Hang up a map of Europe on the wall. Throw a dart at it. If you’ve managed to hit land, chances are pretty high that you’ve hit upon a region where there’s an active startup business accelerator.

To wit, there’s an ever-growing number of seed acceleration programs popping up across Europe, to the extent where it’s getting difficult to keep track of all of them. In fact, even doing a headcount is a challenge.

It doesn’t help that there are different types of business accelerators, and even the definition of an ‘accelerator’ isn’t set in stone. We gave it a shot anyway, and wonder out loud whether there’s an over-abundance of startup accelerators operating in Europe today – or vice versa.

Y Combinator blazed a trail that has been walked by many, including in Europe

Inarguably, Y Combinator was the first of its kind when it started in March 2005, and its success has inspired many to follow into its footsteps, often by outright copying its modi operandi.

In Europe, the biggest names are international startup accelerators like Seedcamp, TechStars London (formerly Springboard), Founder Institute and Startupbootcamp. Other notable pan-European initiatives include Startup Weekend, Launch48, GameFounders, Garage48 and StartupBus Europe.

Then, there are an increasing number of big corporation-backed accelerators such as Wayra (Telefónica), hub:raum (Deutsche Telekom), Orange FAB (Orange), the ProSiebenSat.1 Accelerator, the Axel Springer Plug & Play Accelerator, Bonnier’s Accelerator, BBC Worldwide Labs, Mediafax’s M.incubator, Pearson’s Catalyst for Education and Yandex’s Tolstoy Summer Camp.

Perhaps not a big surprise, but notable nonetheless: Europe’s telecom and media companies are seemingly most keen to set up accelerators and incubators of their own.

And then, there’s a plethora of regional startup acceleration programs, some private and some government-backed. A hopelessly non-exhaustive list includes the likes of Startup Wise Guys and Buildit (Estonia), Ignite100, Bethnal Green Ventures, dotforge, Beta Foundry and Oxygen (UK), Rockstart (The Netherlands), OpenFund and The Accelerator (Greece), Le Camping and Nextstars (France), betaFACTORY (Norway), DCU Ryan Academy’s Propeller Venture Accelerator and NDRC Launchpad (Ireland), Black Forest Accelerator, German Silicon Valley Accelerator (Germany), TechPeaks, SeedLab and H-Farm / H-Camp (Italy), Huge Thing and Gamma Rebels (Poland), Startup Sauna (Finland), SICS (Sweden), Startup Yard and StarCube (Czech Republic), StartupHighway (Lithuania), Beta-i (Portugal), Startup Reykjavik (Iceland), Tetuan Valley and SeedRocket (Spain), ZIP (Croatia), Eleven, LAUNCHhub and 3Challenge (Bulgaria), Idealabs and NEST’up (Belgium), Garage (Moldova), TexDrive and Farminers (Russia), ACME Labs and iCatapult (Hungary), Eastlabs (Ukraine), Elevator, 8200 EISP and UpWest Labs (Israel), Inovent, Etohum and Fit Startup Factory (Turkey).

In case we’ve lost you there: we’ve listed about 70 active startup accelerators above, and by our count, that’s not even close to the total number of accelerators operating in Europe today.

First things first: what makes an accelerator?

Startup accelerators are a relatively new, ‘modern’ breed of for-profit business incubators, which typically attract small teams through an open application process and provide a select number of fledgling technology companies with seed funding, mentoring, training and more, for a limited time.

While anyone with an idea can theoretically apply to an accelerator, the chances of actually getting in are very slim indeed: U.S.-based accelerators like Y Combinator and TechStars boast application acceptance rates between 1 percent and 3 percent.

Usually, a program lasts about 3 months, though some accelerators’ programs run longer, up to 6 months and even a full year for some. Your average accelerator doesn’t charge for the privilege, but takes an equity stake in participating startups, typically between 6 and 12 percent.

After ‘graduating’, startups are supposed to have used the capital, mentorship and feedback to gradually evolve into a viable business, or at least to a point where the team is able to convince more deep-pocketed investors to make a bet on them.

