Biotech accelerators are cohort-based, fixed-term programs that offer startup founders access to early-stage capital, hands-on mentorship, industry-specific education, and tailored resources designed to support pitch refining, business development and strategy, market and customer analysis, and much more.
The goal of a biotech accelerator program is to help a life science- or healthcare-focused startup scale its product and business much faster than it would be able to without the accelerator program. In this way, growth that happens over a number of years instead happens in a number of months.
Depending on the program you’re interested in, there will be different features, mentors, networks, and resources available. Some accelerators may even be able to offer participants shared lab equipment and lab space to continue research while they’re in the program.
A program typically lasts between three to six months, during which various workshops and office hours are held. Usually, the program culminates in a “Demo day,” a final event that puts entrepreneurs in front of VCs looking to invest in a potentially successful business model.
In order to join, you have to apply. It can be quite challenging however, as many programs are highly competitive and selective. In the case of the most competitive programs, it’s said that only 1% to 3% of applicants are accepted. Nonetheless, being accepted into a well-known accelerator program is a major accomplishment for any biotech startup founder. It’s important to remain undeterred by the low acceptance rate if you believe an accelerator will be a game changer.
However, the biggest consideration you need to make is whether or not you’re eligible. Eligibility often depends on the stage of the company. Although, many programs look for companies that are beyond the purely conceptual stage and have something more concrete ready, which often includes having a prototype or minimum viable product, or MVP.
While there are different types of accelerators—some universities and government agencies operate programs for biotech startups—one of the most well known is the venture capital model, where a startup participating in the program exchanges equity in return for the resources an accelerator provides, such as seed capital, mentorship, educational courses, and networking opportunities.
Although the idea of giving up equity can sound unfavorable, the program and resources provided in exchange can help a company go a long way in a much shorter time frame.
In this article, we’ll review 20 biotech accelerators actively supporting companies in the life sciences.
Based on a mixture of criteria, we’ve included 20 organizations and accelerator programs below—in no particular order—who are currently working with biotechnology, life science, and healthcare companies both in the US and internationally.
The accelerators have been included based on factors like company portfolio (the industries and companies they serve), track record (how many of those companies go on to succeed), funding capabilities (how much they invest and how much equity they request in return), mentoring (the types of expertise its mentors boast), and the strength of their various educational courses (deep dives, technical courses, etc.).
Nucleate is a free, collaborative, and nationally-based nonprofit organization led by students. It supports the formation of pioneering life science and biotech companies through its accelerator program and educational curriculum, and does not take equity in exchange for participation.
Its goals as an organization and accelerator are to identify future bio-entrepreneurs, educate and empower scientists and business students, build bridges within the biotech ecosystem, and accelerate impactful academic bioventures. Nucleate’s accelerator program, Activator, is a cohort-based program designed specifically for life science commercialization, and its virtual, hands-on educational curriculum is called Genesis.
The Activator program is broken up into five phases, and begins by matching scientists and MBA students interested in launching a venture together, making sure the match is a good fit. After the matching process, as well as a few more steps in the application process that forms the venture’s core team, workshops and mentor office hours are held. After the deep-dive workshops, mentoring sessions, and networking events with VCs and operators conclude, a pitch day is held at the end of the program in front of world-renowned judges to assess the cohort companies.
The program benefits include direct, weekly support from accomplished biotech founders, operators, and investors, invaluable 1:1 feedback from experts within the biotech ecosystem, and the chance to build and be a part of a network of executives, scientists, peers, and investors. Furthermore, you can tap into services provided by contract research organizations and cloud computing companies and even secure up to $10K in funding.
Nucleate’s Genesis program accepts applicants on a rolling basis, and includes two rounds of interviews by Nucleate’s Genesis Leadership team. Once an applicant is accepted, support teams are formed, consisting of Nucleate-affiliated industry experts. Furthermore, teams are provided with long-term guidance and are connected with expert consulting in both biotech legal strategy and the clinic.
After teams are connected with mentorship, workshops and lectures are held, helping them build on theoretical and practical understanding of venture creation and learn more through hands-on workshops. The program culminates in a pitch day, similar to the Activator program, and provides teams with the opportunity to pitch to program mentors, industry experts, and VCs.
Nucleate’s advisors include a wide range of scientists, founders, and investors, from George Church of Harvard University to Reshma Shetty of Ginkgo Bioworks to investors like Cami Samuels of Venrock and Peter Kolchinsky of RA Capital. With 18 locations nationwide, spanning from the Bay Area, CA, to Boston, MA, Nucleate is also expanding globally, establishing chapters in the UK and Switzerland.
Its partners and sponsors provide exceptional in-kind support and investing for critical aspects of commercialization, and include such organizations as Genentech, Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Alexandria LaunchLabs, and Amazon Web Services.
Founded in 2014 by Christine Winoto in partnership with QB3, and named after her late husband, Daniel Rosenman, the UCSF Rosenman Institute has created an ecosystem of investors, industry experts, and entrepreneurs that support health and medical technology through various programs, resources, and community.
The MedTech accelerator and healthcare innovation center offers several programs, including BUILD, RISE, the Fellowship Program, Rosenman Founders, and Rosenman Innovators. There are various resources startups can apply for as well, including the Executive Mentorship program, access to expert consultancy, internship programs, and the Startup Operation Support program.
Each program’s ultimate goal is to help startups in the medtech and healthtech sectors accelerate their business, developing a product or process more quickly and getting to market faster. While we won’t go into detail on every program, we can provide an overview of two specific ones: the ADAPT program and the Rosenman Innovators.
The ADAPT program is designed to foster company development and scaling on a national level, bringing healthtech startups and healthcare systems together to work on solutions. ADAPT awardees receive $100K in non-dilutive funding and the opportunity to partner with organizations like Blue Shield of California, UnitedHealth Group, Cigna Healthcare, and more. Together, the organizations have over 200 million members. Sessions are virtual, and include strategic guidance and support, access to data and HIPAA compliant infrastructure, and exposure to venture capital and strategic investors. There are a few specific requirements/guidelines for applicants, so it’s important to check on those and see if the program is a good fit for you.
