Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter July 18, 2018

Where Do Accelerators Fit in the Venture Creation Pipeline? Different Values Brought by Different Types of Accelerators

  • Shu Yang ORCID logo EMAIL logo , Romi Kher and Thomas S. Lyons


Despite the emergence of startup accelerators as venture development organizations (VDOs) to high-growth firms, research has yet to identify where these accelerators fit into the venture development ecosystem. By clarifying and reviewing three different subsystems in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, our paper proposes that as an extension of the current incubation mechanism, accelerators contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem by transforming entrepreneurs and their ventures at early stages. Drawing upon the Pipeline model (Lichtenstein, G. A., and T. S. Lyons. 2006. “Managing the community's pipeline of entrepreneurs and enterprises: A new way of thinking about business assets.” Economic Development Quarterly 20 (4): 377–386.), we first plot where the accelerator model fits in the broader entrepreneurship ecosystem, and then demonstrate how different types of accelerators help participating entrepreneurs and their ventures progress along the venture development pipeline. Our theoretical approach contributes to both the entrepreneurship ecosystem and the accelerator literature and provides a practical map for both policymakers and early-stage entrepreneurs to manage and utilize their entrepreneurship ecosystem more effectively.


Table 1:

Literature review of accelerator studies.

NoAuthor and yearTypes of acceleratorResearch questionResearch methodKey findings
1Radojevich-Kelley and Hoffman 2012Seed acceleratorWhat do accelerators do and what are their results?Case study1)Accelerator companies use unique selection criteria and have higher success rates for their graduates;

2)Mentorship driven programs increase the overall success rates of start-ups by providing entrepreneurs with access to angel investors and venture capitalists which tend to increase success rates
2Winston, Hannigan, and Gasiorowski 2013General*Accelerators and crowd-funding: complementarity, competition or convergence in the earliest stages of financing new venturesQuantitative studyAccelerator-backed startups:

1)receive the first round of follow-up financing significantly sooner; are more likely to be either acquired or to fail;

2)are founded by entrepreneurs from a relatively elite set of universities; and

3)exhibit substantially greater founder mobility amongst other accelerator-backed startups.
3Cohen and Hochberg 2014GeneralWhat is the “accelerator” phenomenon?Conceptual studyDescribed:

1)value of these programs;

2)Definition of accelerator programs;

3)the differences between accelerators, incubators, angel investors and co-working environments; and

4)the importance of the various aspects of these programs to the ultimate success of their graduates, the local entrepreneurship ecosystems
4Fehder and Hochberg 2014GeneralAccelerators and the regional supply of venture capital investmentQuantitative studyMetropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) where an accelerator is established subsequently have more seed and early-stage entrepreneurial financing activity.
5Hallen, Bingham, and Cohen 2014Seed acceleratorWhether or not the “acceleration” effect exists?Quantitative study1)Acceleration effects are difficult to be achieved by all accelerators;

2)accelerators are complements to (and not substitute for) more experienced and connected founders
6Wise and Valliere 2014Seed accelerator, University acceleratorHow do accelerators’ managers’ experiences influence their performanceQuantitative studyThe direct startup experience of accelerator managers matters more than their connectedness to the ecosystem
7Regmi, Ahmed, and Quinn 2015GeneralAssess the effectiveness of acceleratorsDescriptive1)The number of accelerators in the US is in the rise, while the growth has slowed down significantly after a very high rise in 2012.

2)Startups that graduated from accelerator programs have approximately 23 % higher survival rate than other new businesses.
8Weiblen and Chesbrough 2015Corporate acceleratorsHow large corporations from the tech industry have begun to tap into entrepreneurial innovation from startups.Qualitative studyCorporate accelerator is one mechanism that corporate could use to engage with startups that balance speed and agility against control and strategic direction, and to bridge the gap between themselves and the startup world
9Hochberg 2016GeneralWhat is the “accelerator” model and their effects on regional environmentConceptual studySummarize prior conceptual studies on accelerators by describing the phenomenon, emphasizing its definitions, differentiating it from incubators, business angels, coworking spaces and venture capitalists, and identify current evolving trends
10Kanbach and Stubner 2016Corporate AcceleratorsWhat is the “corporate accelerator”? How do they function and why they exist?Qualitative studyIdentify four different types of corporate accelerators:

1)listening post;

2)Value chain investor;

3)Test laboratory;

4)Unicorn hunter.

