Who Benefits Most from Business Accelerators?

Startup accelerators play a vital role in shaping and fueling new companies and innovation ecosystems, offering a menu of resources to selected participants. But what sort of company benefits most from accelerator admission: startups from up-and-running entrepreneurial ecosystems, or startups from ecosystems that are just finding their legs? Daniel Fehder is in pursuit of the answer. “Participation in these programs is a strategic decision not only for entrepreneurs, but also investors and other ecosystem participants,” notes Fehder, a PhD candidate at the MIT Sloan School.

In his research, Fehder uses data from the Boston-based MassChallenge startup accelerator—founded by John Harthorne MBA ’07 in 2010—to more accurately measure the effect such programs exert on companies. He also examines the change in entrepreneurial activity that occurs when an accelerator arrives in a specific region. “Accelerators, and other programs like them, provide an opportunity to observe the dynamics that shape entrepreneurship systems,” he explains.

Fehder’s work is administered and inspired by the MIT Innovation Initiative Lab for Innovation Science and Policy. At the forefront of an emerging field, the lab connects faculty and students from all five MIT schools—as well as stakeholders in the innovation economy—to systematically study the process of innovation. In addition to generating evidence about the mechanics of the innovation process, the lab will develop new metrics and visualization tools for analyzing innovation.