The Rosenman Innovators program is dedicated to jumpstarting your path as an innovator and guiding your company forward. It provides hands-on mentorship and a suite of benefits designed to help you on the road to commercialization. Each selected company receives coaching for its business strategy, messaging, product development, clinical trials and regulatory approvals, marketing, and more.
This includes recommendations and insights on pitch decks, in-kind winnable prizes that help accelerate progress, and access to a community of founders. Special events and networking with investors and industry experts are included as well. Similarly to the ADAPT program, Rosenman Innovators has a few guidelines that you should check out to see if the program is a good fit for you.
The Institute also provides funding access through its own venture fund, MedTech Venture Partners (MTVP), alongside other prominent investors. The Rosenman Institute also matches participating entrepreneurs and investors during its annual Rosenman Innovator cycle, ending in the Rosenman Symposium, where investors and others in the healthtech community gather for company presentations from each startup in the latest Innovator program cohort. This gives startups the chance to network and potentially connect with investors interested in building a symbiotic, long-term partnership.
Established in 2011, Berkeley SkyDeck is UC Berkeley’s global hub for entrepreneurship, combining focused programs, access to mentorship, and funding to help support and accelerator startups affiliated with UC Berkeley and the ten other UC campuses.
Specifically, SkyDeck supports “startups founded by UC Berkeley students, alumni, and faculty who are seeking to bring their scientific and technical discoveries to market, and commercialize groundbreaking UC Berkeley research.” The accelerator also accepts startups located outside the US seeking to connect with students and faculty at UC Berkeley.
Berkeley SkyDeck’s three programs host more than 300 startups each year, and support startups financially through the Berkeley SkyDeck Fund, UC Berkeley’s investment partner. To date, the startup accelerator and its cohort companies have successfully raised $1.47B in funding and secured funding for 60% of SkyTeams, closed 25 Series A and B rounds, completed 17 exits through acquisitions, and has brought in 1000 attendees at Demo Day.
There are numerous benefits to joining SkyDeck’s accelerator program or any of the other two programs it offers, from access to venture capital, customer development opportunities, mentorship, and access to talent. The SkyDeck team has worked hard to establish a strong connection with VCs and investors that are open to intros to SkyDeck companies and are invited to attend Demo Day at the end of each cohort.
Furthermore, startups can leverage the strong relationships SkyDeck has established with businesses and enterprises to secure some early adopters of their technology. Additionally, SkyDeck can tap into its network of more than 500,000 alums, making introductions to executives across numerous industries.These customer and executive introductions can potentially help bring in revenue.
Its group of 450 mentors and advisors are available to coach and guide SkyDeck startup founders, providing direction on everything from customer acquisition to product development to go-to-market (GTM) strategy and more.
The programs also help connect UCB students to its cohort startups. Through the various recruiting fairs hosted by UCB and SkyDeck, matches can be made between students, MBAs, and postdocs to intern and work for your startup, as well as faculty matches who can join your advisory board.
SkyDeck also launched a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee in 2018 to increase the diversity of its founders, working towards more equitable access to UCB and SkyDeck resources and programming. Since it was established, SkyDeck has been able to grow the number of cohort startups founded by female and historically-overlooked founders.
To help its startups grow, SkyDeck raises funds through the Berkeley SkyDeck Fund, which invests $200K into each startup. The fund also participates in later-stage rounds with Berkeley founders, providing more funding through the stages of growth. According to their website, the fund is one of the most active seed investors in the Bay Area. It has made over 130 investments in 3 years.
Its three programs include the SkyDeck Accelerator Program, consisting of specialized tracks and the Berkeley Acceleration Method (BAM) program; the Innovation Partners Program, a three-month partnership opportunity for startups; and Pad 13, a program that preps startups for becoming more competitive come time to apply to the Accelerator Program.
As an Accelerator Program member, you can receive a $200K investment, pair up with key advisors, complete the six-month BAM program, attend weekly events, and access the SkyDeck community and its various networks and resources. The program culminates in a Demo Day that hosts more than 600 attendees.
Founded in 2014, IndieBio is an early-stage biotech accelerator program, supported by its parent company, SOSV, a global venture capital firm focusing on multi-stage investments to help grow companies through pre-seed, seed, series, and later-stage financing.
IndieBio’s mission is to support scientists as they grow into entrepreneurs whose business ideas can save lives and our planet. By providing financing, 1:1 mentoring from technical experts, networking opportunities, and even lab space to each cohort of startups, the accelerator helps founders iterate at a gallop, quickly developing their products and launching their companies.
IndieBio’s original location is in San Francisco, however, the program now has a second location in New York that startups can apply to as well. In addition, it offers remote-based support, allowing participants to work from anywhere in the world so they do not necessarily have to relocate their company if they’re already working from a facility or field site. To date, IndieBio has funded 213 companies across 38 countries, with 42% of the startups led by female founders. In total, more than $8B in value has been created.
As an IndieBio accelerator participant, you receive an early-stage investment of $150K to $550K from SOSV. The firm may even follow up with additional seed, series, or later-stage financing as you progress from participant to alum, providing you with even more support as you continue to develop. An important note is that the investment does not come free. In order to participate in the program, startups must provide IndieBio with equity.
Additionally, participants in San Francisco have access to a $2M biotech lab located in the office, allowing founders to continue working on their R&D while attending the accelerator program. Each New York cohort has access to research facilities as well.
SOSV was founded by Sean O’Sullivan, a serial founder, investor, and philanthropist, and currently manages a portfolio of more than 1,000 companies and $1 billion in assets. Along with IndieBio, SOSV invests in cross-border consumer and enterprise in Asia (Orbit Startups), hard tech (HAX), and even blockchain (dlab).
