How Do Startup Accelerators Work?

Unlocking Growth: Exploring the Mechanics and Impact of Startup Accelerators on Entrepreneurial Success and Innovation in Today's Dynamic Business Landscape.

startup acceleration

India became home to thousands of new startups after the 2016 Startup India Initiative. In 2023 alone, India registered more than 100,000 startups. But how can they launch and scale their products in this crowded market?

For entrepreneurs with a promising startup idea, startup accelerators provide the boost needed to transform into a high-growth business. According to a study, a 60-year-old in 2023 has a three times higher chance of creating a profitable firm than a 30-year-old. Wondering how to know if an accelerator is right for your company and when's the best time to apply?

Read on as we break down everything you need to know about startup accelerators. Learn what startup accelerators are and how they differ from incubators. Next, we'll discuss how accelerators work and whether your startup is ready for accelerator programs.

We will also delve into some tips on how to stand out with your accelerator application.

What are Startup Accelerators?

Startup accelerators are fixed-term programs that help developing startups with mentoring, training, and financing opportunities to build and scale their entrepreneurial venture. Their goal is to make a startup self-sufficient in three to six months.

During this period, they require founders to work full-time on their startups. The accelerator provides a small amount of seed funding, office space, resources, mentorship, and networking opportunities.

At the end of the program, startups “graduate,” and their final test is to pitch to investors and get funding.

Accelerators vs Incubators

People often miss the differences between startup incubators and accelerators. Startup incubators and accelerators both may support early-stage startups but are very different.

Incubators are long-term programs, often one to five years focused on developing an idea into a company. They mostly support local ventures by giving access to office spaces and shared services.

The hands-on support is not as intensive with incubators compared to accelerators. Also, incubators take a small or no share of equity. At the same time, the accelerator's equity stakes range from 5% to 10%.

How Do Startup Accelerators Work?

Startup Accelerators

The accelerator application process is highly competitive - top accelerators admit less than 3% of applicants. Start up accelerator programs are tailored to startups with an MVP (minimum viable product) or prototype and some early traction.

Accelerators help refine and scale these startups through the following structured process:

1. Apply and Get Accepted

The first step is securing a spot in an accelerator program. Founders research various business accelerator options and submit applications highlighting their startup's product, traction, team strengths, and potential.

Startup accelerators look for passionate founders solving big problems that can become large, scalable companies. If accepted, founders are not obligated to join until formal agreements are signed.

2. Receive Seed Funding

Once enrolled in the program, startups receive a seed investment by staking some equity. This capital allows founders to focus on building their startup full-time throughout the program.

Let us take the example of the Y combinator, which invests around $500,000 for 7% of equity, according to their standard deal in each startup in the seed round. The accelerator had around 400 startups in its portfolio in 2023.

3. Participate in Mentorship and Training

The start up accelerator program experience is intense, immersive, and highly educational. Founders are required to work full-time out of the accelerator's office space and participate in seminars and workshops.

These workshops often involve learning from industry experts, including those from custom software development companies, who provide insights into the latest technology trends.

Subject matter experts and accomplished founders serve as mentors, offering strategic advice and guidance tailored to each startup. Training sessions cover topics like pitching, marketing, product-market fit, legal issues, and more.

4. Network and Partner

Throughout the program, founders have many opportunities to network with industry leaders, potential partners, peers, and investors. These connections provide startups with valuable feedback on their business and leads for customer acquisition, hiring, and future funding.

5. Pitch to Investors at Demo Day

The program ends in a demo day where startups present to an audience of hundreds of investors. The high-energy event allows founders to showcase their progress and vision for the future.

Successful demo day pitches can secure additional funding or invaluable advisor/investor relationships.

When Do You Know it’s the Right Time for a Business Accelerator?

Startup Accelerators

Deciding when your startup is ready for an accelerator program needs strategic thinking. While accelerators can provide immense value, they require extensive time commitments and equity stakes.

