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Purpose:This paper aims to provide a better understanding of accelerators’ phenomenon, developing a business model framework for these organizations. The proposed framework aims to offer helpful guidance for practitioners and policymakers, together with various research opportunities for scholars. Design/Methodology/Approach:The study employs a structured literature review methodology, which guarantees the repeatability of the research and the validity of the outcomes. Additionally, to further test the results of our analysis, we interviewed ten practitioners from some accelerators located in Italy and Slovenia. Findings:Findings show that the literature on accelerators is still fragmented and under-investigated. The presented framework for an accelerator business model provides insights about the activity and the role of such organizations. The study offers fruitful avenues for future research on accelerators’ business models. Research limitations/implications:Given the fragmented nature and the novelty of the literature on the topic, there may be relevant papers and reports missing in our analysis. Further research should investigate the role of accelerators in the ecosystem they operate in and provide a clear and shared definition in collaboration with all stakeholders. Practical implications:The presented framework provides practitioners with useful insights for understanding an accelerator activity and valuable recommendations for managing these organizations in the future. Social implications:Since we consider society among the key stakeholders of an accelerator’s business model, this study provides significant insights about the social impact of accelerators in the ecosystem they operate in. Relevant implications may be useful especially for policymakers. Originality/Value:The main contribution of this study is the extent analysis of a novel topic in the entrepreneurial literature, providing a clear and broad perspective of the phenomenon. Furthermore, this study provides relevant insights on the role of accelerators in academic research as well as for practitioners and policymakers.
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Journal of Business Models (2020), Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 1-21
1
Business Models for Accelerators: A Structured
Literature Review
Carlo Bagnoli1, Maurizio Massaro2, Daniel Ruzza3,* , and Korinzia Toniolo4
Abstract
Purpose: This paper aims to provide a better understanding of accelerators’ phenomenon, developing a business model
framework for these organizations. The proposed framework aims to oer helpful guidance for practitioners and policy-
makers, together with various research opportunities for scholars.
Design/Methodology/Approach: The study employs a structured literature review methodology, which guarantees the
repeatability of the research and the validity of the outcomes. Additionally, to further test the results of our analysis, we
interviewed ten practitioners from some accelerators located in Italy and Slovenia.
Findings: Findings show that the literature on accelerators is still fragmented and under-investigated. The presented
framework for an accelerator business model provides insights about the activity and the role of such organizations. The
study oers fruitful avenues for future research on accelerators’ business models.
Research limitations/implications: Given the fragmented nature and the novelty of the literature on the topic, there
may be relevant papers and reports missing in our analysis. Further research should investigate the role of accelerators in
the ecosystem they operate in and provide a clear and shared definition in collaboration with all stakeholders.
Practical implications: The presented framework provides practitioners with useful insights for understanding an ac-
celerator activity and valuable recommendations for managing these organizations in the future.
Social implications: Since we consider society among the key stakeholders of an accelerator’s business model, this study
provides significant insights into the social impact of accelerators in the ecosystem they operate. Relevant implications
may be useful, especially for policymakers.
Originality/Value: The main contribution of this study is the extent analysis of a new topic in the entrepreneurial litera-
ture, providing a clear and broad perspective of the phenomenon. Furthermore, this study provides relevant insights into
the role of accelerators in academic research as well as for practitioners and policymakers.