Illumina Accelerator is the company’s business accelerator program for genomic startups developing various therapeutics, diagnostics, agriculture, synthetic biology, and more. It is a part of the Illumina Startups Initiatives, and was founded in 2014.
It works together with leading venture capital investors to support entrepreneurs creating, launching, and growing genomic companies by providing key resources tailored to early-stage biotechs, including seed investment, access to sequencing technology, business guidance and coaching, and access to fully equipped lab and office space.
The startup accelerator’s goal is to not only support founders in the genomics field, but to accelerate innovation in the genomics industry as well. It has locations in the San Francisco Bay Area and Cambridge, UK, which are “co-located” with Illumina research and development sites. Accelerator participants must be located in either of these cities to join the program, or funding cycle.
Illumina Accelerator typically works entirely with startups developing breakthrough applications in genomics, whether that be novel therapeutics, diagnostics, agriculture, or synthetic biology. This also includes startups that are using genomics or omics-based tools to conduct research and development. Because Illumina Accelerator is especially focused, eligible applicants really only include genomic researchers, startups, or early-stage companies from either academia or industry that plan on taking their next-generation sequencing (NGS) applications to market.
Two funding cycles are held each year. Each funding cycle lasts six-months, during which funding is provided for up to five startups. Each company receives up to $200K in convertible notes provided by seed investors (accepting the convertible notes is optional) and a secured line of credit of $20K. However, in exchange, Illumina Accelerator takes a 7% common share stake, fully diluted, in each startup.
The curriculum is tailored to each company’s specific needs, with core focus on company building, strategy mapping, pitch development, active coaching, and technology advancement throughout the funding cycle. The cycle culminates with introductions to and meetings with venture capitalists and leading investors, making the final month the busiest time of the program: experiments are completed, founders follow up with interested parties, and new startup headquarters are sought out.
Formation-stage startups appear to be best suited for Illumina Accelerator, however, startups that are already in progress can field as much support from the program as newly formed companies. This is because the funding cycle is designed to aid companies from the concept level through initial seed funding. The only caveat is that a startup must not have raised a Series A round from VCs when it applies for the funding cycle. If needed, Illumina can help startups find a law firm to help the founders incorporate their business.
Petri is a pre-seed startup accelerator focused on fueling the “launch of the next generation” in biotech and the life sciences. It was co-founded and funded by Pillar VC, a venture firm launched by a group of accomplished founders and executives working at companies like Ginkgo Bioworks, Twist Bioscience, Beyond Meat, Insitro, Exact Sciences, and Iora health. The accelerator draws on the resources of Boston and the surrounding area’s well-established biotech ecosystem to support founders interested in launching a startup, and jointly runs a free virtual program with Pillar VC called Frequency. In addition, Petri was able to host its first virtual summit, The Dish, which was attended by over 800 people, and included leaders such as George Church, Daphne Koller, and Stan Lapidus.
In year one, Petri was able to successfully partner with 11 companies, 90% of which were funded at the formation-stage, 40% led by female founders, and 70% consisting of university spinouts from such notable institutions as Harvard University, MIT, Imperial College London, and Texas A&M. In total, they’ve been able to raise $20M in follow-on capital, pulling in $5M in median seed round size.
Petri’s approach involves surrounding founders with the support needed to help them build world-class teams, grow as leaders, develop IP, find customers, and raise capital. They aim to achieve these goals by providing access to comprehensive resources and 1:1 coaching. This includes mentorship, guidance, and feedback from a network of industry experts, membership to their peer community of founders, access to pre-seed capital and a network of investors, partner and customer connections that are secured through introductions to business development and corporate venture capital groups, and even talent recruiting from a network of top universities.
Furthermore, Petri has been able to support over 1,000 PhD students and postdocs get started on their entrepreneurial journey, through participation in more than 25 university events, a network of over 200 faculty labs, and the Frequency program. Petri even hosts a podcast, and has created a Founder Playlist that includes advice, tools, and templates “for founders, by founders.”
Frequency, also referred to as Frequency Bio, is a startup school designed to help founders develop an idea, meet co-founders, join a team, and ultimately launch a biotech startup. It’s open to applicants whether they’re actively working on the company or just beginning to figure it out. Because the program is free and virtual, it offers participants the flexibility they may want or need that other programs may not.
Core sessions involve onboarding and a virtual meetup, an academic spinout panel, and a number of workshops focused on building a team and finding IP, market opportunity research and customer discovery, communicating business ideas and achieving milestones, and gaining a deeper understanding of VC and funding strategies in the biotech landscape.
Along with these core sessions, participants also take part in advisory sessions, founder talks, and join a founder community comprising future founders also interested in building relationships during the program, allowing you to forge connections and remain connected throughout the program and after.
Some of the areas of focus Petri and its portfolio companies are working in include sustainability solutions and engineering in health. The accelerator believes that both biology and engineering will be able to help us address some of the biggest environmental and healthcare challenges we face today.
Founded in 2011 and based in San Francisco, StartUp Health is often mislabeled in the company’s eyes: some call it a venture capital firm, a community platform, a startup accelerator, or global media network. However, calling it any one of these things does not necessarily provide the full picture. The organization has so many elements to it, it can be easy to simply label it one thing, or confuse it with others. For instance, while StartUp Health may seem like simply an accelerator or incubator, the organization can provide much more than just coaching and a seed or series investment.
Perhaps the best way to think of StartUp Health is to see it as a global health innovation company, comprising investors and an investor platform dedicated to moonshots in the healthcare industry.
The platform is pushing to address some of the most challenging health issues of our time, from access to care, disease prevention and cures, and ending cancer to supporting women’s health and overcoming brain disease and Alzheimer’s. Since its inception, StartUp Health has invested in more than 400 healthcare companies spanning 27 countries and six continents through a number of Health Moonshot funds.
The types of founders the organization invests in vary widely as well: 28% are MD or PhD founders, 32% are female founders, 32% are founders of color, and 24% are international founders. In total, member companies have raised more than $5B. StartUp Health’s portfolio survivability rate is quite high as well, with 80% of its companies still active.
