The Startup factories
The rise of accelerator programmes to support new technology ventures.

Over the past six years, a new method of incubating technology startups has emerged, driven by investors and successful tech entrepreneurs: the accelerator programme. Despite growing interest in the model from the investment, business education and policy communities, there have been few attempts at formal analysis.1 This report is a first step towards a more informed critique of the phenomenon, as part of a broader effort among both public and private sectors to understand how to better support the growth of innovative startups.

The accelerator programme model comprises five main features. The combination of these sets it apart 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.

StartupFactories – Accelerators Evaluation, NESTA, June 2011