Please cite this paper as: Bagnoli et al. (2020), Business Models for Accelerators: Subtitle: A Structured Literature Review, Vol. 8, No. 2,
pp. 1-21
Keywords: Business model, Accelerator, structured literature review, start-up, performance
1 Department of Management, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy, www.unive.it/persone/bagnoli, bagnoli@unive.it
2 Department of Management,Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy, https://www.unive.it/data/persone/18972961,
maurizio.massaro@unive.it
3 Department of Business and Management, Luiss Guido Carli, Roma, Italy, http://phdmanagement.luiss.it/profile/daniel-ruzza/,
druzza@luiss.it
4 Department of Management - DISA, University of Bologna, Italy, https://www.unibo.it/sitoweb/korinzia.toniolo2,
korinzia.toniolo2@unibo.it
Acknowledgements: This research was supported as part of CAB Project, an Interreg project supported by the Italy-Slovenia Cooperation
Programme of the European Regional Development Fund of the European Union. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect
the ocial positions of the European Union. The responsibility for the content of this publication belongs to the authors
Journal of Business Models (2020), Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 1-21
2
Introduction
Accelerators are proliferating across the globe, increas-
ing from the first one in 2005 with the foundation
of Y Combinator to over 500 in 2015 (Busenitz, L.,
Matusik, S., Anglin, A. and Dushnitsky, G., 2017). They
are becoming a more established phenomenon, driving
up the demand for acceleration programs by start-ups
and attracting corporates and governments, despite
initially cautious and doubtful of their value (Cruz,
2016). Notwithstanding the growing attention focused
on this topic, the existing literature is fragmented, and
there does not seem to be a generally recognized defi-
nition of an accelerator (Torun, 2016).
This study analyses the multifaceted definitions of
accelerators found in the literature, identifying a stand-
ard set of characteristics. The variety of interpretations
reflects the heterogeneity of the types of accelerators
considering the organization that supports them, the
sector in which they specialize, and the geographical
focus they choose. Additionally, this research tries to
develop a business model framework for accelerators,
bringing together the vital elements for each building
block gathered from the analyzed literature. The pro-
posed framework aims to enhance the understanding
of the accelerator phenomenon and to present helpful
guidance for practitioners, as well as a starting point
for future research. As the industry is still young, many
business models are yet unproven, and, in the same
way, there are no standard indicators for measuring
the success or failure of an accelerator program (Cruz,
2016). In this context, our study provides a list of the
main success factors identified in the literature.
The paper is organized as follows. Section two depicts
the research methodology. Section three describes
the main findings from the literature, presenting the
accelerator business model framework. Section four
discusses the findings and ends the paper with some
considerations for future research opportunities.
Methodology
To develop our study, we employ a Structured Litera-
ture Review (SLR) approach, as described by Massaro
et al. (2016). An SLR is defined as “a method for study-
ing a corpus of scholarly literature, to develop insights,
critical reflections, future research paths and, research
questions” (Massaro, M., Dumay, J. and Guthrie, J.,
2016). This method requires a rigid structure and a pre-
cise work plan; therefore, it guarantees that the search
can be replicated (Tranfield, D., Denyer, D. and Smart, P.,
2003) and that the dierent outcomes are valid.
Data acquisition
To develop our study, we first searched the database
Scopus using the keyword “accelerator”. Indeed, Scopus
is “one of the largest abstract and citation databases of
peer-reviewed literature” (Massaro, M., Dumay, J. and
Bagnoli, C., 2019). Still, it does not include, for exam-
ple, consultancy reports. One of the authors read all the
abstracts and selected only papers related explicitly to
accelerators. Withdraw articles focused on other enti-
ties such as incubators and business angels.
Additionally, to enlarge our research, we developed an
online analysis searching for papers not published in
Scopus, such as European Union reports and practition-
ers’ articles. Indeed, “researchers should not confine
SLRs solely to journal articles” (Massaro et al., 2016).
Therefore, a total amount of twenty-four journal articles,
eleven consultancy reports, four institutional reports,
and three websites were included in our dataset.
Data analysis
All papers and documents, as described above, were
imported in Nvivo and analyzed using a predefined
framework split into five primary levels of analy-
sis, using dedicated nodes. The first level of analysis
depicts the definition of an accelerator, showing how
accelerators dier from other organizations such as
incubators and business angels. The second level of
analysis aims to identify the main types of accelera-
tors, while the third level recognizes the most promis-
ing industries for acceleration. The fourth level seeks to
investigate the most relevant features of accelerators’
business models provided by the literature. To describe
the main characteristics of accelerators, we used the
framework developed by Biloslavo, R., Bagnoli, C. and
Edgar, D. (2018) as the main reference of our study.