The company typically makes direct investments in later-stage companies, however, its unique investing model is designed to support entrepreneurs at different stages of growth, meaning many different companies—whether they have only recently launched, or just secured a Series A round—can benefit from joining StartUp Health’s community platform. When they invest, they don’t provide more than 10% of a round, or own more than 20% in total. Their goal is to support companies through multiple rounds of growth through small commitments each round.
Entrepreneurs that join StartUp Health and receive investments can not only use the funding to fuel growth and scale, they can also access the rest of the organization’s resources.
This includes a combination of community networking, entrepreneurial coaching and virtual events, dedicated media platform to raise awareness at every step of your journey, a broader content platform, and access to a global network of investors and partners, all of which can help accelerate a company’s business development.
StartUp Health’s investment process begins with a conversation, allowing the platform leaders to understand the startup and how its founders think. Using a unique, dynamic algorithm based on three proprietary scorecards, the founders’ mindset and moonshot vision are assessed. Based on this assessment, as well as other proprietary data and value-based algorithms, StartUp Health can make a quick decision to support entrepreneurs in their ventures. Founders can join the StartUp Health Seed program and receive financing through the StartUp Health Moonshots Impact fund.
Established in 2009, MassChallenge is a nonprofit organization focused on supporting entrepreneurship and innovation by collaborating with founders to develop their startups and products. It has early-stage startup accelerators in several locations across North America and Europe, most of which are industry agnostic. However, the nonprofit also focuses on emerging categories like FinTech, HealthTech, Blue Tech, and Enterprise Technology, not to mention space commercialization and sustainable food systems.
MassChallenge is able to support founders by working together with its network of partners and experts to bring together leading teams in various expertises, including corporate innovation, government leadership, and industry knowledge. Startups accepted in one of the nonprofit’s accelerator programs undergo a 4-month long period working through a tailored curriculum, receiving 1:1 mentorship and access to top industry experts, and attending exhibition events designed to facilitate growth, funding, and partnerships in the form of third-party collaboration.
MassChallenge believes it is critical that corporations engage actively with startups to identify technologies and teams that will advance their business, which is illustrated by the increase in the amount of corporate investments in startups between 2013 and 2018. The value of investments grew from $19B to $180B as corporations and startups worked together more, showing the strength and potential of partnership between these two worlds.
Because of this, MassChallenge works with corporate and industry partners to develop and accelerate innovation strategies, leveraging its global network and nine accelerator programs to create purposeful relationships with startups, forge connections between the two ecosystems, and more. The nonprofit also applies this same school of thinking to the relationship between startups and governments and other various ecosystems.
The nonprofits nine accelerator programs include:
These programs and MC’s supporting teams have significant experience accelerating businesses from many industries. Some things set the nonprofit apart from other accelerator programs. As mentioned, it doesn’t ask founders for equity; it provides critical resources, fosters meaningful partnerships; and supports growth through a community of experts and peer founders, giving founders a better chance at succeeding in their industry.
BioGenerator, the startup arm of BioSTL, is a combination of BioGenerator Ventures and BioGenerator Labs, making it a little more robust than the classic accelerator program. In this way, it feels a little bit more like a business development organization than simply a startup accelerator.
Like an accelerator, the organization provides startups with a seed investment and mentoring needed to launch a company and accelerate the development of the business and its product. Unlike many accelerators, it also provides founders with the support, lab space, and technology needed to experiment and build that product.
To date, BioGenerator Ventures has invested $31M in BioGenerator startups over 50+ active investments. Startups that have received investments have raised more than $2B in funding. According to its website, that’s 60x in terms of leveraged BioGenerator capital. The BioGenerator team is a diverse group of scientists, entrepreneurs, and industry experts who work closely with BioGenerator Ventures to build and grow new startups, providing support in various roles across the company’s portfolio and its many projects.
In terms of lab and office space, there are two facilities available: the Cortex district, focused primarily on human health sectors, and 39N district, focused on AgTech and FoodTech.
Besides these physical facilities, BioGenerator Labs’ support and technology includes coaching, grant writing strategies, proof of concept grants, and access to talent. Like many hubs, founders also gain access to a network of scientists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and investors involved in the BioGenerator ecosystem.
Combined, these resources can address the needs of different stages of development, from the first stages of an idea to later-stage financings. Its facilities offer low-cost access to lab and office space and cutting-edge equipment. You do not require an investment from BioGenerator to access the lab and its resources, giving early-stage startups a cost-effective solution to generating technical proof-of-concept.
StartX is a nonprofit organization and community of entrepreneurs, industry experts, tenured Stanford professors, and well-funded, growth-stage startups currently running a Stanford-affiliated accelerator program for serial entrepreneurs and “high-potential first-time founders.” StartX’s belief is that, together, entrepreneurs can achieve much more than is possible on their own. The organization makes collaboration and support possible by helping companies that are part of the StartX community hire top-tier talent, secure funding, and make introductions to the Stanford University Alumni Network.
Since 2011, StartX has worked with 700 startups that together combine for more than $26B in value, welcomed more than 1,800 founders into the StartX community platform, and raised more than $11M on average per accepted company. According to the website, 92% of its member companies are still growing or have been acquired. (Another page on its website states that 84% of StartX companies are still growing or acquired over 10 years. Another section says 93%.) The nonprofit does not ask founders to provide equity in exchange for membership and support.
StartX and the Stanford entrepreneurship ecosystem was developed through $7M+ in grant funding from Stanford University & Stanford Health Care. Since its inception, both Stanford University and Stanford Health Care have continued to deploy capital to the nonprofit, combining in a combined $200M, ensuring the StartX community and organization can remain self-sufficient for decades to come. Because StartX is an independent nonprofit, there is a clear separation of IP between any research at Stanford and the work your team does within the StartX community.
