A Rocket or a Runway?

Examining Venture Growth during and after Acceleration

May 2021

This report examines the performance of early-stage ventures applying to accelerator programs using various growth metrics before, during, and after acceleration. Based on a unique sample of 2,599 ventures applying to 212 accelerator programs, we compare the trajectories of those that ultimately did and did not participate in these programs to learn more about changes in revenue and financing over time. We also compare outcomes across programs and synthesize insights from interviews with high-performing entrepreneurs and accelerator program managers to understand how acceleration can drive longer-term venture development.

This report is available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Read Report       Revisa el Reporte      Ver Relatório

Key Takeaways:

  • Accelerated ventures continue to grow in measurable ways past their acceleration period. On average, accelerated ventures outperform non-accelerated ventures in terms of both revenue growth and financing, and these differences increase over time.
  • Accelerated ventures exhibit steadier growth than non-accelerated ventures. While performance during the year of acceleration positively correlates with the subsequent year’s performance for all ventures, the association is stronger among accelerated ventures.
  • Most accelerated ventures experience modest growth, with the majority of growth accounted for by ventures that are in the top 25% of performers. The median venture participating in an accelerator program does not experience rapid growth; instead, a small minority of ventures ”capture” most of the benefits of acceleration.
  • Even within the group of top performers, accelerated ventures outperform non-accelerated ventures. Among the 25% of ventures with the greatest growth, accelerated ventures are over-represented and exhibit faster performance than non-accelerated ventures.
  • Top-performing ventures have more financial resources at the time of application than other ventures. The benefits of acceleration are not spread evenly among ventures, with those having more financial resources at the outset showing greater growth.
  • High-performing entrepreneurs point to certain aspects of the acceleration experience as being particularly important for driving growth. In particular, peer networking, strategic introductions, support in business model development and pivoting, and signaling effects are perceived to play an important role in propelling ventures forward.
  • Entrepreneurs also indicated ways in which accelerators fall short. Other high-performing entrepreneurs did not attribute any of their successes to the acceleration experience, citing a poor match of program offerings with their needs, an over-emphasis on investment over business fundamentals, a lack of meaningful connections with investors, and a lack of cohort cohesion.
  • Accelerator program managers emphasize that venture growth paths differ significantly. When asked when and how accelerated ventures should be growing financially, accelerator program managers emphasized how the timing and type of growth differs significantly based on the venture’s stage and sector.