Biloslavo et al.’s business model canvas is built “as its
visual presentation to be used in practice,” adopting a
circular viewpoint of the building blocks, instead of a
linear one; therefore, we believe it fits the purpose of
Journal of Business Models (2020), Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 1-21
3
our study. Looking at society as one of the nine build-
ing blocks of the canvas allows the accelerator to be
considered in an ecosystem, assuming a holistic driven
approach. Finally, the fifth and last level of our analysis
focuses on the success and risk factors of an accelera-
tion program. Table I depicts our research framework
and the nodes used.
Codes name
A_Defining Accelerators
A 01_Definitions
A 02_Dierences from Incubators
A 03_Dierences from Angels
A 04_Theme not addressed
B_Types of Accelerators
B 01_Venture-backed accelerator
B 02_Government-backed accelerator
B 03_Corporate-sponsored accelerator
B 04_University-led accelerator
B 05_Sector focus
B 06_Geographic focus
B 07_Theme not addressed
C_Most promising industries for acceleration
D_Accelerator business model
D 01_Value proposition
D 02_Society
D 03_Partners
D 04_Resources
D 05_Internal processes
D 06_External processes
D 07_Customers
D 08_Products
D 09_Revenue streams
D 10_Costs
D 11_Theme not addressed
E_Key success factors and risk factors of accelerators
Reliability testing
To further test the results of our analysis, we inter-
viewed ten practitioners from some accelerators
located in Italy and Slovenia to gather fundamen-
tal informants’ review or analysis (Yin, 1984). The
interviews were conducted using half-structured ques-
tionnaires, focusing on the services oered to start-
ups and on the accelerators’ business models. In the
SLR approach, the use of reliability measures helps
researchers in demonstrating that their data: “(a) have
been generated with all conceivable precautions in
place against known pollutants, distortions and biases,
intentional or accidental, and (b) mean the same thing
for everyone who uses them” (Krippendor, 2004, p.
267). Therefore, by reducing bias, researchers can argue
that their analytical framework is reliable.
Findings
A definition of accelerator
The global accelerator landscape is growing and chang-
ing at a rapid pace (GALI, 2016). It is becoming more
and more challenging to reach a shared and precise
definition of an accelerator. As new models emerge,
the term accelerator describes an increasingly diverse
set of programs and organizations and, often, the lines
that distinguish accelerators from similar institutions,
like incubators and early-stage funds, become blurred
(Goldstein, A., Lehmann, E. J., Prax, E., 2015). From our
literature review, we found 29 dierent definitions,
which we analyzed using the software “Leximancer”,
a text-mining tool for visualizing the structure of con-
cepts and themes in a text (Cretchley, J., Rooney, D. and
Gallois, C., 2010). Figure 1 is a graphic representation of
the main characteristics of accelerators detected by the
software. The spheres identified as most important in
Figure 1 by their size (mentorship, start-ups, support,
program, event, model, early) map the most relevant
features of accelerators. Indeed, despite the variety of
definitions, they all refer to the need to keep a time-
limited (three to six months) cohort-based program
targeted to early-stage start-ups, including mentor-
ship support and public pitch events (Miller and Bound,
2011; Isabelle, 2013; Cohen and Hochberg, 2014).
