What Makes Accelerators and Pre-Accelerators Effective

You may be familiar with our Accelerate Baltimore program, but do you know what makes accelerators effective?

Well firstly, startup accelerators help both investors and new entrepreneurs by providing investors with important information on startups in their programs. Jonathan Ortmans explained, “Accelerators provide those financiers [business angels and VCs] a service in many ways, through their structures and processes that allow them to make these types of decisions, and push ‘investor-ready’ startups further down the pipeline.”

The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs put out a major research report titled, “What’s Working in Startup Acceleration: Insights from Fifteen Village Capital Programs” in March of this year. They assembled a panel of Village Capital program experts and asked them to brainstorm all of the possible reasons for the differences between high-performing and low-performing startups in accelerators. They then took the top 7 predictions given by the experts and then used quantitative and qualitative methods to see which of the 7 predictions were supported by their data and which were not. Here are the predictions that they found were supported:

  • Partner quality improves program performance

    • Relative to those that worked on the low-performing programs, these organizations were described as “engaged”; “putting entrepreneurs first”; and “contributing to program content.”

  • Time spent on program-related activities lowers program performance

    • Rather than spending as much time as possible delivering program content, high-performing programs tended to set aside more time for entrepreneurs to work on their own. According to program managers, the percentage of time spent working with other entrepreneurs and/or mentors (versus working on their own) was 53% for the high-performing programs and 83% for low-performing programs.

  • Quality of the applicant pool improves program performance

    • The high-performing programs had smaller applicant pools on average. However, their applicants tended to have more intellectual property and more educational, entrepreneurial and senior management experiences.

  • Mentor quality improves program performance

    • High-performing programs connected entrepreneurs with a larger number of mentors. However, this did not translate into more time spent with mentors overall.

You might be thinking, but what if my startup isn’t ready for an accelerator yet? Well, that is what pre-accelerators like Pioneer Baltimore are for. These pre-accelerator programs are ideal for first-time entrepreneurs and recent college graduates. Pre-accelerators create programming for those very early in the startup process- the idea stage.

What is a pre-accelerator exactly? Here are some key goals to get you started:

  1. Provide tools and knowledge

  2. Find problem/solution fit

  3. Foster entrepreneurial mindset

  4. Build the local ecosystem

  5. Get into accelerators

(from Startup Pirates)


Pioneer Baltimore is an 8 week pre-accelerator program designed to help future entrepreneurs turn their ideas into action. During the program, you will be paired with a mentor who will  provide you with advice. Whether you want to develop a business plan or create a prototype, Pioneer Baltimore can help you on your way. Take the first step and apply today!