Louise Beavers writes for Entrepreneur magazine, and identifies the top 10 accelerators around the world
Innovation is everywhere. Silicon Valley is no longer the center of the tech universe: Berlin is a creative hub, Seoul has a vibrant startup ecosystem, Tel Aviv is the leader in security software, London has a growing financial tech center, Shenzhen is ground zero for hardware startups, and Hangzhou is home to Alibaba and its e-commerce offspring.
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In China alone, there are an estimated 5,000 incubators, and the number is growing. But China is not the only one; every major economy is experiencing a startup explosion, much of it fueled by government money.
With all the activity, who are the major accelerators globally? We did our homework and came up with ten names you should be paying attention to. We judged them on a number of criteria, with the following taking precedence:
- Quality of startup education and training
- Connections to global strategic partners
- Access to local venture capital
- Worldwide reach and network
- Reputation and brand
1. Founders Space
Founders Space has gone through a massive global expansion over the past 18 months, adding new offices and partnerships all over the world. Known for the quality of its startup training, instructors fly all over the world educating startups. Founders Space now has over 50 partners in 22 countries and regularly runs programs in China, Taiwan, Korea, Europe and the Americas.
Founders Space has established its Asian headquarters in Shanghai and is opening up incubators in China’s top cities, which has created a huge amount of press for them, and given them a leadership position in Asia. With China being the largest market in the world at 1.3 billion consumers, this is no small thing.
Founders Space also has one of the strongest investor networks, with top-tier VCs from all across Asia, Europe and America participating. If you’re a startup and want an accelerator with a strong global presence and top-notch education, Founders Space hits the sweet spot.
Techstars has done an incredible job building their brand, and they now run programs in London, Israel, Germany, Canada, Australia and, of course, America. They started in Boulder, Colorado, but have grown into a global organization. Techstars Ventures has $265M under management, and they are currently investing out of their third fund.
Part of their strategy is to partner with big corporations. They use the term “powered by Techstars” and offer their expertise to specialized programs targeted at sectors focused around the needs of their corporate partners. Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator in Philadelphia, Barclays Accelerator in New York, London & Tel Aviv, The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator in Los Angeles, and SAP.iO Foundry in Berlin all count themselves among the partners of Techstars.
Techstars also has Target, SONY Music, Warner Music Group, Amazon, SONOS and METRO as some of their other backers. If a startup is looking for a specialized accelerator with ties to global corporations, this is the right choice.
While they aren’t as focused on education and training, they hit homeruns when it comes to connecting startups with corporations. They have dozens of corporate partners from all over the world, including Intuit, Credit Suisse, Honeywell, Bosch, Panasonic, and the list goes on.
PlugAndPlay has expanded to 22 locations around the world, with most of those locations closer to co-working spaces than accelerators. But because of their sheer size, they are able to offer real value. This gives them an edge, especially when working with overseas governments and multinationals. To their credit, they invest in around 100 startups a year and have built a brand recognized around the world.
4. 500 Startups
While they are huge, they aren’t as focused on opening up overseas accelerators. Instead of training overseas startups, they have transformed themselves into a global venture fund. In fact, 500 Startups has a dizzying variety of funds. They have raised capital from all over the world, including Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and the Middle East. Just take a look at their fund list:
Fund IV – fourth global flagship fund
500 Luchadores II – regional fund focusing on Spanish speaking Latin America
- 500 Fintech – vertical fund with fintech focus
- 500 Kimchi – regional fund focusing on Korea
- 500 Durians II - regional fund focusing on SE Asia
- 500 Istanbul – regional fund focusing on Turkey
- 500 Falcons – regional fund focusing on the Middle East and North Africa
- 500 Startups Vietnam – regional fund focusing on Vietnam
- 500 Canada - regional fund focusing on Canada
Clearly, they are the #1 accelerator when it comes to funding global startups at an early stage, and this alone has earned them a place on our list.
5. Y Combinator
(YC) had to be on this list simply because they are the best known of all the accelerators in the world. They are truly a global brand.
While they are #1 in name recognition because of their phenomenal success in Silicon Valley, they don’t offer as much abroad in terms of local training, education and funding. YC’s real strength is in bringing startups from all over the world to the United States and turning them into Silicon Valley companies. They also have a large fund, a sterling reputation, and an active alumni group. If you’re looking for a halo effect, YC has it.
Offering a global family of industry-focused accelerators, Startupbootcamp runs 19 programs around the world, including food tech, Internet of Things, financial tech, smart cities and smart transportation. These are located in cities like Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome, Barcelona, Mumbai, New York, Signapore, Cape Town and Istanbul.
Arguably the #1 global accelerator for hardware startups, Hax has done an incredible job at building a hardware-centric ecosystem. They are located in Shenzhen, the hardware capital of the world, and provide soup-to-nuts training and guidance for startups. They are also part of the SOSV family of accelerators, which includes INDIEBIO, FOOD-X, URBAN-X, CHINACCELERATOR, MOX and others. The combination of all of these is what puts it on our list of top global accelerators.
Right up there with Hax when it comes to building out an ecosystem for hardware startups, Highway1 are located in San Francisco but have their roots in Shenzhen. Backed by PCH International, one of the leaders in bringing electronics from conception to consumer, they offer a range of services. These include everything from design engineering to manufacturing, scaling, and fulfillment. If you’re a hardware startup, this is a good place to start.
Another world leader, Techcode has established incubators in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Gu'an, Silicon Valley, Seoul, Tel Aviv, and Berlin. Techcode is backed by CFLD (China Fortune Land Development), a giant in the Chinese real estate business. Because they are well-financed and well-connected, they can bring a lot of resources to the table.
Last but not least, InnoSpring have set up in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Germany, Kunshan, Nantong and Shanghai. They were one of the early Chinese accelerators to land in the Valley and make a name for themselves. They are going strong and we expect them to keep expanding.
That sums up our top picks for global accelerators for overseas startups. You can’t go wrong with anyone on this list. They are all excellent, and each offers its blend of unique services and value.