Interestingly, accelerators bear some similarities to
incubators and angel investors (Cohen and Hochberg,
2014). They all help and fund nascent ventures, oer-
ing educational components and mentorship programs
(Cohen, 2013). The fixed length of the program, its
intensity, the provision of benefits and services, and
the cohort-based nature distinguish accelerators from
incubators, which lack a fixed term and do not typically
Table 1: Research framework
Journal of Business Models (2020), Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 1-21
4
provide equity investment in return for cash ( Clarysse,
B., Wright, M. and Hove, J. Van., 2015). On the other
hand, accelerators are maybe more similar to business
angel investors (Cohen and Hochberg, 2014). Those are
wealthy individuals who invest their own money into
early-stage start-ups, usually having previous experi-
ence in seed investing or who might have started a few
businesses on their own before (Wiltbank, R., Read,
S., Dew, N. and Sarasvathy, S.D., 2009). Like accelera-
tors, angel investments can improve the survival rate
of start-ups.
Types of accelerators and most prosing
industries
As accelerators have increased in popularity, many
potential entrepreneurs and organizations, such as
universities, companies, and regional development
agencies, feel attracted by the idea of starting an
accelerator (Clarysse et al., 2015). However, starting an
accelerator needs a very clear vision and strategy about
the goal to be achieved. The rationale behind dierent
accelerator models lies in their ability to target a broad
category of start-ups, as well as having dierent objec-
tives and stakeholders (Tasic, I., Montoro-Sànchez, A.
and Cano, M., 2015). The analyzed literature identifies
four main types of accelerators based on the organiza-
tion that supports them. Out of the total of the papers
analysed, most speak of corporate-sponsored accelera-
tors, followed by venture-backed accelerators.
The first type identified refers to venture-backed accel-
erators. Also referred to as “investor-backed archetype”

Figure 1: The Accelerator’s definition analysis
Journal of Business Models (2020), Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 1-21
5
(Clarysse et al., 2015), this kind of accelerator is funded
by business angels, venture capital funds, or corporate
venture capital. It focuses on start-ups in the later stage
of development, seeking significant returns on equity
investments (Cruz, 2016). The most eective example
is Y-Combinator. It is the world’s most successful and
most influential accelerator and acts as a model for
many other accelerators (Fowle, 2017). This accelera-
tor selects two cohorts of startups each year and gives
them money, mentorship, connection, in exchange for
7% equity (Cruz, 2016). Some examples of ”unicorns”
that join the program are AirBnB, DropBox, Stripe.
The second type, named the government-backed accel-
erator, typically selects ventures in a very early stage
in the lifecycle (Nesta, 2014), stimulating the start-up
activity in the ecosystem. Indeed, public accelerators
are a popular policy instrument to foster entrepreneur-
ship and regional innovation, aiming to create jobs
and catalyze local economic growth (Miller and Bound,
2011). Start-Up Chile is the biggest accelerator in Latin
America, and the Chilean Government founds it. It is
based in Santiago and, startups can benefit from sev-
eral benefits that the Chilean government oers them
as an equity-free investment, working visa for a year,
soft landing when the startuppers arrive in Chile. The
program has a double goal: to boost local startups
to use Chile as a platform to go global and to attract
external start-ups and make Chile the innovation and
entrepreneurship hub of Latin America (Cruz, 2016).
The third type of accelerator, the corporate-sponsored
accelerator, is set up by corporates, whose goal is to
insource external innovation and to stimulate corporate
innovation (Kanbach and Stubner, 2016). Interestingly, it
often has no profit orientation, and the main goal is to
match the startups with potential corporate stakehold-
ers (Clarysse et al., 2015). An example is the FinTech Inno-
vation Lab led by Accenture. It was initially developed in
New York, but now, thanks to its success, it is also run
in London and Honk Kong. It creates a win-win situation
for both Accenture and startups. Its primary focus is to
create a platform for the financial services industry to
collaborate on innovation with early-stage ventures. In
the meantime, Accenture can strengthen its relation-
ship with banking clients (Clarysse et al., 2015). However,
it is focused on a specific industry and startups outside
that industry is not admitted.
Similarly, the fourth type, the university-led accelera-
tor, generally does not oer initial funds and takes no
equity in the student-founded ventures (Cruz, 2016).