Propose that they are different from each other in terms of their objectives and configurations.
11Kohler 2016Corporate AcceleratorsHow to design corporate accelerators in a more effective way?Quantitative studyTo leverage startups’ innovation and to make corporate accelerators an effective part of a firm's overall innovation strategy, managers need to systematically and thoughtfully consider the design dimensions of proposition, process, people and place
12Pauwels et al. 2016GeneralWhat is the “accelerator” model and its taxonomy based on different design logics?Qualitative studyIdentify

1)three design themes (categories) of accelerator model: “Ecosystem builder”, “Deal-flow maker”, “Welfare stimulator”, and

2)five design elements–program packages; strategic focus; selection process; funding structure; alumni relations
13Plummer, Allison, and Connelly 2016GeneralHow do accelerators magnify other “signals” of young ventures when they pursue financing opportunitiesQuantitative studyA startup's characteristics and actions are signals that remain relatively unnoticed unless a startup combines them with a third-party affiliation that enhances the signal's value, thus increasing the likelihood of receiving external capital
14Battistella et al. 2017GeneralHow can start-ups benefit from participation in an accelerator

program from an open innovation perspective?
Qualitative studyDyadic co-creation with accelerator network partners and crowdsourcing are revealed to be effective practices provided by accelerators that benefit startups most. But participating in accelerators cannot substitute the founding team intrinsic characteristics
15Cohen, Bingham, and Hallen 2017GeneralWhy some accelerators are more effective than others?Quantitative studyAccelerators that provide concentrated consultation, foster comparisons, and require activities can help participating entrepreneurs overcome their bounded rationality
16Gonzalez-Uribe and Leatherbee 2017Social Impact AcceleratorThe effects of business accelerators on venture performance: Evidence from start-up Chile?Quantitative studyEntrepreneurship schooling bundled with basic services can significantly increase new venture performance, but no support for causal effects of basic services by them own
17Goswami, Mitchell, and Bhagavatula 2018GeneralWhat intermediary role do accelerators play in developing regional entrepreneurship ecosystems?Qualitative studyAccelerator play a key intermediary role in linking founders to their regional entrepreneurship ecosystems; four accelerator expertise: connection, development, coordination, and selection
  1. *When authors did not specify which type of accelerators they studied, either they use “accelerator” as a broad item containing all types, or they simply refer to the most common type of accelerators: standalone seed accelerators

Table 2:

Entrepreneurs at different skill levels and commensurate service providers.

TechManagerialEntrepreneurialPersonalService Providers
MajorsOutstandingOutstandingOutstandingOutstandingVenture capitalists, Professional consulting practices, investment bankers, etc.
AAAHighHighHighHighAngel investors, emerging business consulting practices, university tech transfer offices
AAHighMediumMediumMediumManufacturing extension programs, small business development centers, small specialized venture funds, high-technology incubation programs, etc.
AHigh and/or mediumLowLowLowMicro-enterprise programs, small business development centers, business incubation programs, etc.
RookieLow and/or noLow and/or noLow and/or noLow and/or noMicro-enterprise programs, youth entrepreneurship programs, etc.
  1. Source: Adapted from Lichtenstein and Lyons (2006)

Table 3:

Venture Life Cycle Stages.

Stage 0This phase begins with either an interest or desire on the part of an entrepreneur to start a business, or an idea for a business, and ends with the emergence or birth of an organization with an economic offering (e. g., a produce or a service) ready to be sold to a potential client and to generate revenue.
Stage 1This phase begins when the business is launched (with a product or service ready for sale) and ends when the business has reached breakeven from sales. The business has passed the first preliminary test of survival—its offering has demonstrated some interest by a small set of customers, although acceptance by the “market” has not yet been demonstrated. Profitability has not yet been achieved, and the venture's continued viability (i. e., its ability to maintain a separate existence) is not assured;however, the business exhibits potential.
Stage 2This phase begins with breakeven from sales and if successful, ends with the establishment of a sustainable business—with either healthy or marginal profits. The latter pays a living wage (i. e., a “mom-and-pop” operation), whereas the former would be positioned to grow further. This level of economic viability or measure of stability has been achieved by securing and satisfying a critical mass of customers and producing sufficient cash flow to at least repair and replace the capital assets necessary to continue the business as those assets wear out. This assures the survival of the business as long as market conditions remain the same.