According to their website, startups that are accepted into the accelerator program and community have a 3x higher chance of reaching $100M or more in valuation compared to other companies in similarly competitive accelerators, a 60% chance or higher of reaching a Series A compared to the industry average, and raise $11M or more, on average, in venture funding.
When it comes to hiring, as a StartX company, you have access to a wide talent network of Stanford students, more stability to offer senior hires, and pre-vetted talent pools comprising StartX company founders and employees transitioning from post-exit or acquired companies.
You can also tap into StartX’s customer network, a network that has been leveraged by many of the early-stage companies who have gone through the accelerator program. In some cases, companies have found their first 40 to 50 paying customers through this network.
Additionally, there are category-specific founder and executive communities that you can tap into, reaching out to email lists for specific communities. Lists include founders in biotech, edtech, and hardware, as well as female founders and international founders.
StartX’s partner network comprises a diverse group of organizations, from Stanford University and Stanford Health Care to LG NOVA, CSL Behring, Amazon Web Services, Silicon Valley Bank, StartEngine, AstraZeneca, Sequoia Capital, HubSpot, and many more.
Founded in 2013 through two grants provided by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, LabCentral is a nonprofit incubator and accelerator for biotech and life science startups. Based in Massachusetts, its locations include Cambridge and on the Harvard University campus, both of which boast fully permitted laboratories and office space that can support as many as 125 startups over 225,000 square feet.
The space includes a wide range of equipment and support as well, from best-in-class facility and administrative support to expert laboratory operations team to domain relevant programming and events. Its equipment selection includes a wide range of bioresearch equipment, including autoclaves, chemical hoods, BSL-2 cell-culture facilities, centrifuges, vortexes, shakers, freezers, various storage facilities, flow cytometry instrumentation, PCR machines, plate readers, imaging stations, HPLC systems, and more.
While LabCentral is more incubator than accelerator, the organization does provide acceleration services intended to help startup entrepreneurs grow their businesses. This includes mentorship, coaching, and promotional events enabling introductions between founders and investors.
It is worth mentioning LabCentral here because of its track record and its offerings. The unique combination of incubation and acceleration features/services makes LabCentral an organization worth looking into, especially if you’re in the biomanufacturing space.
The organization grew from its initial 28,000 square feet to accommodate a growing demand for lab space, expanding its footprint to 70,000 square feet, followed by a second expansion supported by Pfizer, Inc. that included another 33,000 sq. feet.
Following the addition of incubator space, LabCentral founded and opened the LabCentral Learning Lab, in partnership with New England Biolabs, which provides various programs for teachers, scientists seeking grant and award funding for equipment and lab supplies, and more.
XlerateHealth (XLH) is a nationally-operating, Louisville, KY-headquartered nonprofit accelerator with extensive life science expertise whose mission it is to cultivate and grow healthcare innovation and build successful healthcare companies. It supports startups working across a wide range of health-related focuses, including healthcare services and IT, digital health, telemedicine, mhealth tech, therapeutic, diagnostics, drug development, oncology, immunotherapy, remote monitoring, and dental.
The organization initially began as a civic endeavor in 2012, filling a hole in the marketplace in the Midwest and Southeastern US. At the time, there were no life science accelerators operating. A year later, XLH launched its first cohort of startups, with six companies taking part in the accelerator program. From 2014 to 2016, the accelerator won multiple US Small Business Administration (SBA) grants and was selected as one of 50 winners for the SBAs first-ever Growth Accelerator Fund competition.
From 2017 to 2021, XLH remained quite active. It launched a secondary Intersession program, giving founders the chance to work remotely and participate in the accelerator longer, developed the Xlerate Network (XLN), a networked “hub” designed to help researchers and faculty commercialize technologies coming out multiple universities, opened a second location in Flint, Michigan, launched a Corporate innovation program to support innovation at larger organizations and hospital systems, and continued to accelerate startups, win another SBA award, and secure new funding.
In addition to its team’s life sciences knowledge, XLH has significant experience in taking what clinicians and academics make headway on and moving those concepts from the lab to market through a “targeted customer discovery process that helps entrepreneurs understand the potential for their idea, research, or technology.” XLH recognizes that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to business development, something that may be overlooked in more formalized, corporate startup programs. It addresses this by creating a tailored, flexible, and collaborative culture.
Each year, XLH funds 6 startups in each cohort at both the Louisville, KY and Flint, MI locations. Both programs last 12 weeks, are held virtually, include mentorship for each company, require startups to provide a 2% equity stake, and cost $0 to attend. Through the program, startups, with the support of XLH, can validate their business model, create a commercialization strategy, and gear up for attracting both non-dilutive and dilutive funding.
XLH’s ideal candidates are incorporated, early-stage startups working to solve a pain point in the healthcare marketplace. Teams should include at least one full-time founder, coachable founders and team, intellectual property with patent filed (if applicable), previous success raising capital or revenue positive (it’s desired, but not necessary), at least an MVP that’s ready to pilot, and the ability to commit to and attend all program sessions, whether they are virtual or in person.
Its approach to accelerating companies is based on Steve Blank’s “Lean LaunchPad” methodology, which involves 4 steps: customer discovery, customer validation, customer creation, and company building. This methodology is designed to help founders get in front of potential customers and iterate on their business model. Doing so can lead to a stronger understanding of market pains and needs, an actual customer base to sell to, supply chain and distribution partnerships, and a deeper knowledge base of the economics behind building a successful company.
Xontogeny is a life sciences accelerator that “collaborates with entrepreneurs, scientific founders and first-time CEOs to drive the successful development of their technologies to enable new treatment options for patients with serious disease.” To support that collaboration and development, the accelerator provides a combination of operational support, investment, networking opportunities, and mentorship to companies with promising technologies.
From preclinical stages to commercialization, its team has experience in scientific diligence, operations, strategy, investment, and drug and medical technology development across various treatment modalities and therapeutic areas. It was founded in 2016 by Chris Garabedian.
