The UK is today home to nearly 200 accelerators, drawing on the model pioneered in California by Y Combinator — an early backer of Airbnb, Dropbox and Reddit.
Unlike VCs, accelerators gamble on very nascent founders — often before they even have a product or team. That means picking winners is especially difficult, and it’s tricky to know which programmes are performing.
To put them to the test, Sifted’s team analysed the portfolios of the nine most active UK accelerators between 2011 and 2018. They’re ranked by the percentage of portfolio companies that have since gone on to raise external funds. We’ve also looked at the percentage of startups that have raised more than £40m and are still active.
This analysis, created in conjunction with Beauhurst, is particularly noteworthy given many accelerators take government and EU funds.
The results are as follows:
On average, these nine accelerators see strong survival rates, with 79% of the attendee pool still registered on Companies House. This beats the standard success rate for UK startups, where only 40% survive their third anniversary.
The odds of getting VC backing are also good. On average, 55% of the startups sampled got external funding after attending, according to Beauhurst.
Nonetheless, it’s still early days for finding superstars — just 3% have gone on to raise north of £40m.
Within this, the best performing accelerator was Tech Nation’s UK growth programme Upscale, founded in 2016. Their portfolio companies were most likely to get funded and to raise a serious round.
This makes sense given Upscale acts more like a VC by only accepting founders at Series A, counting alumni like Improbable, Bloom and Wild, Dext and Depop.
Entrepreneur First also ranks well among the generalist, early-stage accelerators. The programme told Sifted that just over 60% of those who presented at Demo Day in London (2011-18) went on to raise external capital.
Founders who reach Demo Day are already considered the cream of the cohort. Just 40-50% of those accepted by Entrepreneur First are invited to form companies to present at Demo Day, after three months.
Accelerators have limited capacity and can only support a fraction of the new tech businesses that start every year.
At Infintec we like our clients to have a team and a clear technically innovative product – our role is to make sure that team is pointed in the right direction and gets the funding and growth it needs and deserves.