Evaluating your startup’s stage of growth and needs will determine if applying is profitable. Consider these key factors:

Stage of Your Business

Apply when your business is still in the early stage, ideally within one to two years of founding. Accelerator for startups provide the most benefit when companies are at the stage of making their business viable.

Being early-stage and close to launching means the founders can implement the wisdom and best practices learned in the start up accelerator program. Also, accelerators provide structures to refine and scale your product through mentor feedback and the right sources of funding.

If you lack product-market fit, the best startup accelerators can help you pivot quickly based on user data and advisor insights.

Current Funding

Bootstrapped or lightly-funded startups have the most to gain from accelerator financing and introductions to investors. Startups that have already raised substantial capital independently may not benefit as much from the equity trade-off.

The seed funding helps capital-constrained startups focus full-time during the program until they raise institutional funding.

Founder Commitment

To be successful on demo day, the founders need to keep these factors in mind:

  • Intense work hours of 12+ hours every day
  • Have a co-founder to share the workload
  • Closely track progress, as failure may lead to elimination from the program

Factors to Keep in Mind Before Applying for an Accelerator Program

Top accelerator for startups are highly competitive. When applying, founders must showcase their startup's strengths while demonstrating knowledge and preparation.

Some key tips that founders need to remember before applying to an accelerator for startups are:

  • Explain the idea of the startup clearly and avoid industry jargon. Practice beforehand and pretend you are explaining your startup to someone without expertise in your domain.  
  • Highlight consumer perspectives and how the products or services will address their pain points.  Crafting a persuasive story that logically flows from the problem to the solution often does the job. 
  • Founders need to armor themselves with accurate numbers on how their startup has been performing lately. Knowing the data allows experts to assess where improvements must be made and provide assistance. 
  • Have a clear, concise, and easy-to-understand value proposition. Articulate your unique value proposition. A clear value statement allows founders to maintain focus on the most vital deliverables for their vision. 
  • Vet the accelerator’s offering beyond the brand name and funding. Consider fit, mentor expertise, networks, and services offered. Be sure to ask many questions and do a lot of research before applying for business accelerator programs. 
  • Businesses should be able to give their all, considering the intensity of the program.

Top 5 Startup Accelerators to Start With

Startup Accelerators

Here is a list of 5 of the best startup accelerators that can help budding businesses:


  • AVISHKAR - AVISHKAR was founded by IIIT Hyderabad in partnership with 50K Ventures, T-hub, and Co-Creation Consulting. The new businesses are coached by the assets of IIIT-H Foundation and its organization through a program.
  • CATALYST- SG GSC Accelerator - CATALYST is one of the 10-week accelerator programs for startups in Bengaluru in which selected entrepreneurs work on theme-based business challenges under the guidance of industry experts.
  • Cisco - Cisco is a B2B tech startup accelerator that believes in the power of collaboration and is dedicated to assisting entrepreneurs in reaching new heights. 
  • Intel India Maker Lab - The Intel Startup Program is Intel India's flagship program in Bengaluru. They work with startups with intellectual property or imaginative ideas that can benefit clients and line up with Intel's center regions. 
  • 500 Startups - 500 Startups is a major global seed fund and accelerator for startups. It has invested in over 1300 technology businesses globally and oversees $200 million in assets.

Final Thoughts

We have seen how startup accelerators work and play a pivotal role in nurturing innovative ideas and providing them with initial resources. They serve as a launchpad that businesses can use to kickstart their venture.

However, joining an accelerator is a significant decision that requires careful consideration. It’s crucial to assess the timing, the program's value, and alignment with your startup’s goals.

Ultimately, the right accelerator program for a startup can significantly influence its trajectory, leading to success.

General FAQ

  • What are the challenges faced in an entrepreneur accelerator program?
  • What is a small business accelerator program?
  • Is startup acceleration a good idea?
Sakshi Kaushik
Written By
Sakshi Kaushik
A passionate writer and tech lover, she strives to share her expertise with mobile app developers and fellow tech enthusiasts. During her moments away from the keyboard, she relishes delving into thriller narratives, immersing herself in diverse realms.
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