To ensure founders have the operational support they need, Xontogeny focuses on providing drug and medical technology development skills to reinforce the company’s foundation of basic research. Because getting a product to market can be highly challenging, the accelerator’s team sees these skills as critical factors in determining the success of the company in the clinic, and works to create a “sound and thoughtful” strategy focused on execution to increase the potential for success. Xontogeny guides its founders and entrepreneurs through this strategy creation process with the hopes of creating a valuable product, whether it be a drug, device, or diagnostic.
To help portfolio companies grow and support founders through company formation and seed investments, Xontogeny provides capital through its partnership with Perceptive Advisors, a life sciences venture capital firm with multiple funds. Doing so can increase the value of your startup before larger rounds are raised. Xontogeny’s management team works with its companies to figure out the best ways to deploy that capital and reduce early dilution to founders, and works to create a plan for future financing rounds. Additionally, access to its management team and network can help you avoid cash outlays you would spend for similarly experienced talent.
Xontogeny’s network includes entrepreneurs, industry professionals and service providers, biopharma and medtech companies, academic institutions, investors, and more to support the advancement of new technologies and foster creative solutions that can help portfolio companies and others in the life sciences industry achieve key milestones.
Deep Science Ventures (DSV) is an accelerator, venture studio, and fund that works with scientists to build high-growth, high-impact companies in four sectors: agriculture, climate, pharma, and computation. The organization comprises a team of experienced entrepreneurs and operators who rely on a model that brings together knowledge, capital, and talent to fuel early-stage scientific ventures. To put it simply and in accordance with their website, DSV is a “venture creator.”
Established in 2016, DSV has launched 35 companies, has more than 40 outcomes in development, supports an active community of 472 members, and attracted £76m (roughly $86M USD as of this post’s publication) in funding.
The accelerator accomplishes company creation through three high-level steps:
Its methodology focuses on four key outcomes: restore cultivation, scaling intelligence, reversing global heating, and curative therapeutics. According to DSV, the methodology “results in high-quality, de-risked companies that are led by teams with deep technical and commercial experience.” It’s broken into eight steps:
DSV can be a good fit for scientist-entrepreneurs looking to start a company. The accelerator provides its members up to 18 months to form a company, fully funding founders during the time they’re part of the program, in addition to a dedicated team specializing in the founder’s sector. DSV looks for founders who are determined, technical, and “magnetic”,” people who are empathetic and natural storytellers.
DSV has built 35 companies in the last four years and has achieved an 86% company survival rate. On average, its portfolio companies have formed within 12 months and have taken 18 months to reach TRL4, short for Technical Readiness Level 4. Technical Readiness Levels (TRL) are a type of measurement system originally developed by NASA to assess the maturity level of a specific technology. TRL4 demonstrates a piece of tech that has achieved “component and/or breadboard validation in a laboratory environment.” Simply put, once a proof-of-concept model has been made and is ready to test, its components are tested with one another.
Located in Syracuse, CNY Biotech Accelerator, or CNYBAC, works with for-profit startups who are commercializing biotech-related products and services. It is owned and operated by SUNY Upstate Medical University, and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry is a founding partner. Upstate Medical University is the region’s only academic medical center and is located in close proximity to 35 colleges and universities, positioning CNYBAC—an off-campus site—in the midst of a well-established academic community.
Furthermore, CNYBAC is an affiliate “HotSpot” partner through the Tech Garden, Central New York’s primary technology incubator and “regional hot spot.” This means the Tech Garden can certify eligible CNYBAC clients for New York Innovation Hot Spot Tax Benefits. CNYBAC is also eligible to use space at Start-Up NY, an organization that supports early-stage and expanding businesses through academic partnerships and tax-based incentives.
CNYBAC’s biotech early discovery, incubation, and acceleration programs gives on-site clients access to wet lab space and the medical center’s core research facilities. Clients can also collaborate with the Upstate’s basic science and clinical faculty.
Additionally, clients receive access to a number of resources, including regulatory mentorship, access to networking programs, partner match assistance that establishes collaborative partnerships with the university’s researchers and ecosystem partners, access to the university’s medical library, and competition and funding opportunities. Workshops are held as well, including CNYBAC’s Concept to Commercialization Series, the Annual Manufacturing Workshop, and the Annual Innovation Conference.
If you are unable to attend the program on-site, CNYBAC offers a virtual client tenancy program, allowing companies and founders who do not need full-time access to lab space the ability to connect with commercialization partners.
With several locations around the US, LaunchBio is a non-profit organization that has been dedicated to supporting high-growth life science and biotech startups through multiple programs since 2016.
In partnership with BioLabs, LaunchBio offers a network of coworking spaces that can help founders make important connections and shorten the time it takes to grow a company. Its locations include Cambridge, Dallas, San Francisco, Durham, Los Angeles, New York, and Philadelphia, and its offerings include both in-person and online events and courses.
While LaunchBio may not appear to have the typical accelerator program—a 12-week cohort-based program that culminates in a demo day—it does offer a range of programs for startups, in addition to various business-focused resources. Its programs include:
These programs and resources combined with coworking space can potentially help an early-stage biotech startup accelerate its growth and start scaling sooner. Additionally, with a number of locations available, it might be worth checking out if LaunchBio is a fit for you.
Y Combinator is one of the most well-known accelerators for startups. But, how does it compare to biotech-focused accelerators? Is it well-suited to life science startups despite its general focus? And what does it require of its members? Does it make sense for your business to join when it’s not a software company with shorter horizons? YC is, more or less, the first organization on this list that truly accelerates a wide range of companies, not just biotechs.
YC launched in 2005 in Cambridge, Ma. Since its founding, it has been used to accelerate and found more than 3,000 companies, including some massive names. Airbnb, Twitch, Reddit, Quora, Coinbase, and DoorDash are just a few. YC’s August 2022 company report shows 15 public and 316 private YC companies valued at over $150M each, with 80 valued at more than $1B. It’s safe to say YC found a winning recipe for startup acceleration and continues to launch some wildly successful companies.