This type of accelerator is a non-profit educational
entity, supporting student entrepreneurship and fos-
tering innovation inside and outside the university
(Dempwolf, C.S., Auer, J. and Ippolito, M.D., 2014). One
of the most successful examples of a university-led
accelerator is StartX. Founded in 2011, StartX is asso-
ciated with Stanford University. Today, the companies
that StartX has accelerated from the foundation phase
have a combined value of more than 19 billion dol-
lars. The key to its success is that it is a not-for-profit
organization that does not take equities, does not give
a time limit to the startup, and does not have manda-
tory events (Cruz, 2016). On the other side, at least one
member of the company must have some connections
with Stanford University.
The accelerators may also dier based on the indus-
try sector and geographical focus. Concerning the geo-
graphic model, the literature identifies three levels:
local, cross-border, and global. Accelerators focused on
a specific area have an impact on the local entrepre-
neurial ecosystem (Komarek, R., Knight, D. and Kotys-
Schwartz, D.A., 2016). Cross-border accelerators are
conceived to develop integrated activities between two
or more players located in dierent adjacent regions
or countries; they perceive common goals as creating
a network of key players. Global accelerators aim to
spread best practices internationally. Several corporate
accelerator programs have multiple international loca-
tions, building relationships among dierent ecosys-
tems (Kanbach and Stubner, 2016; EAS, 2016).
Regarding the sector, this can range from being very
generic to very specific (Clarysse et al., 2015). Recently,
the growing competition among accelerators has led to
a trend of specializations (Greiler, 2017), bringing more
value to start-ups through more qualified acceleration
teams and close corporate ties to related markets (Gust,
2016; Bauer, S., Obwegeser, N. and Avdagic, Z., 2016)).
Typically, venture-backed and corporate-sponsored
accelerators tend to choose a few verticals, boosting
specific industries or technologies (Cruz, 2016). In our
literature review, we have identified twenty promising
sectors for acceleration (Table 2). The most cited indus-
try is technology, media, and telecommunications. The
Journal of Business Models (2020), Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 1-21
6
term technology means that the start-ups accepted by
the accelerator are focused on a relatively narrow range
of connected technologies (Dempwolf et al., 2014). This
is followed by financial services and healthcare identi-
fied in seven of the analyzed sources. According to Ream
and Schatsky (2016), twenty-three percent of accelera-
tors are focused on financial services. Consumer goods
and education are considered promising industries for
acceleration in four papers; while, just three papers talk
about agriculture and food. The other sectors seem to
have less marked relevance in the analyzed literature.
The accelerator business model
In the literature review performed in this study, a
number of papers try to provide insights about accel-
erators’ business models. For example, Kohler (2016)
defines four design dimensions (people, process,
proposition, place) to set up corporate accelerators,
intending to provide a starting point for managers
who want to set up or enhance a corporate accelera-
tor. Similarly, Kanbach et al. (2016) discuss a typology
for corporate accelerators, identifying possible con-
figurations. Other studies adopt the seminal frame-
work developed by Osterwalder and Pigneur (2010),
highlighting the foundational role of the value propo-
sition (Dempwolf et al., 2014; Torun, 2016). In this con-
text, Carvalho et al. (2017) assert that the nature of
accelerators is evolving, trying to adopt sustainable
business models, while Kupp et al. (2017) assert the
necessity for companies to adjust and align their busi-
ness models to face digital transformation by creat-
ing corporate accelerators. However, these studies do
not provide a comprehensive framework for analyz-
ing the accelerators’ business model. In this paper, in
order to identify and analyze the characteristics of the
accelerators’ business model, we focused on the nine
building blocks of Biloslavo et al.’s framework (2018).
This model diers from other approaches, such as
Osterwalder and Pigneur’s (2010), for the following
reasons: (1) the value creation is seen from a broader
point of view including customers’ value, society’s
value, partners’ value, and the same company’s value;
(2) it considers the overall costs and benefits gener-
ated by the company’s business; (3) the resources
involve everything able to create benefits, including
the natural environment; (4) the nine building blocks
that shape the framework are designed as triangles
to visually support the systemic relationships devel-
oping among the partners (Biloslavo et al., 2018). In
the following sub-sections, the nine building blocks of
accelerators’ business model are described.