Who’s keeping track, anyway?

Let’s take a look at the available resources out there to get an idea of how many active startup accelerators currently operate in Europe.

In March 2012, there was a noteworthy attempt to create a comprehensive list of European accelerator programs called Startup Factories – which grew out of an eponymous NESTA research report published the year before – but it hasn’t been actively maintained, and thus no longer gives us a full picture of just how many startup accelerators there are in Europe.

Another helpful but waning resource is Seed-DB, founded by Jed Christiansen, a member of Google’s EMEA Channel Sales team in London. Much like Startup Factories, Seed-DB offers a great but hardly complete overview of accelerators, and efforts to keep it up-to-date seem to have dwindled in recent times. In an email conversation, Christiansen tells me that this boils down to how one defines an accelerator, but we think the Seed-DB list is missing out on quite a few programs in Europe either way.

Startup community F6S, meanwhile, lists more than 600 accelerators and programs across Europe, but that’s counting many separate programs and there’s no way to filter down to accelerators only.

GigaOm once created a list of startup accelerators as well, but it, too, has become outdated.

Earlier this year, the European Commission set up a Startup Europe Accelerator Assembly in an effort to connect accelerators with policymakers, and to strengthen the support environment for Web entrepreneurs in Europe. While laudable, it’s a far cry from representative for the time being: clearly, the forum could use more active members and supporters from all across the EU to bring it up to speed.

In the interest of being complete, there’s something called the Global Accelerator Network, but it’s a rather selective community and filtering down to Europe currently shows a mere 8 startup accelerators that apparently meet the criteria.

That leaves us without a clear answer, so Tech.eu decided to have a go at it and come up with a new, comprehensive list of active startup business accelerators in Europe.

Making it count: how many startups accelerators are in Europe, and how many are enough?

Using the above definition of an accelerator as a guideline, we found that there are currently approximately 141 active European acceleration programs, although some are put on by the same accelerator in different locations. Taking that into account, we ultimately listed 94 organizations that we would classify as startup accelerators operating somewhere in Europe.

We’ve organized the data to show all the active startup accelerators we could find in Europe on this interactive map (zoom in for more detail).

For the sake of clarity: we included corporation-backed, government-funded and vertical accelerators, as well as U.S. accelerators with operations in Europe, and opted not to include clear-cut company incubators or ‘startup studios’ such as Team Europe or Rocket Internet.

As stated, there is a degree of subjectivity to the definition of ‘accelerator’. Consequently, there are many fine programs that do not fulfil all specified criteria.

The Israel office of Exodus Hub, for example, rents its space to startups. Novelook, also situated in Israel, invests in an idea and seeks the right entrepreneurs to become founders, rather than focussing on established company. Bento doesn’t take any equity in its companies. Latvia’s Eegloo doesn’t offer office space to the startups, while the University of Surrey 100 Club is an angel investment fund, with close ties to other programs, but does not really run an in-house accelerator.

Furthermore, there are many accelerator-like initiatives that do not fit all the criteria for inclusion in the list. Organizations like Startup Weekend and Startup Bus, mentioned above, are programs that last only a few days, and are designed more as a platform for entrepreneurs to meet, create ideas, and form teams for the future. Neither actively invests in ‘graduates’.

Still, if you think there’s an accelerator missing, please let us know.

In such a relatively small part of the world, a total of just under 100 active startup accelerators appears to be an extremely high number and the number actually runs much higher if you define the concept more loosely.

Still, there are some who argue that there aren’t enough accelerators in Europe, and that will likely never be, just like there could never be enough business angel investors to go around. There’s something to be said for that, as the possibilities for attracting early-stage capital are scarce in many a European country or region, and accelerators are one possible way of meeting founders’ needs.

Ultimately though, the quality of the accelerator in question is what matters, and whether entrepreneurs are better off joining them rather than going it alone or by other means (e.g. crowd-funding). Next week, we’ll go deeper into what differentiates accelerators from one another, and add some industry perspectives from insiders to the mix.