According to the same August report, YC’s sector breakdown features a wide range: B2B software and services make up most of its companies, at ~43%. Financial technology follows behind with almost 19% of YC’s top companies. But healthcare comes in third, making up 11.5% of YC’s leading companies.
Based on these reports and breakdowns, there are two things we can roughly assume: YC is one of those accelerators that really knows what it’s doing. It has a proven track record and continues to offer significant benefits more than 15 years later. And, while YC is known for working with a broad range of companies, it accelerates more healthcare companies than one might think. 478, to be exact. Some noteworthy names include: Ginkgo Bioworks, Notable Labs, Lucira Health, Talus Bio, Asher Bio, and Pardes Biosciences.
It hosts two three-month programs yearly. One from January to March and the other from June to August. Startups that join are at all different stages. Some founding teams have yet to begin working on anything, while others have been operating for a year. During the three-month program, YC works to develop a better product with more users and to provide startups with more fundraising options. This is accomplished partly due to the incredibly motivated and intense atmosphere of YC—everyone wants you to succeed and puts in 100% to try and achieve that.
In addition to maintaining a solid culture and highly productive environment, YC invests $500K in every company on standard terms. The investment is made on two separate SAFEs, meaning a $125K investment is made on a post-money SAFE, and another $375K is invested on an uncapped SAFE with a Most Favored Nation (MFN) provision, known as the MFN SAFE. The initial SAFE is invested in return for 7% equity in the startup.
The YC cycle starts with a boot camp during its first week, taking place over a three-day series of “tactical talks” from the YC team, including topics like SEO for startups and product market fit.
Eventually, groups are formed during the batch. Each group has group partners who are there to advise each founder in a 1:1 setting. One-on-ones are held as often as founders like.
Furthermore, each group is split into multiple sections to ensure founders can benefit from an intimate setting within the larger batches. Additionally, group office hours are held. Group partners host office hours every two weeks, where a large chunk of what happens at YC takes place. The group office hours are tailored to whichever stage the company is in and where they are in the YC cycle.
In addition to in-person one-on-ones and office hours, Bookface is also provided. It serves as a platform for founders to connect with one another. According to YC’s website, it is like a combination of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Quora. Each founder gets a profile showcasing who they are and their expertise. Bookface allows founders to ask questions when needed, make introductions, take polls to increase knowledge or receive feedback, and much more.
During the program, leading experts from the startup world are invited to speak each Tuesday. These “Tuesday Talks” involve successful founders recounting the inside story, off-record, of what happened during the early days of their companies. The honesty and color of these conversations provide significant insight to founders in each cycle.
Once a startup builds something ready to launch, YC helps them figure out how to present it to users and the press. This involves preparing for launches on community sites like Product Hunt and Hacker News. YC also helps founders prep for first press pitches and interviews.
YC also states many of its B2B and consumer companies have secured their first 40-50 paying customers through the YC community. Depending on the founder’s product, it may be possible for a startup to get highly impactful, early product feedback as soon as possible, allowing them to iterate as needed before money has been sunk into something that may not work in the long run.
Each YC batch culminates in Demo Day. Founders present their companies to an audience of specially selected investors and press and get a chance to secure investment, press releases, and much more. After Demo Day has concluded, YC stays in touch with its funded startups as each begins navigating the fundraising process. According to the YC website, the YC team may speak directly with a startup’s potential investors to find out their thoughts about the business.
A huge reason so many companies go through YC is because of the stamp of approval you receive. YC is so well-known investors trust the startups it backs. And, because so many investors are introduced to the startups, it can create price competition. This results in companies often getting higher valuations than they would otherwise receive. The accelerator also runs the Startup School, and hosts a Continuity Blog.
Techstars claims to be one of the largest pre-seed investors in the world, and we, admittedly, believe them. It has invested in over 3,300 early-stage startups, and boasts a highly diverse portfolio, with founders in HealthTech, FinTech, CleanTech, and Web3, to name just a few industries. To date, Techstars accelerator graduate companies have raised $71B in market cap, with $1M raised on average post-graduation. 19 graduate companies have turned into unicorns. 2,958 companies have graduated from its programs, raising $21B in funding.
Each year, Techstar selects more than 500 early-stage companies to join one of its many 3-month accelerator programs, investing $120K in each startup.
During each program, Techstars provides hands-on mentorship, helps find customers, chooses the correct infrastructure for each business, assists in hiring talent, and much more, all to support each startup, build its product and launch with customers. This includes more than 300 perks, such as AWS, HubSpot for Startups, SVB, and Stripe.
While these perks and resources are similar to other accelerators, what sets the programs apart is the level of mentorship it can provide, as well as the amount of programs and locations it offers, including accelerators in Silicon Valley, Miami, London, Singapore, and Melbourne, just to name a few.
Techstars has over 7,100 mentors providing support to its startups, and provides founders with a massive network of corporate partners, investors, and alumni to tap into. In addition to mentoring, networking, funding, and fundraising opportunities, Techstar accelerators also offer curated resources and workshops. Combined, the coaching, networking, resources, and funding opportunities provide everything a startup may need to accelerate their products and services and put themselves in a better position to succeed.
A breakdown of the three-month program can be found on Techstars’ website, but the general agenda goes like this:
The 10 companies per program spend month one connecting with around 100 mentors from Techstars’ network. Following these meetings, some programs are able to match founders with three to five mentors who can act as lead mentors and a “pseudo Board of Advisors” during the program’s duration. This means providing coaching in product development, market-fit, technology, and much more. In some cases, mentors may even continue working with the companies when the program ends.
During the second month of each program, founders begin to execute on what they’ve learned after their first month working with mentors. They collaborate with a program manager and managing director to dig further into their learnings with the help of their mentors, and look to gain serious traction. This hopefully leads to each founder hitting their most important milestones, like building a minimum viable product (MVP) or prototype, acquiring their first customers, or even developing the next phase of their product or service.
Once the founders have executed on their learnings and hit their milestones, they’ll hopefully have a product in hand that they can take with them through month three, which is all about fundraising strategies and Demo Day. Founders learn how to better tell their own story, explain their company on a deeper level, and ultimately refine their pitch and build a pitch deck. All this should help them with their fundraising and performance on Demo Day.
In addition to Techstars’ many accelerators, the organization is also involved in community support and provides a three-day pre-accelerator program and events for entrepreneurs to help the community and start building their businesses, including Startup Weekend and Startup Week.
BaseLaunch, managed and operated by Basel Area Business & Innovation and based in Basel, Switzerland, partners with scientists and entrepreneurs developing innovative therapeutics and helps them launch and grow biotech ventures up to the point where they can complete a Series A round or something similar.
Since early 2018, BaseLaunch has supported 20 companies, with 9 of its portfolio companies raising more than $450M in financing from both US and European venture funds. In addition to these 9 startups, other companies have, through the support of BaseLaunch, raised initial seed financings and initiated several collaborations. One company has been sold.
The Basel area is known for being a biopharma hotspot. It is home to two of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, Novartis and Roche. Actelion, now part of Johnson & Johnson, also calls the Basel area home. However, the Basel area is known for more than just big pharma. It’s also home to more than 700 life sciences companies, with many of them being small and medium sized biotechs; 14+ renowned research institutions; and big-name venture capital firms that have supported development through numerous financing rounds.
The mix of academic and biopharma leaders nourishes a powerful stream of innovation in the Basel area, giving rise to significant venture capital investments, reaching more than $2.5B over the past few years.
The accelerator collaborates with key players in biotech, pharma, and venture funds. Some of its partners include Roche, Pureos Bioventures, Roivant Sciences, CSL Behring, China Medical System, Bridge Biotherapeutics, and even Johnson & Johnson.
BaseLaunch provides selected participants with up to $500K and much more. Its offerings include helping build a team and providing support with IP licensing and incorporating, as well as providing introductions to venture funds and supporting the portfolio company during negotiations.
BaseLaunch is unique in that it does not have a specific program or course it asks its participants to follow. Furthermore, it does not require every company to work in the same building. If access to lab space and offices is needed, BaseLaunch will provide that as well, in addition to helping find other infrastructures in the Basel area. You can check out their FAQs as well to understand more about what BaseLaunch is looking for when it comes to types of projects it supports, key criteria for a successful application, its confidentiality policies, and more.
StartLife focuses on accelerating agtech and foodtech startups working to shape a more sustainable food system. While many of the accelerators we covered are focused on biotechnology, StartLife is unique in its support of food and agtech.
For more than 10 years now, StartLife has worked with over 400 startups to develop technological advancements in the two sectors. Its criteria include being active in foodtech, agtech, or bio agtech, and having a prototype or MVP of your product, in addition to:
StartLife provides startups the support needed to achieve growth and make an impact by providing community hosting, startup team and entrepreneurial development, intense, hands-on mentoring, and pre-seed funding, as well as follow-on capital.
StartLife works with a wide array of founding and supporting partners, as well as corporate, investor, and program partners. Some of these include Wageningen, FoodValley, Lidl, Cosun, Shift Invest, Future Food Fund, BDO, Catalyze, and more.
Its program, StartLife Accelerate, lasts 12 weeks and includes an initial €25K pre-seed loan (~$24,700 as of publishing this article). It is designed to help foodtech and agtech startups validate customer segments, access leading corporate partners and investors in the industry, and raise funding. It can be attended almost fully online.
This includes connecting startups to industry experts, WUR researchers, and investors, as well as providing a curriculum that addresses team, product, customer validation, and investor-readiness.
When a startup’s growth strategy has been validated, it is eligible for another €50,000 (~$49,400). Depending on your business, StartLife may offer an additional €250,000 (~$247,000). The end of the program culminates in a graduation day, allowing startups to present to a wide range of potential investors, corporations, program partners, and other stakeholders from the StartLife community. A breakdown of the funding opportunities available to startups through StartLife can be found on its website.
Accelerators have started to play a larger role in helping the next generation of scientist-entrepreneurs get their innovations off the ground. Without high-quality, well-ran accelerators, there would be one less early-stage funding option for growing a company. There aren’t too many as it is.
While this is purely speculative, it’s entirely possible that many of the fastest growing and most profitable brands would have folded early if it weren’t for accelerators.
We emphasize “high-quality, well-ran” because out of the many available programs, not all of them will be helpful. Which is especially important to remember because they may be asking you for equity. The last thing you want to do is give up equity in your business, go through the program, and have nothing to show for it.
Additionally, not all accelerators focus on biotechnology, or can provide the specific resources and guidance needed to scale a healthcare related product, whether it’s a drug, device, or something else. Our list of accelerators provides a good starting point for biotech companies. You can use this list when it comes time to start research in earnest and compare the numerous accelerator options available. Making sure an accelerator can support your business idea and its growth is key.
However, the list is by no means comprehensive or exhaustive. While it can be best to start research by focusing on organizations designed for biotech, healthtech, etc., you will likely widen your search to include other accelerators that are more industry-agnostic, especially if the programs are well-regarded.
No matter which programs you look into, it’s essential to perform as much due diligence as possible. Understand what you will be required to give up in exchange for an investment, and how you will be able to benefit from the mentorship and expertise available. In other words, remember to assess your own position too.
Accelerators represent a significant commitment, and it’s better to apply when you know you have an idea that you can turn into a commercially viable product or service.
If you don’t feel ready yet, take the time to work on your idea, because most of the time, an accelerator will only want to work with you when you have a prototype or MVP. At the very least, you will want a fully formed growth strategy to accompany your idea, in addition to some promising data. With these things in hand, an accelerator can help you build your product.
Once you’ve decided where you’re going to apply, consider how much funding you need, when you need it, whether or not you meet the program’s criteria, and the competitiveness of the selection process.