Value proposition
The value proposition represents the proposal that the
organization makes towards its stakeholders aimed
at satisfying their needs and challenges (Bagnoli, C.,
Massaro, M., Dal Mas, F. and Demartini, M., 2019).
The accelerators’ value proposition at start-ups is to
speed up their growth and development (Nesta, 2014).
Through their programs, which oer a combination of
financial support, guidance, and training, they try to
add value to start-ups helping new-born ventures to
adapt quickly and learn (Torun, 2016). For venture capi-
talists and angel investors, the value proposition con-
sists of brokerage services, which keep them informed
of viable investments, while for established compa-
nies, it consists of acquisition opportunities (Dempwolf
et al., 2014). Additionally, the more structured accel-
erators let their skills and experience available to the
Most promising industries for
acceleration Sources
Technology, media & telecommunications 9
Financial services 7
Healthcare 7
Consumer goods 4
Education 4
Agriculture and foods 3
Entertainment 2
E-Commerce 2
Cloud services 2
Biotech 2
Drones 2
Real estate 2
Publishing 1
Life science 1
Energy 1
Water and sanitation 1
Environment 1
Business & Productivity 1
Marketing & advertising 1
Creative industries 1
Table 2: Most promising industries for acceleration
Journal of Business Models (2020), Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 1-21
7
companies who want to start their corporate accelera-
tor, helping them to run and manage it.
Society
Society includes various stakeholders by whom firms
establish and maintain mutually beneficial relation-
ships, as well as the natural environment with its eco-
system services, which represent a source of all human
life and activities (Biloslavo et al., 2018). Accelerators
promote the ecosystem development by fostering
innovation and economic growth (Battistella, C., De
Toni, A.F. and Pessot, E., 2017; Thurik & Wennekers,
1999), as well as contributing to the cultural capital
development of the region they operate in (Bauer et al.,
2016). Successful accelerators have a fundamental role
in introducing and building new network ties between
founders, investors, and other stakeholders (Battistella
et al., 2017), generating new value. Additionally, many
public-funded accelerators focus on social and environ-
mental benefits, i.e., working as critical drivers for the
creation of new jobs (EBN, 2015) and encouraging social
innovation (Nesta, 2014).
Partners
The partners’ building block consists of the network of
suppliers and partners that makes the business model
work (Biloslavo et al., 2018). Mentors are among the
key partners for an accelerator because mentorship is
one of the most significant values that an acceleration
program provides to its start-ups (Cruz, 2016). Mentors
are experienced entrepreneurs or angel investors who
are heavily vetted before being included in the accel-
erator’s program (Clarysse et al., 2015). The key char-
acteristics of a good mentor are the unique expertise
acquired through experience, his/her network (Cruz,
2016), and his/her specific sector knowledge. These
allow accelerators to improve the selection process
further and provide more targeted mentoring, training,
and network building services to its incubates (Stam
and Buschmann, 2011). Furthermore, not all successful
entrepreneurs can act as good mentors. Indeed, there
is a need for a strong predisposition and willingness to
help new entrepreneurs to achieve success.
Accelerators should tighten relationships also with
their alumni. All accelerators acknowledge their alumni
network as a valuable asset of the program; thus, pro-
moting an alumni network is a priority (Nesta, 2014).
Most accelerators run regular events for alumni and
invite them back into the program to share their expe-
riences. After several years of activity, accelerators can
identify future mentors or investors among success-
ful alumni. These alumni are more likely to help those
who have guided them in taking the first steps in their
entrepreneurial journey (Clarysse et al., 2015).
Another fundamental category of partners is investors.