But let’s hear from you.

Do you think 94 startup accelerators is far too high a number for Europe? Or not enough?

Featured image credit: Peter Gudella / Shutterstock

  • Sam Wakoba

    Awesome!

  • Alexander Dresen

    Thanks for a great post Robin! On the situation in Russia: there are accelerators/incubators being created all the time. The ones you mentioned Farminers and Texdrive aren’t active anymore. Texdrive was a failure, ran out cash and could’t raise for a next batch. Farminers hasn’t had a batch since 2012 although Igor Matsanuyk continues to invest actively in startups.

    Most accelerators/incubators in Russia are managed by non-entrepreneurs, which is the main reason why they (and their residents) have a high mortality rate.

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  • Mike van Hoenselaar

    I think the main issue is that a lot of startups don’t know why they join an accelerator or why that particular one. Most of them are still in it for the funding.
    That needs to change imo. Some accelerators are a lot better then others for that particular startup.
    Love to hear what you guys think.

    • http://nicole-simon.eu nicolesimon

      I hear you. And sadly it goes so much deeper than that, many startups I see here in Beriln (not just in accelerators) have problems organizing an efficient meeting … how are they supposed to be doing the bigger stuff? :)

      Also a lot of bias against corporate ones, instead of looking at it objectively in the sense of “what is this, how can I make use of it and how do I get the most out of it”.

  • http://jcvangent.com/ Hans van Gent

    Thanks for including the StartupBus in their Robin, feel very honoured about this. You are missing the amazing work of http://searchcamp.co/ in your overview btw. They are doing amazing work up in Middlesbrough which recently even got crowned by a Royal award: https://bdaily.co.uk/entrepreneurship/25-11-2013/teesside-universitys-global-entrepreneurship-week-is-crowned-by-a-royal-award/

  • therealchiko

    Great read!

  • Peter van Sabben

    For the startups that are interested to join an international startup accelerators or wants to know more about startup accelerators, there is a unique event Wednesday 4th of Dec with Startupbootcamp, Techstars and Seedcamp in London. It’s going to be live streamed on TechCityNews. Info or tickets: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-startup-accelerators-tickets-8809674975

    • Fahim

      Sounds interesting, thanks for sharing Peter!

  • Ibis Lilley

    Very interesting read! Hard to access the value of working with accelerators and what you would be getting in return for 6-12% equity… It doesn’t seem to be in the interest of the accelerator or even possible for them to give their all for every startup they work with. So the start-ups ranked at the bottom by their accelerator who then go on to be a big success (with relatively less accelerator support) are in effect losing a lot of equity for what they actually get. I suppose that the nature of the risk.

    • http://nicole-simon.eu nicolesimon

      If the only thing you look at is equity, you are looking at the wrong part of the equation.

      And this is not a magic thing which will happen to you, you still have to put in the work as well as make it work for you. Part of being an entrepreneur is that you are in the driving seat – taking a back seat while being in an accelerator is not what you should be doing …

      • Ibis Lilley

        I agree with you entirely that the entrepreneur must be in the driving seat that is why the onus is on the accelerators to demonstrate the value they bring. If the accelerator is a genuine business opportunity broker who opens a lot of doors which leads to bigger & greater things that’s wonderful. But if it little more than office space and the occasional pointers & pep talks, in return for 6-12 % equity, you have to ask questions…

        • http://nicole-simon.eu nicolesimon

          Yes. But that would require the people to ask questions – and also to ask the right question. Sadly most only ask for the office space, the equity etc and not much more. I however think not that the accelerator has to do “anbiedern”, cozying up, having to play nice – it is a business deal after and there is competition. IF they have things which are worth something, that I don’t see a reason why they should be required to ‘desperately’ attract founders either. ;)

          • http://babich.me/ Michael Babich

            There should probably be some kind of educational process involved by every accelerator to improve success rate and make it more clear to startups of what to expect and what could be done with the help of the accelerator. Some provide real value, some make more undelivered promises. Some startups need money to build a product and professional mentoring to leverage time in an accelerator, other need help on finding product/market fit and pitching. These are very different tasks. If an accelerator offers mostly pitch training, general talks by travelling entrepreneurs/mentors, office, small money and free deals for XXX amount (usually available anyway for everybody via F6S), for really early stage startups it is probably awesome. For more mature ones, that need professional expertise and connections, it looks more like not enough value and not what they expected as all they can use is just office space and a little bit of money.

