Top 5 US Accelerators Every Startup Needs To Know About

Finding a startup incubator or accelerator in the USA that’s a perfect fit for your startup can be tricky. There are 2,301 Accelerators & Incubators in the US. With this amount, it is pretty easy to get lost and choose the wrong one. Here are some factors you need to consider before making the right decision:
  • The amount of funding they provide vs. the amount of equity they’ll take.
  • Profiles of the mentors and the industry they specialize in.
  • How many startups they’ve funded.
  • The community around it.
  • The percentage of startups they accept and the difficulty of the application process itself vs. what they can do for you.

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Finding the right accelerator as well as participating in it might be a time-consuming process, that requires your full commitment and understanding on how it will help to grow your business. We decided to give you a quick overview of the top-5 most popular accelerators, their requirements, and their differences. It might help you to find answers during the evaluation process.

Difference between startup accelerators and incubators

Both startup incubators and startup accelerators offer support to early-stage startups and entrepreneurs. But they do have differences.

Astartup incubator is a collaborative program designed to help new startups succeed. Incubators help entrepreneurs solve some problems commonly associated with running a startup by providing workspace, seed funding, mentoring, and training. The sole purpose of a startup incubator is to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

Conversely, accelerators focus on speeding up the growth of a startup that has already built and launched an MVP. Their product is already in the hands of early adopters and they’ve achieved some sort of traction.

Y Combinator

The most famous startup accelerator on the list, Y Combinator has launched over 4000 startups. Portfolio companies include Stripe, Airbnb, Coinbase and Twitch.

Y Combinator will invest $500k when you successfully join their cohort. This payment is made on two separate safes (Simple Agreement for Future Equity):

  • $125k on a post-money safe in return for 7% of your company.
  • $375k on an uncapped safe with a Most Favored Nation provision.

You can apply to Y Combinator online. Your application will only be considered if you, as the founder, have at least 10% equity in your startup.

After finishing this procedure, you and your team will be requested to participate in an interview.

Recently, as part of Vibranium.VC’ Softlanding program for startups, we discussed the leading accelerators and the typical mistakes founders make when submitting applications to YC. Below are some of the mistakes we talked about:

  • Startups often fail to carefully read the questions, which can lead to some questions being left unanswered or the inclusion of irrelevant information in their answers.
  • Responses may contain grammatical and stylistic errors, which can negatively impact the overall quality of the application.
  • The company’s description goes beyond 50 characters, which may not meet the application requirements.
  • Some startups tend to reuse the same answer for multiple questions, which can indicate a lack of attention to detail and a failure to address the specific requirements of each question.
  • The length of the video exceeds one minute and the sound quality is poor.

If interview is successful, you’ll officially join the YC batch. During the 3-month batch, you’ll still have access to all mentorship, guest speakers, group office hours with other companies on your batch and the famous Demo Day.

TechStars

TechStars is one of the largest pre-seed investors in the world, their portfolio is as diversified as their 7,300 founders are unique — from HealthTech and FinTech, to Web3 and CleanTech; from Miami and Silicon Valley to Lagos and London.

TechStars has funded over 3500 startups to date. Among famous alumni are Uber, Twilio and DigitalOcean.

Techstars invests up to $120k in each startup. They purchase the right to 6% of the company’s Fully Diluted Capital Stock at the Qualified Financing and provide $20k upfront. Their 6% common shares will be issued immediately before the Company’s subsequent equity financing of $250k or more.

You can apply to TechStars using the form on their website. It might take a few hours to fill out your first application — you can reach out to their mentors and advisors before submitting for extra help to ensure you’ve portrayed your startup correctly.

If your application passes the screening process, you will receive an invitation to interview with TechStars (this process usually takes around four weeks).

Ifyou successfully complete the interview rounds, you’ll be invited to meet TechStars screening committee.

If you pass that, you then join a three-month batch of other startups. During 3 months of intense work you are developing your pitch deck, preparing your investor collateral and learning how to communicate your vision to future customers, team members and other key stakeholders. TechStars will then continue to give you support via their alumni network.

500 Global

With over 2700 startups funded, 500 Global is another leader in the incubation/acceleration arena. Their portfolio companies include Udemy, Talkdesk and Canva.

The 500 Series A Program delivers growth marketing and investment for post-seed and pre-Series A companies and runs in multiple locations globally. They accept applications from Nordic startups to their seed programs in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, and their series A programs in Europe (London and Berlin).

500 Startups offer every company that joins their ranks $150k investment in return for a 6% stake.

Roughly 71% of startups who apply during the first 45 days after the application window opens are accepted into 500 Global programs.

After filling out the application form, you’re in with a chance of being invited to an interview day. The day consists of three back-to-back interviews with members of their investment team. They suggest allocating around three hours for this process, but it can be shorter.

If accepted, the fast-paced program lasts for four months at the location you applied to. Their mentor team consists of experts with operational experience at companies like PayPal, Google, YouTube, Apple, Twitter and more.

On top of the hands-on mentorship, they offer talks and office hours on everything from distribution and customer acquisition to design, UX and fundraising.

At the end of the four-month program, you’ll take part in a Demo Day in front of investors and industry leaders.

Alchemist Accelerator

Founded in 2012 Alchemist accelerator with total funding of $2.1B runs a 6-month long program. It accepts startups operating in sectors such as IoT, digital health, Fintech, etc. The firm takes 5% equity in return for its services.

You can fill out the online form on their website. The total amount of startups accelerated exceeds 500 and around 52% of startups were funded after graduating from the program.

Plug and Play Tech Center

Plug and Play Tech Center is a California-based accelerator. Founded in 2006, they’ve helped over 1360 startups get to market. Portfolio companies include Dropbox, Honey, and PayPal. They are active in 50+ locations globally, including the U.S., China, France, Germany, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, Brazil, and more.