Usually, these are venture capitalists or angel inves-
tors. Most accelerators have their network of business
angels and venture capitalists willing to provide fund-
ing to the most promising start-ups admitted in the
program (Battistella et al., 2017). They tend to invest
in such companies because they may earn a massive
return on their investments(Dempwolf et al., 2014).
It is possible to identify also technological partners
who support the technical development of the start-
up’s products or services. The collaboration between
successful start-ups and tech partners developed dur-
ing the program can go further and become a long term
partnership for product or service co-development
(Battistella et al., 2017). Finally, accelerators develop
partnerships with corporations. Accelerators typically
link with relevant industry players to get the expertise
they need (Nesta, 2014).
Resources
Resources used by companies can be distinguished into
the following types: financial (e.g., cash used in trans-
actions), manufactured (e.g., semi-products, infra-
structure), intellectual (e.g., patents, tacit knowledge),
human (e.g., labor, skills, motivation), social and rela-
tionship (e.g., shared norms, brand loyalty), and nat-
ural (e.g., clean air, biodiversity) (Biloslavo et al., 2018).
Focusing on accelerators, manufactured resources are
mostly made up of the oces’ space that the accelera-
tor makes available to start-ups. In most of the cases,
start-ups are co-located in a shared open oce space
that encourages peer–to–peer learning and collaboration
(Clarysse et al., 2015). Financial resources are essential
to support expensive acceleration programs. The major-
ity of accelerators retrieve the financial resources they
need from partnerships with investors, such as angel
investors or venture capitalists or from companies’ part-
nerships. Internal coaches are part of human resources;
they try to guide the entrepreneurs in the right decision
Journal of Business Models (2020), Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 1-21
8
choice (Clarysse et al., 2015). Other professional figures
can be identified in the accelerator sta, for example,
business developers who help the start-ups in testing
their business idea on the market (Clarysse et al., 2015).
Considering social and relationship resources, we have
identified the credibility as a critical resource for all
accelerators. Credibility is linked to several factors:
reviews, reputation, exits, networks (Cruz, 2016). The
accelerators’ credibility depends on the success stories
of their alumni. If their start-ups finish the program,
but they fail in finding investors, this can reflect badly
on the accelerator (Cruz, 2016). Accelerator’s reputa-
tion enables a virtuous circular system: greater cred-
ibility will attract the best start-ups that, performing
successfully, will contribute to increasing further the
accelerator brand awareness (Fowle, 2017). Finally, a
start-up cannot cover all the expertise it requires from
day one and very often, not even after a few years
(Kupp, M., Marval, M. and Borchers, P., 2017). Therefore,
a good accelerator must provide the knowledge needed
by the start-ups, and it must be able to transfer it in an
eective way (Bauer et al., 2016).
Processes
Processes include inbound logistics (i.e., procurement
and supply channels), R&D, and operations as well as
marketing and outbound logistics (i.e., distribution and
communication channels) (Biloslavo et al., 2018; Nielsen,
C., Lund, M., Montemari, M., Paolone, F., Massaro, M.
and Dumay, J., 2018). Processes can be distinguished in
external as well as internal processes. The accelerator’s
external processes identified in the literature review are
communication, events, demo days, and selection pro-
cess. For an accelerator, it is essential to define a strat-
egy for communicating the acceleration program (Cruz,
2016). Methods of communication include broadcasting,
newsletters, and showcase events to illustrate their pro-
grams (Clarysse et al., 2015). However, the website is the
most used tool to communicate with the stakeholders
(Stam and Buschmann, 2011).
Accelerators use to organize events with dierent pur-
poses and objectives. The vast majority of the events
are training sessions, workshops, and practical learning-
oriented events(Clarysse et al., 2015). Most accelerators
run regular events in collaboration with the alumni net-
work inviting them to share their experiences(Clarysse
et al., 2015). Moreover, events such as meetups, talks,
hackathons, and other similar initiatives bring together
dierent ecosystem stakeholders such as entrepre-
neurs, investors, mentors, design experts, tech people,
and others (Cruz, 2016). Demo days are the events that
close the program. During the demo days, ventures
pitch to a broad audience of qualified investors (Melvin,
A.D., Lucia, A.C., Solomos, G., Volta, G. and Emmony,
D.C., 1990) for visibility and follow-on funding purposes
(Goldstein et al., 2015).