            So, you are right. Startups should do homework. But accelerators also should educate startups on what would they get and clearly align values they offer. Not some general, looking like cloned texts, one can find almost on any accelerator web-site.

  • Draizee

    Great Article Robin! I love a good interactive map : )

    Living and working in Shoreditch, the so-called ‘Silicon Roundabout’ area of London, I find this sudden influx of Accelerators fascinating.

    The immediate promise of office space, mentoring and funding all sounds great (especially when you are keen to get your idea off the ground!). However, I fear that in practice you are giving away equity for things that, as a startup entrepreneur, you have to learn to do for yourself anyway: find a space, get a mentor, build a team, get some funding….would love to hear more thoughts on this.

    Looking forward to the next post!

  • http://www.theequitykicker.com brisbourne

    Hi Robin – 94 is definitely too many. Working out how many of them are good would be very interesting. Maybe you could get people to vote on it.

    For completeness part of what we are doing here at Forward Partners has accelerator like elements to it – approx half our portfolio companies sit with us in our offices for a year (4-6 at any one time) and we work hard to help them succeed – mostly through our team of expert operators. We’re not accelerator number 95 though!

    cheers,
    Nic

    • http://nicole-simon.eu nicolesimon

      Why would there be too many? And accelerator one can be good at things for a startup where accelerator b is not – and be completely different for other startups.

      I agree however with you on the fact that most startups would be better suited with a strong guiding programm before they can go into acceleration – you do not send a person to university if they cannot count 5+6*7 correctly.

      Clever startups understand how to take good advantage of others expertise and funnel that into what they need in a leap frogging kind of way.

  • David Quinn

    Great article and list of accelerators. Would it be possible to wikify the info somewhere (either a google doc or adding it to wikipedia) so that the list can be updated?

  • http://babich.me/ Michael Babich

    Great read, Robin. It would be interesting to put a light on the good ones and failed, but still active. Or may be to do some comparison of distinct features of both.

    For example, there is TechPeaks in Trento, Italy. It’s managed by bureaucrats, not business people and uses government money. As a result it provided only undelivered promises and failures to execute properly on every step. Not to talk about accelerating anybody. Did not even managed to provide that 25K Euro that were in the call to the selected teams after whole six months of “accelerating”.

    It’s worth to put “be aware” sign on some accelerators for entrepreneurs not to waste valuable time playing accelerator hungry games instead of focusing on building their startup/product. There should be some kind of short guidance as to what kind/stage of a startup benefit from what kind/type of accelerators.

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  • Johan Ny

    There is a big need to nurture ideas and tech advances all over Europe. So, to have 94 accelerators according to your definition is to me not too many given the number of people with potential in the region. There are in fact, as you briefly mention, many more accelerators since all major universites have adjoined accelerators that turn researchers and scientists into entrepreneurs.
    I agree with you that it is vital to critically vet the accelerator advisors and track record before determining if it is worth the time and effort to join. The quality of advice must be safeguarded. Sweden have many publicly funded accelerators based on mostly soft money, great networks, and a step by step methodology for graduating promising new tech companies. Stockholm and the Öresund region with Copenhagen, Malmö and Lund all have great cases where this method have been efficient when combined with Angel investors and successful entrepreneurs working in teams. Sweden could be an interesting basis for a special report.
    Thank you for a very interesting article, I look forward to many more like it in the future.