Allen, D. N., and R. McCluskey. 1990. “Structure, Policy, Services, and Performance in the Business Incubator Industry.” Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice 15 (2): 61.10.1177/104225879101500207Search in Google Scholar

Battistella, C., C. Battistella, A. F. de Toni, A. F. de Toni, E. Pessot et al. 2017. “Open Accelerators for Start-ups Success: A Case Study.” European Journal of Innovation Management 20 (1): 80–111.10.1108/EJIM-10-2015-0113Search in Google Scholar

Bergek, A., and C. Norrman. 2008. “Incubator Best Practice: A Framework.” Technovation 28 (1): 20–28.10.1016/j.technovation.2007.07.008Search in Google Scholar

Block, J. H., M. G. Colombo, D. J. Cumming, and S. Vismara. 2017. “New Players in Entrepreneurial Finance and why they are there.” Small Business Economics 59 (2): 239–250.10.1007/s11187-016-9826-6Search in Google Scholar

Bruton, G., S. Khavul, D. Siegel, and M. Wright. 2015. “New Financial Alternatives in Seeding Entrepreneurship: Microfinance, Crowdfunding, and Peer‐to‐Peer Innovations.” Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice 39 (1): 9–26.10.1111/etap.12143Search in Google Scholar

Bussgang, J. 2014. “Raising Startup Capital.” Harvard Business ReviewSearch in Google Scholar

Cohen, B. 2006. “Sustainable Valley Entrepreneurial Ecosystems.” Business Strategy and the Environment 15 (1): 1–14.10.1002/bse.428Search in Google Scholar

Cohen, S. 2013. “What do Accelerators do? Insights from Incubators and Angels.” Innovations 8 (3–4): 19–25.10.1162/INOV_a_00184Search in Google Scholar

Cohen, S., C. Bingham, and B. Hallen. 2017. Why are some Accelerators more Effective? Bounded Rationality and Venture Development. Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings 2017 (1): 11946.10.5465/AMBPP.2017.11946abstractSearch in Google Scholar

Cohen, S., and Y. V. Hochberg 2014. “Accelerating Startups: The Seed Accelerator Phenomenon.” Available at SSRN 2418000. Accessed from in Google Scholar

Dabson, B., C. Rist, and W. Schweke. 1994. Bidding for Business: Are Cities and States Selling Themselves Short?. Washington, DC: Corporation for Enterprise Development.Search in Google Scholar

Dee, N., D. Gill, C. Weinberg, and S. McTavis 2015. “Startup Support Programmes. What's the Difference.” NESTA, Accessed from in Google Scholar

Dempwolf, C. S., J. Auer, and M. D'Ippolito. 2014. Innovation Accelerators: Defining Characteristics Among Startup Assistance Organizations. Small Business Administration, Washington, DC.Search in Google Scholar

Fehder, D., and Y. Hochberg (2014). “Accelerators and the Regional Supply of Venture Capital Investment.” Social Science Research Network, Available at in Google Scholar

Feld, B. 2012. Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City. New York: John Wiley & Sons.10.1002/9781119204459Search in Google Scholar

Feldman, M. P. 2001. “The Entrepreneurial Event Revisited: Firm Formation in a Regional Context.” Industrial and Corporate Change 10 (4): 861–891.10.1093/icc/10.4.861Search in Google Scholar

Gonzalez-Uribe, J., and M. Leatherbee. 2017. “The Effects of Business Accelerators on Venture Performance: Evidence from Start-up Chile.” The Review of Financial Studies 31 (4): 1566–1603.10.1093/rfs/hhx103Search in Google Scholar

Goswami, K., J. R. Mitchell, and S. Bhagavatula. 2018. “Accelerator Expertise: Understanding the Intermediary Role of Accelerators in the Development of the Bangalore Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.” Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal 12 (1): 117–150.10.1002/sej.1281Search in Google Scholar

GUST, 2016. Global Accelerator Report 2016, Accessed from in Google Scholar

Hackett, S. M., and D. M. Dilts. 2004. “A Systematic Review of Business Incubation Research.” The Journal of Technology Transfer 29 (1): 55–82.10.1023/B:JOTT.0000011181.11952.0fSearch in Google Scholar

