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Taking the steps for your own startup can be as exciting as it is challenging. Doing everything alone, without support, can be very difficult! But don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be this way.In this article, we will talk about the best startup accelerators and programs that support startups and enable them to access the mentorship they need in the early stages. At StartupBlink, we also help governments and other ecosystem stakeholders like universities to scale their local startups globally with our Accelerator program, partnering with IBM for Startups.

If you are looking to find startup accelerators around the world, check out our Global Map of Startup Accelerators, featuring more than 2,000 accelerators worldwide.

What are Startup Accelerators?

best startup accelerators & programs

Let’s start with the definition of accelerator programs:

Startup accelerators are fixed-term, cohort-based programs that help early-stage companies and entrepreneurs accelerate the growth of their businesses. These programs offer a range of support services and resources, typically in exchange for equity or a small investment in the company.

Being connected to the ecosystem, learning from the mistakes of others, networking with experienced stakeholders, knowing how to secure funding and what options are available for it is as valuable as gold when establishing your own startup. Accelerator programs can provide you with these resources and therefore are one of the most crucial parts that hold the ecosystem together. They enable you to quickly get acquainted with the ecosystem and adapt to it.

The Top 10 Startup Accelerators

Y Combinator: Y Combinator (YC) is a startup fund and program. Since 2005, YC has invested in nearly 3,000 companies including Airbnb, DoorDash, Stripe, Instacart, Dropbox, and Coinbase. The combined valuation of YC companies is over $300B. YC hosts two 3-month programs — one from January through March, and one from June through August. The overall goal of YC is to help startups really take off. They arrive at YC at all different stages. Some haven’t even started working yet, and others have been launched for a year or more. But whatever stage a startup is at when they arrive, our goal is to help them to be in dramatically better shape 3 months later. You can apply here

Techstars: Techstars is on a mission to invest in an unprecedented number of startups per year. Techstars do this by operating accelerator programs and venture capital funds, as well as by connecting startups, investors, corporations, and cities to help build thriving startup communities. Founded in 2006, Techstars is on a mission to invest in an unprecedented number of startups per year. They do this by operating accelerator programs and venture capital funds, as well as by connecting startups, investors, corporations, and cities to help build thriving startup communities. You can apply here.

500 Startups: 500 Startups is a venture capital firm on a mission to discover and back the world’s most talented entrepreneurs, help them create successful companies at scale, and build thriving global ecosystems. 500 supports startups via their Seed Accelerator Programs which emphasize digital marketing, customer acquisition, lean startup practices, and fundraising for pre-Seed companies. 500 Startups further contributes to the development of innovation ecosystems by supporting startups and investors through educational programs, events, conferences, and partnerships with corporations and governments around the world. You can apply here.

Merck: Merck is one of the biggest Pharmaceutical Manufacturing company and they have an accelerator program called, Merck Accelerator. This program supports startups in the fields of healthcare, life science, performance materials and additional search fields. You can apply here.

Seedstars: Seedstars is a global organisation with a mission to impact people’s lives in emerging & frontier markets through technology and entrepreneurship. They have different accelerator programs in different locations. The acceleration program is structured around 1:1 mentoring aimed at tailored support, while formats include weekly workshops, bootcamps, KPI sessions, and social activities. You can apply here.

Plug & Play: Plug & Play have been accelerating startups, matchmaking them with corporate clients, and investing in them since 2006. 2,539 startups accelerated in 2021 and they have more than 300 VC in their ecosystem. You can apply here.

The Founder Institute: The Founder Institute is a  network to turn ideas into fundable startups, and startups into global businesses. Since 2009, their  structured accelerator programs have helped over 6,800 entrepreneurs raise over $1.75BN in funding, based in Silicon Valley and with chapters across 100 countries. They helped early-stage startups  like Udemy, which is now one of Silicon Valley’s most recognized exited Unicorn. Gagan Biyani, the founder of Udemy, says, “Without Founder Institute, Udemy may have never raised any money.” You can apply here.

AngelPad: AngelPad is a seed-stage accelerator program based in NYC and San Francisco. Since 2010 they have launched more than 150 companies and ranked Top U.S Accelerator by MIT’s Seed Accelerator Benchmark – every year since 2015. During the program, they helped startups from finding product market fit, defining a target market to getting first validation for the company. AngelPad startups can be found in almost any tech vertical: SaaS, Marketplaces, Core Technology, Advertising, API, Mobile, Healthcare, AI, Data, B2B, B2C – even Drones. You can apply here.

Startup Chile: Start-Up Chile (SUP) is a business accelerator program created by the Chilean Government for high-potential tech entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs are aiming to reach global markets (both domestic and foreign) and view Chile as an asset to their businesses. Start-Up Chile is a public accelerator. However, their work is not only focused on promoting national businesses, they also welcome startups from all over the world. SUP entrepreneurs are revolutionizing the Latin American ecosystem. Today, the valuation of the SUP portfolio reaches $2 million, and continues to grow. You can apply here.

