By Genevieve Edens

The Merriam-Webster dictionary declares that an “accelerator” could be a device for controlling speed, or an apparatus for imparting high velocities to charged particles, but makes no mention of startups.

The 48 million Google search results for “accelerator,” on the other hand, clearly skew towards accelerators of the entrepreneur support variety. Yet there hasn’t been a clear understanding of what effect these accelerators actually have on the startups they aim to supercharge. Now, a new website exists to better define the landscape of accelerators, and to assess their ability to impart high velocity ... to early stage ventures, rather than charged particles.  

This approach to helping businesses scale has been around since Y Combinator was founded in 2005, and the model has grown around the world.  Accelerators have expanded, specialized, and entered markets far beyond Silicon Valley. For example, a session on accelerators at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress includes a GovTech accelerator in New Zealand, a supply chain-focused accelerator in Egypt, and a pan-African accelerator program from the World Bank.   

The model’s popularity has outpaced rigorous research into its effectiveness, and a coherent map of who is doing what. The Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI) is working to catch up.

partnership between the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE), Emory University, and a consortium of funders including USAID, Omidyar Network, the Lemelson Foundation, and Argidius, GALI seeks to understand two big questions. First, how is the accelerator model being adopted and adapted around the world, particularly in emerging markets? And second, how effective are accelerator programs at supporting and growing early stage ventures?   

The new GALI website is all about data that you can use.  It includes a directory of “verified” accelerators that we have confirmed meet the definition, results from a survey of accelerators that dives into how they’re structured, and data on the ventures that applied to accelerator programs including those that were accepted AND rejected. 

Exploring the site can help you find out how many organizations run accelerators in Brazil (34), how accelerators are funded (philanthropic capital is most common), or how equity financing varies by sector (energy-related ventures raised more than double the overall average). 

We look forward to attending GEC in a few weeks, and exploring some of the trends that we have seen in our data, as well as learning more about what resonates with practitioners and policy makers in South Africa and beyond.

Photo: Flickr: Marcus Pink