    • http://nicole-simon.eu nicolesimon

      Great point on the strong need for nurturing. Also one should not forget that just because Europe has a certain size, it does not mean .eu just yet – it is still many many different markets and ecosystems which have different needs and requirements. Do you by any chance have a link to the “step by step methodology for graduating promising new tech companies” – if it is even available in english? ;) I would be interested in looking at that.

  • Leonard

    Why aren’t there as many accelerators in the US? The US tech industry seems to be doing quite well without them.

    • Johann Q

      Where did you get that from? In absolute numbers, there’s definitely more accelerators in California alone.

    • rob

      US has approx. 1400 Incubators.

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  • http://www.pawel.ch/ Pawel Chudzinski

    Great overview of the accelerator landscape in Europe, thx!

  • http://nicole-simon.eu nicolesimon

    It depends strongly on what the startup wants to achieve in which time frame, what they are willing to compromise on and how good they are at making it work for them. Simply put: No matter how ‘good’, ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ the accelerator may be, it will be your initiative and determination which will make it work or not.

    I am a mentor for both hub:raum and startupbootcamp here in Berlin and from my perspective, some of the teams struggled with the structure given as they where not ready for this way of acceleration or found out, they where not as ready as they thought. Others took beautiful advantage of the different options, especially with a corporate accelerator like hubraum there are tons of chances for introduction while at the same time there is a more corporate feel for it than rooftop terrace and ping pong tables. Startupbootcamp takes way more advantage of the global networking aspect into the community and so on. Each has pro and cons, only the startup can decide what to make of it.

    It is puzzling that a lot of conversation around joining an accelerator revolve just around “equity they take” – while that is true, it is also disappointing and not very business oriented: It does not really matter what the cost is, the return for that investment is relevant. And that can be money, contacts, mentoring, access to better job applicants, etc.

    It is a bit like getting a job: you need to do your research and decide if not only the “job” but also the “company” and your “colleagues” and you make a good fit. And in case the ‘payment’ on paper is not as high, what else can you get out of it? How are the conditions? How is the program structured? Will they help you learn things you need at a quicker pace than you could do on your own? What chances do you have? How and what can we leverage? What is expected of me / us?

    Basically do your homework. For participating startups I would strongly suggest to put in the time and effort to make it work for them – this may require more discipline than many “founders” feel comfortable with. Guess what, this is work and just a foreshadow of what your world will be like if you get to be a successful startup. ;)

  • Canadian Innovation Ecosystem

    Great article and commentary regarding the European accelerator landscape. We are trying to crowdsource a Canadian Innovation Ecosystem map at http:///www.caninnovation.ca . This is to deal with the omissions as people have mentioned by having multiple curators with a vested interest to ensure they are represented and information is correct. We have over 370 organizations/mentors and counting!

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  • philjeudy

    That’s a good question, Robin, because actually there is maybe no answer. It does not matter if there is too much, or not enough accelerators. Let’s speak about a country I know kind of well: France. There is a bunch of incubators, which are not necessarily accelerators, and some did exist since YC was even not an idea yet in Graham’s thoughts.

    What do you call “accelerator”? Some guys pitching well, knowing the history of Silicon Valley by heart, ready to tell you why Paypal became a mafia, and Dave Morin a super business angel? Promising you that within their program you’ll be able to pitch a VC with just a Powerpoint? Inviting some guys from Palo Alto to some event so to look like you’re a cool incubator, right?!

    This does exist. And it’s going to be nothing that we can expect to help people transform the team they host into a company ready to go further. Even somewhere :)

    There is no accelerator yet in France, just some tentatives to take the startup ecosystem and schmooze some grants here, and some $ or € there. It did not appear yet any equivalent of a YC or 500Startups or AngelPad where you have already some rockets that hit some scores or succesful stories enough to pretend you did good.

    I know Ukraine ecosystem a bit too. It’s just the beginning. Some local Taskrabbit are popping up, but going to do some parties in Silicon Valley does not make you a success factory. Folklore is not compatible with business. Rich people and potential investors know that, kids. Businesses too.