Hallen, B. L., C. B. Bingham, and S. Cohen 2014. “Do Accelerators Accelerate? A Study of Venture Accelerators as a Path to Success?.” Academy of Management Proceedings, 2014. 12955. Academy of Management.10.5465/ambpp.2014.185Search in Google Scholar

Hansen, M. T., H. W. Chesbrough, N. Nohria, and D. N. Sull. 2000. “Networked Incubators.” Harvard Business Review 78 (5): 74–84.Search in Google Scholar

Harrison, B., and S. Kanter. 1978. “The Political Economy of States’ Job-Creation Business Incentives.” Journal of the American Institute of Planners 44 (4): 424–435.10.1080/01944367808976921Search in Google Scholar

Hathaway, I. 2016. “Accelerating Growth: Startup Accelerator Programs in the United States.” Advanced Industry Series 81.Search in Google Scholar

Hochberg, Y. V. 2016. “Accelerating Entrepreneurs and Ecosystems: The Seed Accelerator Model.” Innovation Policy and the Economy 16 (1): 25–51.10.1086/684985Search in Google Scholar

Hochberg, Y. V., and D. C. Fehder. 2015. “Accelerators and Ecosystems.” Science 348 (6240): 1202–1203.10.1126/science.aab3351Search in Google Scholar

Isenberg, D. J. 2010. “How to Start an Entrepreneurial Revolution.” Harvard Business Review 88 (6): 40–50.Search in Google Scholar

Kanbach, D. K., and S. Stubner. 2016. “Corporate Accelerators as Recent form of Startup Engagement: The what, the why, and the how.” Journal of Applied Business Research 32 (6): 1761.10.19030/jabr.v32i6.9822Search in Google Scholar

Kenney, M., and D. Patton. 2005. “Entrepreneurial Geographies: Support Networks in Three High-Technology Industries.” Economic Geography 81 (2): 201–228.10.1111/j.1944-8287.2005.tb00265.xSearch in Google Scholar

Kohler, T. 2016. “Corporate Accelerators: Building Bridges between Corporations and Startups.” Business Horizons 59 (3): 347–357.10.1016/j.bushor.2016.01.008Search in Google Scholar

Koven, S. G., and T. S. Lyons. 2003. Economic Development: Strategies for State and Local Practice. Washington, DC: International City/County Management Association (ICMA).Search in Google Scholar

Lalkaka, R., and J. Bishop. 1996. Business Incubators in Economic Development: An Initial Assessment in Industrializing Countries. New York, NY: United Nations Development Programme.Search in Google Scholar

Lewis, D. A. 2001. Does Technology Incubation Work? A Critical Review. Economic Development Administration. Washington, DC: US Department of Commerce.Search in Google Scholar

Lichtenstein, G. A., and T. S. Lyons. 2001. “The Entrepreneurial Development System: Transforming Business Talent and Community Economies.” Economic Development Quarterly 15 (1): 3–20.10.1177/089124240101500101Search in Google Scholar

Lichtenstein, G. A., and T. S. Lyons. 2006. “Managing the Community's Pipeline of Entrepreneurs and Enterprises: A New Way of Thinking about Business Assets.” Economic Development Quarterly 20 (4): 377–386.10.1177/0891242406289365Search in Google Scholar

Lichtenstein, G. A., T. S. Lyons, and N. Kutzhanova. 2004. “Building Entrepreneurial Communities: The Appropriate Role of Enterprise Development Activities.” Community Development 35 (1): 5–24.10.1080/15575330409490119Search in Google Scholar

Lyons, T. S., and R. E. Hamlin. 2001. Creating an Economic Development Action plan: A Guide for Development Professionals. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.Search in Google Scholar

Mack, E., and H. Mayer. 2016. “The Evolutionary Dynamics of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems.” Urban Studies 53 (10): 2118–2133.10.1177/0042098015586547Search in Google Scholar

Mason, C., and R. Brown 2014. “Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and Growth Oriented Entrepreneurship.” Final Report to OECD, Paris, Accessed from in Google Scholar

Mian, S., W. Lamine, and A. Fayolle. 2016. “Technology Business Incubation: An Overview of the State of Knowledge.” Technovation 50: 1–12.10.1016/j.technovation.2016.02.005Search in Google Scholar

Motoyama, Y., and K. Knowlton. 2016. “Examining the Connections within the Startup Ecosystem: A Case Study of st Louis.” Entrepreneurship Research Journal 7: 1.10.1515/erj-2016-0011Search in Google Scholar

Neck, H. M., G. D. Meyer, B. Cohen, and A. C. Corbett. 2004. “An Entrepreneurial System View of New Venture Creation.” Journal of Small Business Management 42 (2): 190–208.10.1111/j.1540-627X.2004.00105.xSearch in Google Scholar

Patton, D., and M. Kenney. 2005. “The Spatial Configuration of the Entrepreneurial Support Network for the Semiconductor Industry.” R&D Management 35 (1): 1–16.10.1111/j.1467-9310.2005.00368.xSearch in Google Scholar

Pauwels, C., B. Clarysse, M. Wright, and J. Van Hove. 2016. “Understanding a New Generation Incubation Model: The Accelerator.” Technovation 50: 13–24.10.1016/j.technovation.2015.09.003Search in Google Scholar

Phan, P. H., D. S. Siegel, and M. Wright. 2005. “Science Parks and Incubators: Observations, Synthesis and Future Research.” Journal of Business Venturing 20 (2): 165–182.10.1016/j.jbusvent.2003.12.001Search in Google Scholar

Plummer, L. A., T. H. Allison, and B. L. Connelly. 2016. “Better together? Signaling Interactions in New Venture Pursuit of Initial External Capital.” Academy of Management Journal 59 (5): 1585–1604.10.5465/amj.2013.0100Search in Google Scholar

Radojevich-Kelley, N., and D. L. Hoffman. 2012. “Analysis of Accelerator Companies: An Exploratory Case Study of their Programs, Processes, and Early Results.” Small Business Institute Journal 8 (2): 54–70.Search in Google Scholar

Regmi, K., S. A. Ahmed, and M. Quinn. 2015. “Data Driven Analysis of Startup Accelerators.” Universal Journal of Industrial and Business Management 3 (2): 54–57.10.13189/ujibm.2015.030203Search in Google Scholar

Rotefoss, B., and L. Kolvereid. 2005. “Aspiring, Nascent and Fledgling Entrepreneurs: An Investigation of the Business Start-up Process.” Entrepreneurship & Regional Development 17 (2): 109–127.10.1080/08985620500074049Search in Google Scholar

Scillitoe, J. L., and A. K. Chakrabarti. 2010. “The Role of Incubator Interactions in Assisting New Ventures.” Technovation 30 (3): 155–167.10.1016/j.technovation.2009.12.002Search in Google Scholar

Sirolli, E. 1999. Ripples from the Zambezi: Passion, Entrepreneurship, and the Rebirth of Local Economies. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers.Search in Google Scholar

Spigel, B. 2015. “The Relational Organization of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems.” Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice 41 (1): 49–72.10.1111/etap.12167Search in Google Scholar

Spigel, B., and R. Harrison. 2017. “Toward a Process Theory of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems.” Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal 12: 151–168.10.1002/sej.1268Search in Google Scholar

Stam, E. 2015. “Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and Regional Policy: A Sympathetic Critique.” European Planning Studies 23 (9): 1759–1769.10.1080/09654313.2015.1061484Search in Google Scholar

Stinchcombe, A. L. 1965. “Social Structure and Organizations.” In Handbook of Organizations, edited by J.G. March, 142–193. Chicago, IL: Rand McNally.Search in Google Scholar

Weiblen, T., and H. W. Chesbrough. 2015. “Engaging with Startups to Enhance Corporate Innovation.” California Management Review 57 (2): 66–90.10.1525/cmr.2015.57.2.66Search in Google Scholar

Winston, S., T. J. Hannigan, and L. L. Gasiorowski (2013). “Accelerators and Crowd-Funding: Complementarity, Competition, or Convergence in the Earliest Stages of Financing New Ventures?.” Social Science Research Network, Available at in Google Scholar

Wise, S., and D. Valliere. 2014. “The Impact on Management Experience on the Performance of Start-ups within Accelerators.” The Journal of Private Equity 18 (1): 9–19.10.3905/jpe.2014.18.1.009Search in Google Scholar

Zott, C., and Q. N. Huy. 2007. “How Entrepreneurs use Symbolic Management to Acquire Resources.” Administrative Science Quarterly 52 (1): 70–105.10.2189/asqu.52.1.70Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2018-07-18

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Downloaded on 6.2.2023 from
Scroll Up Arrow