Plug and Play typically invests between $50k and $250k in startups ranging from Pre-Seed to Series A. You also have the opportunity to gain up to $1M in follow-up investments from Plug and Play directly.

There is no fixed equity percentage associated with these investments, however, they typically get between 1-5% of the company depending on the amount invested.

The industries they focus on include Agtech, Animal Health, Brand & Retail, Crypto & Digital Assets, Energy, Enterprise, Fintech, Food & Beverage, Health, Insurtech, IoT, Maritime, Media & Ad, Mobility, New Materials & Packaging, Real Estate & Construction, Smart Cities, Supply Chain, Sustainability, and Travel & Hospitality.

Venture Events Handbook: Networking Tools To Fully Engage Your Audience

A few stories ago, we discussed the influential power of networking and how beneficial new contacts can be for founders. Today we decided to dive deeper into the communication approach used within the framework of networking events — best practices and activities to engage the audience and break the ice.
As the Head of Pipeline and Partnerships at Vibranium.VC, Valentina Pidgaina leads startup scouting initiatives and cultivates business relationships with other VCs, accelerators, and corporations.

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In this post she will share her personal experience of networking activities she liked the most and why. It is crucial to always remember that EVERY networking event is about making new connections. These connections have the potential to lead to fruitful collaborations and friendships, both of which hold equal significance in the venture world.

By Valentina Pidgaina

Moving to the USA

It’s been quite some time since I joined the Vibranium.VC team and moved to the USA. As a newcomer in Silicon Valley, I explored its unique ecosystem, understood its approach and mindset, and realized that America truly is the land of opportunities.

When people ask me how I’m finding life in the US so far, I always respond by saying that if you have a clear sense of your identity (who you are), your goals (what you do), and what you can contribute to the community, almost every door can open for you here. However, the process of developing and nurturing relationships is an entirely different story. I’m excited to shed light on that topic in our future blog posts.

Happy hours, pitch days, and all that jazz

As a person responsible for scouting and partnerships in the fund, it was obvious to me that attending all kinds of events is the best way to explore the local ecosystem, expand networks, develop partnerships, find investment opportunities, and understand how this venture mechanism in Silicon Valley works. During the first year, we participated in more than 100 offline and online events. Not all of them were relevant, of course, but it helped me gain an understanding of some “do’s and don’ts,” align my expectations, and acquire an interesting approach to self-introduction and networking.

Breaking down event structure

Usually, the format of all events is the same: networking mixers or happy hours, which involve mingling with peers over food and drinks and engaging in endless conversations at a nice bar or office setting. Initially, I attempted to find an agenda for these events, but I soon realized that networking itself is the agenda. This was a complete shift from my previous approach used in Eastern Europe.

To truly establish oneself as an active participant in Silicon Valley’s innovation ecosystem and expand contacts, it is crucial to understand how networking operates here.

Itoften requires effective communication skills to engage in conversations about anything and everything, ranging from recent golf games to the most suitable grill for one’s backyard. You may be surprised by the variety of topics discussed at these events.

Big meaning of small talk

After attending numerous events like this, I’ve gained a true understanding of the culture of small talk and why it’s inappropriate to jump straight into business topics. This was, absolutely, the opposite approach for me as back where I’m from, at almost all networking events, you talk only about business matters, even when conversing with individuals you hardly know. Engaging in personal conversations was not a common thing at all. It took me quite some time to adopt this approach and switch my mindset to start acting and thinking the Silicon Valley way.

At times, I found myself feeling like I was in a job interview I never applied for:)

After being bombarded with questions about my background and responsibilities, I realized that I couldn’t recall the name of a person I spent time with or even the subjects we discussed. Why? Because it’s the person themselves that captures attention, and “who you are” takes precedence. While there are various methodologies (you can easily find them online) that can help navigate the aspects of small talk culture, the most important one is likely genuine interest in getting to know the person. If you don’t have that, trust me, none of the networking techniques will be effective.

Networking tools and formats I liked the most

Networking is about evoking emotions and leaving a positive impression — this is entirely credited to the organizers. As I mentioned earlier, I have attended over 100 events and through that experience, I have identified a few networking tools that I personally find the most captivating and beneficial for effective communication. These tools provided a quick and amusing way to entertain and engage all participants in a personality-first approach to networking. I would love to share it with you:

  • On-to-one-to-many: talk to the closest peer to you, ask personal or business-related questions, and then prepare a short 30-second pitch in front of the group in the format: who is this person, how people in the group can help them in different ways and how this person can give back to the community. There is one rule to follow: all facts about the person have to be captivating and intriguing and not about humdrum business life. It’s a great tool for fostering deeper and more interactive conversations during dinner or lunch, suitable for groups of up to 30 ppl.

Getting a little personal never hurts:)

  • Many-to-one: a volunteer who swiftly responds to randomly asked questions about preferences and opinions from the audience. The main rule to follow to is to provide simple answers to straightforward questions, avoiding long discussions. This tool can be used as an excellent icebreaker during the intermission between two parts of the program session.
  • One-to-many: a beach ball (or 2–3 for multiple options) with challenging and sometimes tricky questions written on each segment using markers. The ball is tossed into the audience, and a randomly selected participant must answer the question on the segment they catch before passing it to someone else. This interactive game serves as a fantastic icebreaker, fostering engagement and energizing the group of 50+ individuals before the main part of the event starts.

These are just a few examples of productive networking approaches that I enjoyed and actively engage in. I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that having the opportunity to discover interesting facts about the person you wish to connect with is always an excellent idea.

Special thanks

I would like to express my gratitude for the fascinating life hacks and inspiration provided by: