Just as the name might suggest, the Seed Accelerator Rankings Project ranks accelerators around the country using all sorts of sensitive data, such as fundraising and valuations, that its team of academics collected in confidence and distilled down for the benefit of entrepreneurs everywhere who are considering going through an accelerator.
This year’s rankings were unveiled last week at SXSW. Greenville, S.C.-based The Iron Yard and Memphis, Tennessee-based ZeroTo510 both ranked in the top 25 in the project’s “silver” level. Meanwhile, Healthbox and Techstars, which aren’t based in the South but have outposts here—in Orlando and Atlanta, respectively—scored at the higher “gold” and “platinum” levels.
Susan Cohen, co-director of the project and a management professor at the University of Richmond, gave TechCrunch some guidance on the various tiers, which is a different rankings system from last year when accelerators were ranked 1-20. “There’s a bigger difference between bronze and silver than there is between gold and silver. Achieving gold is something to be proud of. But these are all top, top and top programs, not top, middle and bottom programs.”
Both The Iron Yard and ZeroTo510 (and Techstars) appeared on last year’s list.
The Iron Yard, which is perhaps best known for its coding classes, runs a digital health accelerator out of its Spartanburg, S.C. campus. ZeroTo510 is a medical device accelerator that will be choosing its fifth cohort soon. Operated by the Memphis Bioworks Foundation and part of the EPIcenter community, ZeroTo510 has accelerated the creation of 20 new companies, $9.2 million in investments and more than 40 jobs. In addition, 60 percent of graduates have received post-accelerator funding, at an average of $675,000 per company, according to Jessica Taveau, director of marketing and communications for the Memphis Bioworks Foundation. Meanwhile, Healthbox is accepting applications, due March 18, for its Healthbox Studio in Orlando.
Cohen says the rankings are important because it helps make the process of choosing an accelerator more transparent. “With so many programs available, it’s hard for entrepreneurs to know which programs are best,” Cohen said in a press release. “The Seed Accelerator Rankings Project adds needed transparency to help entrepreneurs make a critically important decision for their startups.”