Why startup accelerators suck

Here is an anonymous opinion of a founder explaining why startup accelerators from Europe suck. The guy is not wrong, most of startup accelerators are simply not worth it, and, in most cases, are probably useful for beginners nowadays.

Conventional thinking says that, at worst, an accelerator will help crystallise the story you want to sell to the investors and practice for delivering it in a 5 minute, on-stage format. At best, you actually run into interesting people, who can help with mentoring or even invest in you.

The under-rated experience of an accelerator is meeting other fellow entrepreneurs, from whom you can sometimes learn more from than from the program per se, and build friendships, partnerships or future biz. You know, kinda finding your like-minded people tribe.

But in general I can see why most accelerators are simply considered to be a waste of time, money and equity. They are not painkillers but rather vitamin providers, at best.

Plus, in Europe, the market of startup accelerators is very fragmented, very local-oriented and heavily subsidized by EU and government money, so no sustainable economics that’d force them to be competitive. Their model is selling real estate as *free* working space, while scouting for local investors and reselling services for Amazon, Google and the like.

There is very little differentiation - go ahead and open up any accelerator webpage, you will read the exact same promises and standard benefits (it is actually the same with most of institutional investors, but that is a different story as they have discovered and are active on twitter and medium for building pr).

As long accelerators are not done by doers but by talkers, it will be hard to build a good program and… YC will remain the best (after 15 years) and will have no counterpart in Europe.

This is actually a great question - what is the best European startup accelerator? Anyone?

I still remember the first years of Seedcamp, which has since pivoted to an early stage VC fund, probably for better economic reasons. (I was actually on the very first Seedcamp batch in 2007).

As always, this can be a problem or a great business opportunity - however, if I were to build a startup accelerator today, I would do a vertical-based one.


Mauricio Garza 11:27 on 24 Apr 2020

Great insight and learning Dragos, thanks for a fact based description

Andrius Milinavičius 13:06 on 08 Mar 2021

Yes, in many ways you are correct. A huge part of accelerators only operate as real estate or google resellers. But in some cases those EU grants that are being distributed via these vehicles is something really valuable for entrepreneur mind. On the other hand, i personally, do see various accelerators that offer tailored, hands-on practices, give more problem solving and not only focus on presentation. YC is also famous by giving you few warm intro's at max, the rest depends on you, as a founder ;)