Who Gets Into Accelerators? Persistent Men With SaaS Apps, Says Study

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What kind of startups get into Accelerators? Well, according to new research, it’s startups with around 2-3 founders, most male, often SaaS platforms and ones who are persistent, applying for at least two programs. And on average, less than 4% of applicants ever make it in.

Those are the findings of new research from F6S, a web portal which allows startups to apply for multiple accelerator programs, as well as offering other services, such as aggregating deals and advertising jobs.

F6S found that, on average, 3.98% of applicants to the 1,564 Accelerator programs that ran their application process through F6S between February 2013 to February 2014, were accepted into Accelerator programs. The results are based on 62,262 applications from over 150,000 founders in 95 countries.

Of course, these are F6S’s figures and don’t take into account applications to accelerators that were not run through it’s platform. However, these are high figures, and acceptance rates gleaned in different ways are rarely available in the same way.

The stats show that it’s not necessarily easier to get into an accelerator program in one country versus another, as the regional acceptance rates were competitive overall and varied broadly, ranging from:

-3.78% in the United States
-3.67% in Europe
-5.09% in South America
-5.12% in Asia
-5.38% in Australia/New Zealand.

That said, the overall acceptance rates for Accelerators ranged from a low of 0.41% (roughly 1 in 244) to a high of 55% (roughly 1 in 2). It’s not known which accelerator(s) had such a high acceptance rate.

The difficulty of getting into the top programs may gradually be eased by the fact that there is now a wide proliferation of vertical accelerators in areas such as healthcare, transportation etc. Anecdotally, verticals may be easier than broad-brush ones that have big public profiles.

In terms of make-up, F6S found that the Startups that apply and successfully enter Accelerators, on average, appear to have 2-3 founders and are overwhelmingly male. The figures were almost exactly the same for unsuccessful applicants. The exact figures were: 2.3 founders (vs. 1.9 founders for rejected startups) and founders that are 86.8% Male and 13.2% Female (vs. 85.2% Male and 14.8% Female for rejected startups).

The study’s results may well raise a few questions. Either low numbers of women founders are applying for accelerators, or the gate-keepers for accelerators are somewhat closed-minded — or a combination of both.

The top 10 industry areas for startups that are successful in getting into Accelerators are:

- Web Applications/SaaS 36%
- Mobile 15.3%
- Media 12.4%
- Marketing 12.3%
- E-Commerce 9.2%
- Data and Analytics 8.9%
- Advertising 8.8%
- Social Networking 7.6%
- Entertainment 7.5%
- Education 6.7%

Many successful applicants failed multiple times before they got a place in an Accelerator. The startups that were accepted had tried an average of 3.34 programs on F6S, while unsuccessful applicants took a shot at only 1.8 programs. In other words, try at a couple more and you might get in. Persistence wins.

We asked F6S if they thought the 3.98% average acceptance rate they’d come up with was below or above industry averages, or about right?

Sean Kane, F6S Co-Founder (with Jon Bradford, who happens to also lead TechStars London) thinks: “The range of acceptance levels from a low of 0.41% up to double digit rates is interesting me as well as an indicator of the diversity in the sector and the entrance of new Accelerators that are still building towards a competitive program.”

Kane added: “These results not only provide the first global view of who gets into an Accelerator, but also support key lessons we’ve learned as an ecosystem — like success is a group effort and the only way to win is to fail along the way.”

F6S claims that that about 90% of Accelerators globally, including two-thirds of the top fifteen programs, use the platform to take applications, manage community and select successful applicants. Among the top 15 they name are TechStars, AlphaLab, Capital Innovators and The Brandery.

F6S says over 250,000 founders and 47,000 startups globally used its site to access free deals from service providers, funding listings and recruiting tools.