Amongst the many accelerators that have a presence in Silicon Valley, the five that are most prominent are Y Combinator, Techstars, 500 Startups, StartX, and Plug and Play. Below we briefly profile each accelerator and note how corporates can become involved in the programs.
Y Combinator: Y Combinator was the first seed accelerator, having launched in 2005 in Cambridge, Massachusetts (later relocating to Mountain View). During its 13-year history, Y Combinator has been a part of setting the stage for how the majority of startup accelerators will be operated. The Y Combinator program includes “batches” (cohorts) of now up to 60 startups going through a structured program cumulating with a demo day for the startups to raise capital for their company. Startups going through Y Combinator today also receive $120,000 in exchange for 7% of their company. There is no sector focus for Y Combinator’s program and there is just the one geographic location for the program. Y Combinator is also notable for the creation of the SAFE (Simple Agreement for Future Equity), an investment structure similar to a convertible note that is commonly used by seed stage startups when seeking investment.
For enterprises wanting to become involved with Y Combinator, participation is limited to attending the Y Combinator Demo Day (held twice per year), which requires you to attend as a representative of a corporate venture capital fund or as an independent angel investor that is an accredited investor. You must apply to be inviting to Y Combinator's demo day.
Techstars: Founded in 2006, Techstars is a seed accelerator that operates batches each consisting of 10 companies. Startups exchange 6% of the common stock in their company for $20,000 in order to participate, while they also have the option to receive a $100,000 convertible note investment. Techstars operates its accelerators with a sector, geographic, or enterprise-specific focus. For example, Rakuten Viber recently launched a Techstars program in Singapore, becoming the first Techstars program in southeast Asia. Techstars is operating the program, having selected 10 startups to join the batch that have a product that could work with Viber. Meanwhile, Rakuten provides financial sponsorship for the program, mentorship, and the opportunity to launch a pilot with Viber. If an enterprise would like to become involved with Techstars, they can attend a Techstars demo day as a corporate venture capital fund representative or an independent angel investor that is an accredited investor, or they can explore sponsoring a Techstars accelerator.
StartX: StartX operates three 10-week accelerator sessions each year out of Palo Alto, offering founder community benefits thereafter for their program alumni. StarrX is unique in that startup participants must have at least one founder who attended Stanford and in that they are a non-profit and they take no equity from the companies that they work with. The StartX program began as a spin-off of the Stanford Student Enterprises, which is a campus organization, before becoming the educational non-profit it is today. Enterprises can engage with StartX as a partner, which is a paid sponsorship, in order to gain access to StartX events, companies, and founders.
500 Startups: 500 Startups is a seed stage accelerator that was founded in 2010. They run 4-month seed stage programs in San Francisco and Mexico City that invest $150,000 in the startups in exchange for 6% of the startup’s company, plus they charge a $37,500 program fee. Separately, they have a Series A program where they invest $100,000 to $250,000 on market terms, while charging a $25,000 to $50,000 fee for the 500 Startups community benefits. Through these programs, 500 Startups invests in startups globally. You can become involved with 500 Startups by applying to be an LP or by attending an event as a corporate venture capital fund representative or an independent angel investor that is an accredited investor
Plug and Play: Plug and Play is a startup accelerator and corporate innovation platform headquartered in Sunnyvale. They run two batches per year per accelerator, with accelerators concentrated across nine industries and 15 locations. They have a unique model in that they have multiple corporates sponsor each of the various accelerators and allow them to vote on the startups who will be a part of that accelerator batch. The purpose of this is that Plug and Play wants to admit startups that are likely to form a business relationship (either through a pilot program, proof of concept, or an investment) with the participating corporations. Plug and Play will also invest in startups, with those startups not needing to be a part of the accelerator. Lastly, they hold a pitch event at least once per week, and so the volume of startups that are exposed to Plug and Play is very high. If an enterprise would like to become involved with Plug and Play, they can attend a pitch event as a corporate venture capital fund representative or an independent angel investor that is an accredited investor, or they can explore being a sponsor for a Plug and Play accelerator.