Top Accelerator Programmes in the UK
Accelerator programmes have been a respected, viable way of receiving funding, mentorship, and support since 2005. Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator was the first to do it – an intensive coaching programme aimed to accelerate start-ups into a position where they can succeed. Its popularity has stretched across the pond, and now there are around 180 accelerator programmes in the UK and over 11,000 companies have been accelerated. These programmes range from supporting ideas-stage companies to ones that already have millions of pounds in revenue – either way, founders that attend an accelerator programme raise 44% more capital than those that don’t. Here are the top accelerator programmes in the UK.
For clarification on the difference between accelerator programmes and incubators, check out our helpful article.
Top 10 UK Accelerator Programmes
Powered by NatWest across England, Scotland, and Wales, and Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, Entrepreneur Accelerator is one of the most popular accelerator programmes in the UK. They specifically support UK companies from multiple locations across the UK, although their headquarters are in Edinburgh. Entrepreneur Accelerator provides start-ups with 1-to-1 coaching, free office space, personalised mentoring, and invaluable networking opportunities. It’s a great option for companies looking to venture into new markets, seek further investments, or build out their team.
Describing themselves as “where Shark Tank meets University”, Oneday is the only accelerator programme that offers participants the chance to earn a degree. Participants can work on launching their own business with the help of acute experts, while simultaneously getting a fully accredited MBA. It’s a hands-on operation, where successful serial founders work 1-on-1 with aspiring entrepreneurs. Each participant is matched with an expert founder in their industry for the duration of the programme, covering everything from strategy to marketing and sales.
Supporting founders to build their start-up from scratch, Entrepreneur First takes a hands-on, intensive approach. The programme takes place over six months, providing budding businesspeople with extensive advice on their product, market, customers, advertising, investment, and more, from a world-class network of serial founders, investors, and mentors. They also help participants find a co-founder, and if they successfully find one, they’re eligible to receive pre-seed investment in return for a 10% stake in the business.
Founders Factory support early-stage start-ups in growing from ideas to seed and helps to establish themselves in their market. They offer capital through expedited angel funding, they aid in growing a company’s technology, and they provide founders with world-class, expert mentors. Founders Factory primarily support start-ups in health, fin-tech, climate, media, and telecommunications.
Upscale is one of the most sought-after accelerators in the UK, supporting ambitious tech companies in building on their growth. They only accept 30 companies per year, but the result is a personalised service and intensive support from professional coaches. The companies will already have some steady growth – they’ll either be growing 20% month-on-month, generating more than £1 million in revenue, or they’ll have raised a Series A funding round. So, it’s not suitable for ideas-stage or pre-seed-stage start-ups. The programme accelerates its participants into success, with 19 companies having gone to exit so far. Some of the most well-known alumni include Bloom & Wild, Paddle, Kortext, and Perlego.
ICURe stands for Innovation-to-Commercialisation of University Research. The programme is funded by Innovate UK and aims to help UK universities’ research teams. While most accelerator programmes focus on tech companies, ICURe is different. It’s a boot camp-style programme, supporting researchers at the beginning of their careers to establish the market for their research. It’s a three-month stint of intense market assessment. ICURe has an extensive network of prospective customers, suppliers, and even competitors, and participants can have conversations with their network to help validate the research they’re conducting.
The experienced team at Seedcamp promises to supercharge founders’ visions, working with early-stage companies in technology. Their main selling point is their excellent team of experts, who will identify issues in companies and work with founders to fix them. Whether it’s sales and marketing capabilities, product-market-fit, or building out the right team, they’re highly skilled at ironing out critical elements that can make or break a start-up. They offer a huge £100,000 investment for a 7.5% stake in the business – along with incredible guidance, this gives start-ups invaluable access to their huge network. They’ve worked with over 260 startups, including Revolut, Hopin, and TransferWise.
- Future Fifty by Tech Nation
Future Fifty is a mammoth when it comes to accelerator programmes in the UK. Their programme is free to join, and they don’t ask for a stake in the company, resulting in being one of the most sought-after accelerators out there. While most programmes focus on early-stage or pre-seed start-ups, Future Fifty specialises in supporting late-stage tech companies, and the only way to get onto its programme is by invitation. The team at Future Fifty has supported many prestigious companies, including Monzo, Bulb, Zoopla, Deliveroo, and the Modern Milkman. While the Future Fifty scheme is invitation-only, Tech Nation does run other accelerator programmes that take applicants.
Small accelerator programmes outside of London are becoming increasingly popular – there’s less competition, usually less capital to lose, and a higher distribution of resources. That is especially true for Liverpool-based Nova. The expert team offers invaluable guidance, the chance of investment, and resources for idea-stage and early-stage start-ups. They help founders action their ideas, discover their market, and build excellent products. And the best part is, they don’t ask for any capital from applicants. It’s a brilliant option for founders who don’t want to give away a piece of the pie just yet. Despite being a small accelerator, they’ve helped several fantastic start-ups, including BOXD, VidiVet, and Hy-genie.
Techstars is a global accelerator, that helping pre-seed start-ups reach their potential worldwide. They choose 500 businesses to be a part of their intensive three-month course, where hands-on mentors offer gold dust advice and practical guidance. Techstars also offers access to their network, which includes alumni who took part in the programme. And perhaps most importantly, they invest up to $120k – a sum many founders dream of. They have an impressive portfolio, and some of the most prominent alumni from the United Kingdom include Vector.ai, dopay, Memgraph, and Coconut.
Accelerator Programmes Based in London:
Most UK accelerator programmes are based in the English capital. Other than the programmes we’ve already listed, here are three more that are based in London:
- Enterprise Fellowships (Royal Academy of Engineering)
- Bethnal Green Ventures
- Business Growth Programme (L&P)