By Daniel Bortz
May 2, 2016
Illustration by Gary Neill for M

Backed by venture capitalists, colleges, and economic development groups, U.S. accelerators have helped launch more than 5,000 companies since 2005, the Brookings Institution finds. Could one of these programs help you? Here are four things to know.

What you get. In most programs, early-stage founders receive seed money, industry mentorship, and training; at the end you’ll pitch a reworked idea to affiliated investors. Typically three to six months long, the programs are “crash courses in starting a business,” says Wharton professor Laura Huang.

What you give up. Most are run by investors who want equity in your startup. But deals vary, and some take no equity at all.

Where to find one. Use the database at to identify options. It lists companies funded, capital provided, and equity share taken. Some programs specialize by industry while others offer local contacts; decide which will help you most.

What you risk. These are competitive, intense, full-time-programs. You won’t have time to earn an income, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get additional investment once you’re done.