 Startup Wise Guys: Startup Wise Guys is a global accelerator fund for passionate B2B startup founders and they are based in Estonia. Their portfolio has had 15 exits and £359 M raised by portfolio companies. Startup Wise Guys accelerator fund in the region with over 35+ programs, an international community of founders from over 60 countries and an established market in CEE and CIS countries. You can apply here.

Bonus: The Top 10 Startup Program

Startup programs, often initiated by established corporations, serve as a bridge between startups and established industry players. They facilitate the exchange of expertise, technologies, and resources between startups and corporations, typically with the aim of accelerating innovation. Corporate startup programs can take various forms, including innovation labs, or open innovation initiatives. These programs often provide startups with access to corporate resources, mentorship, and industry insights, allowing them to gain valuable knowledge and leverage the established infrastructure and market reach of the sponsoring corporation.

IBM for Startups: IBM for Startups is a no-cost and equity-free startup program, open to startups, software developers and organizations with a startup network. By joining the program, participants gain access to IBM’s AI resources such as Watsonx platform, as well as an opportunity to partner with IBM while building their solutions. You can apply here.

Ansys Startup Program: The Ansys Startup program caters to early-stage startups facing budget constraints. Ansys offers complete access to Multiphysics simulation software and high-performance computing, facilitating rapid and cost-effective execution of engineering projects. With over 1,500 startups across 52 countries selecting Ansys, spanning industries like autonomous tech, high-tech, energy, aerospace, automotive, 5G, and healthcare, you gain access to a diverse ecosystem poised for innovation. You can apply here.

Dell for Startups: Dell supports early-stage startups by offering technology solutions and access to its global network. Startups can access Dell’s products and services, along with mentorship and guidance. Dell for Startups gives you startup know-how with tech experts and flexible solutions to keep your business ready for growth. Whether you’re starting or going public (MVP to IPO), Dell’s startup tech advisors are trained just for you. They get startups, they listen, and they get to know your business.You can apply here.

Microsoft for Startups: Microsoft for Startups is designed to help B2B startups scale by providing access to Microsoft’s cloud, AI, and sales resources. It offers co-selling opportunities, technical support, and access to Azure credits. Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub speeds up innovation for startups by offering access to top-notch AI services, expert advice, and the necessary tech for building a future-ready startup. Connect with expert engineers one-on-one at any stage to get help on various topics, from learning about AI to selecting the right products, optimizing infrastructure, cutting costs, improving performance, to creating a roadmap for success. You can apply here.

Samsung Mobile Advance: Samsung Mobile Advance is a program made for startups to team up with Samsung and turn their innovative ideas into reality. Submit a proposal for a pilot product to show how your tech can enhance Samsung’s products. If selected, you get grant funding and support to build a proof-of-concept. This could lead to partnerships and investment opportunities. Open to startups in Europe, US, Canada, Israel, China, Japan, and India with innovative technologies. You can apply here.

Google for Startups: Google for Startups provides diverse programs supporting startup growth. Selected startups receive tailored Google assistance for specific goals. Their mission is to foster inclusive startup communities globally.They offer varied programs connecting startups to the right people, products, and practices for growth, regardless of stage or vertical. You can apply here. You can apply here.

Telefonica Open Future: Open Future Labs links innovation and entrepreneurship with the business world. It helps refine your idea, showcase startups, and globalize tech solutions. The Acceleration Program, with Telefónica’s expertise, connects you with businesses, clients, and investors. Work from Wayra offices, pitch your idea, explore investment, and potentially become a Wayra Startup! You can apply here.

Well Being X: Well-BeingX is a program where major companies collaborate to advance overall health. Collaboration between these companies and startups is being accelerated worldwide, with the aim of making a lasting impact on people’s lives, step by step. Innovations prioritizing physical, mental, and social well-being are being crafted, shaping a healthier. You can apply here.

Protechting: Protechting is an exciting innovation program led by Fosun, Fidelidade, Hospital da Luz Learning Health, and powered by Fábrica de Startups. It’s all about sparking innovation in healthtech and insurtech. By linking startups with their partners, Protechting opens doors for amazing collaboration and growth opportunities. You can apply here.

Intel Ignite: Intel Ignite, in three key sections, supports vital aspects of startup growth. Led by Intel’s teams and industry experts, it fosters collaborative exploration of big ideas. They enlist top mentors passionate about sharing knowledge, skills, and connections. You can apply here.

How to Prepare to Apply for Accelerators & Startup Programs

The process often begins with an online application form. This form usually requests basic information about the startup, such as the team members, business idea, target market, revenue model, and any existing traction or milestones. 

Many accelerators require applicants to submit a pitch deck, which is an overview of the startup, including its problem statement, solution, market size, competitive analysis , revenue model, and other key details.

Another potential step while applying for a startup program or accelerator can be a video pitch. This is an opportunity for founders to present their business in a more dynamic format, allowing the accelerator team to get a better sense of the team’s passion and the startup’s value proposition.

Shortlisted applicants may be invited for interviews. The purpose is to dive deeper into the details of the startup, assess the team’s capabilities, and evaluate how well the startup aligns with the goals of the accelerator program. 

If you will go through an interview process, we recommend reading comments and advice from founders who have previously participated in the interview. You can find numerous resources on the internet about this; here’s an example: YC Interview Guide.