Seed Accelerator Rankings unveiled at SXSW

Eight seed accelerators — 500 Startups, Alchemist, Amplify LA, Angelpad, Chicago New Venture Challenge, MuckerLab, Techstars and Y Combinator — landed the coveted top spots in the 2016 annual Seed Accelerator Rankings announced March 11 at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, by entrepreneurship and management experts from Rice University, MIT and the University of Richmond.

start-up-b-webThe Seed Accelerator Rankings Project uses a variety of metrics, including the valuations of participating startups, the amount of funding raised by participating startups, startups’ survival rates and ratings provided by program graduates. The project is the brainchild of Yael Hochberg, an entrepreneurship professor at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business and researcher with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Innovation Initiative Lab for Innovation Science; Susan Cohen, an assistant professor of management at Richmond’s Robins School of Business; and Dan Fehder, a Ph.D. candidate at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

“There are new accelerator programs popping up every month,” Hochberg said. “Our goal is to generate a larger conversation about what makes some seed accelerators more successful and help entrepreneurs find the right fit for their startup.”

“With so many programs available, it’s hard for entrepreneurs to know which programs are best,” Cohen said. “The Seed Accelerator Rankings Project adds needed transparency to help entrepreneurs make a critically important decision for their startups.”

The rankings are based on detailed confidential data on accelerator portfolio outcomes, which produce the most complete and comprehensive dataset on accelerator performance available. To be invited to participate in the rankings, accelerator programs had to meet several criteria. They had to meet the definition of an accelerator: Programs had to be fixed-term, cohort-based startup “boot camps” that include educational and mentorship components and culminate in public pitch or demo day. They also had to have graduated at least one cohort and have more than 10 startup graduates. The research team also surveyed graduates of the accelerator programs to assess satisfaction. Nearly 1,000 accelerator graduates participated in the survey.

Over 150 programs were invited to participate this year. For 2016, the rankings have moved to a tier system, with no ordinal ranking within tiers. All programs are listed in alphabetical order within the tiers below.

The top accelerator programs in this year’s ranking are:

Platinum tier:
500 Startups, Alchemist, Amplify LA, Angelpad, Chicago New Venture Challenge, MuckerLab, Techstars and Y Combinator.

Gold tier:
Brandery, Capital Innovators, Dreamit, gener8tor, Healthbox, Mass Challenge, StartX and Surge.

Silver tier:
Alphalab, Betaspring, HealthWildcatters, Iron Yard, Lighthouse Labs, Plug and Play, and Zero to 510.

Information about additional programs (bronze and certified tiers) and details on the rankings approach will be posted at www.seedrankings.com.

The Seed Accelerator Rankings Project aims to begin a larger conversation about what makes seed accelerators successful and to provide entrepreneurs with a tool to help them decide which seed accelerators are a good match for their startup. Confidential data provided by accelerator programs and accelerator alumni are incorporated into the evaluation process.

The rankings team is led by Hochberg, Cohen and Fehder. All three are former entrepreneurs turned academics and are considered among the leading research experts on accelerators and their efficacy.

For more information about the project, go to www.seedrankings.com.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.