Since the birth of Y Combinator just over a decade ago, there has been an ongoing explosion of seed accelerators, which support early-stage startups with mentorship, resources and capital. Though initially focused on information technology companies and based in major tech hubs like San Francisco and New York, accelerators are now everywhere. The authors of a recent study—“Do Accelerators Accelerate? The Role of Indirect Learning in New Venture Development.—report that there are more than three hundred accelerators in the U.S. and thousands worldwide.
Do accelerators accelerate? The authors of the study (Benjamin L. Hallen, Christopher B. Bingham and Susan L. Cohen) address both sides of this continuing debate using a sample of companies separated into two primary divisions: those companies that were selected into and subsequently completed an accelerator program, and companies that were “almost-selected.” Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, the study attempts to answer its title question.
Ultimately, the efficacy of accelerators in general remains an open question: the study is unable to find conclusive evidence one way or the other. The authors find convincing evidence that top-tier accelerators improve the performance of selected companies on average, while stressing that this performance improvement was not universal and that these effects can not be generalized across all types, locations and qualities of accelerator.
In sum, Hallen, Bingham, and Cohen stress the importance of further, deeper research into accelerator effectiveness. Read the study here.