a lot of conversations to get that kind of access on your own.
  • Finally, the PR and exposure potential is significant. Digital Media enjoy talking about startups and are always looking for the next Facebook or Uber.


  • So it’s not all fun and games. The accelerators take up a lot of time.
  • Meetings with mentors and investors can take you away from your core activity in other words getting customers and sales.
  • Learning to manage the workload  is quite difficult
  • You’ll get lots of opinions and ideas and they will conflict with each other.  Being able to filter and politely disagree with an experienced mentor is important.

Go Ahead & Apply…You Won’t Regret It!

You can’t buy what you learn.  The opportunity to take a few pitfall shortcuts and the increased odds of raising some much needed cash are all good reasons to try to get into a good accelerator programme.

And once you do work hard at it, ask for help and engage with your colleagues. you will see the results

And remember, when you make it, give some time to a programme near you.  It’s all about giving back.

Have you ever been part of a startup accelerator? Let us know…..