Why Accelerators Are the Best Way to Grow Your Startup

Christoph Birkholz
January 27 2016
What do AirBnb, Dropbox, Reddit, Heroku, and Stripe all have in common? They all started at the world’s best startup accelerator, Y Combinator. Founded by Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston, Y Combinator’s portfolio of companies now exceeds $30 billion. Due to its all-star roster of companies and amazing network of mentors and investors, thousands of entrepreneurs apply every year one of the approximately 60 spots in the program.

In part because of the success of Y Combinator and other top accelerators like TechStars, there has been a growth explosion in the space, with more than 2,100 accelerators across the globe. Major corporations and even sports franchises are getting into the game, with Sephora, NikeTargetGoogle, and the Los Angeles Dodgers are starting their own accelerators.

Plus, the evidence indicates that entering an accelerator could be a no-brainer. A recent study by VentureBeat found that companies top accelerators that graduated before December 2009 returned 11.3x on capital invested, which is astonishing. Other studies show that the survival rate of companies that go through accelerators could be three times that of companies that don’t. Even more, research shows companies that completed an accelerator grew faster than companies that didn’t.

In Europe, accelerators like Rockstart Amsterdam, Seedcamp London, Entrepreneur First, and Techstars METRO Accelerator in Berlin have all established themselves as great options for startups looking for mentorship and access to capital. And now, another accelerator has joined this esteemed group in Kickstart Accelerator.

Located in Zurich, Switzerland, Kickstart is recruiting an international class of startups for their first summer program in cooperation with Digital Zurich 2025. Unlike most other accelerators, Kickstart takes no equity from the startups that are accepted into the program, although they are expected to stay in Zurich for the three month summer program. Y Combinator has the same policy for their participants in Mountain View, and partner Gary Tan says, “We think of YC as Rome or Athens in antiquity. Come out to Mountain View for three months, you don’t have to move here permanently. Absorb whatever really works out here and take that back.” While Mountain View may be the Rome of antiquity, Zurich may as well be thought of as the Athens of antiquity. It’s ranked among the top 10 Global Startup Ecosystems and leads the world in innovation.

Each startup team accepted into the program will receive up to 25,000 Swiss Francs (approximately $24,606) and 1,500 Swiss Francs ($1,476) per month for living expenses. In addition, founders will have access to dedicated mentors, corporations, academic partners, and investors. And there’s no need to worry about where to work on your startup, all founders will have access to free office space as well as infrastructure support.