    Well, Europe needs “accelerator” to transform ideas that can merge with industrials in lack of innovation succesful processes. How to deal with this continent, before to go anywhere else. Europe needs good medias in this segment to emphasize the clarity of what that startup thing means, and where to go. Not necessarily to find the path to Silicon Valley, but to guide people with ideas and talent.
    Just the beginning, I tell you.
    All the best to you, Tech.eu

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  • startupeco

    Fongit in geneva is not compliant with your definition. It is a typical Swiss “accelerater”, which is effectively a mentored co-working space charging you for office space. Switzerland has more of this type but for me (and per your own definition) that is not an accelerator.

    Thanks for this article, great! I think it is still not enough (if you hear Wayra et al talking about application numbers and you mention the low acceptance rate yourself, how can that be enough?)

  • http://getGauss.com/ Vidar ‘blacktar’ Andersen

    Hi Robin, Great list! Thank you! Do you have any more information on the “BBC Worldwide Labs Cologne” ? I couldn’t find it on their web pages and no one here in CGN has heard about it (yet?)?

  • http://getGauss.com/ Vidar ‘blacktar’ Andersen

    BTW, I don’t know if you’d include university accelerators, but I recently visited Accelerate Cambridge and thought I should mention it. http://www.accelerate.jbs.cam.ac.uk/

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  • James McBennett

    Y-Combinator is a very specific accelerator that is technical-orientated founders, regularly the same business model throughout many of the companies (Connect A to B without need for any capital expenses and scale) and generally has the aim of not distracting founders by being relatively hands off with few mandatory things to attend. Tuesday Dinners + office hours, that’s all it is.

    Techstars on the other hand has a reputation of something entirely different, it floods startups with mentors to a level that they can no longer work on their business and gives a startup team a good opportunity to reflect on what they have built in the previous few months. It is not near as technically focused with more diversity in its teams.

    Then the Startup Chile model is something again differently that is more focused on bootstrapping entrepreneurs than those raising VC immediately and there are several more accelerator models out there. Many are looking for monthly recurring revenue right from the start.

    The mass copying of the accelerator model across Europe and the world is closer to the Techstars model than the Y Combinator one. The ‘why’ is an article in itself.

  • Alan Clayton

    Nice summary Robin. I know the SOSventures hardware accelerator ‘HAXLR8R’ is funded from Ireland but happens in China, but the SELR8R 50 day ‘sales accelerator’ qualifies surely ? Twice run in Ireland, and heading to UK in 2014. http://www.selr8r.com

  • liaonet

    SynBioAXLR8R.com is not listed neither is SELR8R both are in Cork Ireland.

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  • Frido Van Driem

    Great article, I have compiled a list of top accelerator programs in the world. Would be great to receive any suggestions or comments. You can view the list via https://startup.zeef.com/frido.van.driem1#block_153

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  • Daniel Tomov

    Thanks for the great article and the great effort behind! Most of the startup scenes in Europe (with few exceptions of course) are relatively young with fledgling startup funding and angel investing culture. Accelerators are just filling in the existing funding gaps and adding to the startup support infrastructure. Of course some are doing better than others…but as with startups the market should decide, which shall survive and thrive. In any case all these attempts have tremendous impact on the different startup scenes (the heated discussion just proves it). And Robin, Eleven is also part of GAN. Cheers!

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  • fakefighter

    Since when is Israel part of Europe?

    • http://robinwauters.com/ Robin Wauters

      It’s part of the European startup and technology industry as far as we’re concerned.

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  • ron_1986

    Great read robin. How would you define the difference an incubator and an accelerator?

    • http://robinwauters.com/ Robin Wauters

      See the ‘what makes an accelerator’ para for what we define as an accelerator. Incubators are entirely different beasts in my mind (primarily because startup incubators ‘nurture’ their portfolio longer and more closely, and backers get involved in a more ‘hands-on’ operational role).

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