Seedcamp named top European accelerator, with Startupbootcamp closing in

Seedcamp, the London-based startup accelerator program which has been operating in Europe for the past four years, has been named the top European startup accelerator by a year-long independent study. However programmes run by Startupbootcamp in Europe took three of the remaining positions in the top eight named in the study. And three of the eight singled out are based in Ireland. The study was commissioned by the Kauffman Fellows Program in the US. I don’t know about you but I find these results fascinating, and they reveal quite a bit about the European startup scene as it stands today.

Seedcamp was singled out for its “Seedcamp Week” jumpstart where A-List mentors swarm over startups in London and described as the European “gold standard” of accelerator programs, with the biggest number of Alumni and three exits to date.

But Startupbootcamp (also an affiliate of TechStars Network), which has only got going in the last couple of years, appears to be in Seedcamp’s rear-view mirror with its programmes in Spain, Denmark and Ireland. Additional programs will be run in London and Berlin for 2012. They’ve even hired former TechCrunch France editor Roxanne Varza.

The study also found as many as 40 startup incubators in Europe, with 50% of them starting in 2010.

Here are the top eight identified by the study:

1. Seedcamp (pan-European)

2. Startupbootcamp Spain / Tetuan Valley

3. Startupbootcamp Denmark

4. Springboard (UK /Pan European)

5. Openfund (Greece / South Eastern Europe)

6. NDCR Launchpad (Ireland)

7. Propeller Venture Accelerator Fund (Ireland)

8. Startupbootcamp Ireland

Springboard, a Cambridge-based accelerator, took fourth place for providing seed capital, office space and a network of mentors and other entrepreneurs.

Interestingly the Openfund, based out of Greece but focusing on Southern Europe, has significant investment from the Piraeus Bank.

NDCR Launchpad is Ireland’s first accelerator program, is based at The Digital Hub in Dublin, runs a three month program and provides up to €20,000 in seed funding.

Propeller Venture Accelerator Fund took seventh and is run by Dublin City University’s Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship. And Startupbootcamp Ireland took home eighth place.

The study was put together Italy based venture capitalist Gianluca Dettori and Marco Ciccolini in conjunction with Aziz Gilani from DFJ Mercury. It was commissioned by the Kauffman Fellows Program, working in partnership with Tech Cocktail (blog post here) and the Kellogg School of Management.

Dettori reveals more details of his findings at the NESTA: Startup Factories event in London tomorrow.

The report was based on a set of scores, such that incubators scored 25 percentage points if they had had qualified financing events (companies that got funded after completing the program), 50 points for for successful companies coming out of an accelerator and 25 points on program characteristics (seed money levels, equity stake for the accelerator, and the size of the alumni base). The rankings were supplemented by interviews with VC’s, investors and past accelerator participants.

But according to TechCocktail: “Europe’s accelerator systems are just a few years behind those in the U.S. and while the U.S. is one single market, European innovation ecosystems are like islands, loosely connected.” Also, European incubators and accelerators often operate with different variations of the model due to the different environments. That’s fair comment in my opinion.

The reports authors say that only a handful of accelerator programs in Europe ended up qualifying. And I must admit I was surprised not to see HackFWD in this list – which provides a year-long programme – alongside The Difference Engine in the UK. The latter has processed 19 teams, with seven funded and £1.2m+ raised by startups, post-programme.

In addition Microsoft’s BizSpark (admittedly more of a marketing programme for startups based on MS technologies), Garage48 (Estonia) and The Founder Institute’s European events were not named, presumbly because they didn’t fit the criteria of ‘for profit, closed terms of less than a year and paid in equity’. Also LeCamping in France, a non-profit model, alongside AAlto in Finland and TechGarage in Italy did not meet the standard, as did others which charge startups for their services.

Thus this also this excluded Plug&Play in Silicon Valley and Pier38 in San Francisco.

The study also found that Accelerator programs are valued by VCs more for the connection to the venture community and educational value to entrepreneurs than for deal flow.

Dettori says that after a year of research they found 200 entities between the US and Europe “that were somehow active”. He says they found 40 incubators in Europe and many of them launched in the past twelve months.

If you want to know the top US incubators singled out by the study, here they are:

1. TechStars Boulder
2. Y Combinator
3. Excelerate Labs
4. LaunchBox Digital
5. TechStars Boston
6. Kicklabs
7. Techstars Seattle
8. Tech Wildcutter
9. Dreamit Ventures
10. The Brandery