Through the selection process, the accelerators iden-
tify the companies that fulfill the essential criteria to
be admitted to the program (EBN, 2015). The most
common approach to kick o the selection process is
the launch of a competitive call, which is usually free
and available on the accelerator’s website (Zhdanova
and Milyaev, 2016). The selection process of top tier
acceleration programs is generally structured as fol-
lows: start-uppers fill a detailed questionnaire, includ-
ing a video presentation; then, they are interviewed
online, and finally, there is a panel interview (online or
personal) (Cruz, 2016). Finally, the development and
maintenance of partner relationships are part of the
external processes (Cruz, 2016).
The accelerator’s internal processes identified by the
literature are mentoring, monitoring, education, tech-
nical, and financial assistance. The education process
provides start-ups with basic knowledge to develop a
business. For example, it provides the knowledge to
understand the deal’s structure and the evaluation
process, to negotiate with investors and to evalu-
ate if the investor’s proposal suits their needs (Cruz,
2016). The focus is on financing alternatives and the
expected eects of financial choices rather than on
calculations and discussing financial ratios and impact
(Malmström and Johansson, 2017). Jaee (2007) iden-
tifies more benefits of the learning process, such as
the interaction with peers, the active engagement and
problem-solving development, and the development of
relationships(Fowle, 2017). Accelerators have to teach
start-uppers how to get the most out of the men-
tors, to allow them to make the best use of mentor-
ship service (Cruz, 2016). Navigating a vast network of
mentors with diversified skills can be dicult for early-
stage ventures, so some programs oer open sessions
with mentors (Nesta, 2014). Increasingly, mentors and
Journal of Business Models (2020), Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 1-21
9
mentees are matched through speed dating or match-
making events, which enable teams and mentors to
quickly find out if there is any chemistry between them
(Nesta, 2014). Moreover, mentors are trained by the
accelerator and evaluated by the start-ups at the end
of the process (Cruz, 2016). Not only the mentors are
evaluated, but the start-ups, too. By telling them that
they are going to be monitored, they get into the habit
of measuring and reporting (Battistella et al., 2017).
Customers
The customer’s building block includes the dierent
groups of people or organizations that the firm aims to
reach and serve by its products and services (Biloslavo et
al., 2018). The acceleration programs are mainly devel-
oped and implemented for a single customer category:
start-ups. The vast majority of the accelerators work
with cohorts or classes of start-ups rather than individ-
ual companies (Clarysse et al., 2015). There are dierent
types of programs to target a wide range of start-ups
with dierent objectives and key stakeholders (Clarysse
et al., 2015). There are acceleration programs focused on
specific stages of the start-up lifecycle as well as on spe-
cific industries or technologies (Cruz, 2016).
There are accelerators focused on entrepreneurs.
Although some entrepreneurs have a clearly formulated
business model when they start a business, many of
them start with partially formed and incomplete mod-
els (Malmström and Johansson, 2017). Often, they have
not yet developed a value proposition, and sometimes
it is just a person with an idea (Clarysse et al., 2015).
Entrepreneurs apply for an opportunity to develop their
concepts on-site during a fixed time period (Drover, W.,
Busenitz, L., Matusik, S., Townsend, D., Anglin, A. and
Dushnitsky, G., 2017). There are accelerators focused on
early-stage start-ups that may have initial market trac-
tion but require further funding and will likely not yet
be generating profits; and on growth-stage start-ups
that demonstrate viability, growth, and potential prof-
itability (GALI, 2016).
We can identify two more types of customers in many
of the accelerator’s business models: the companies
and the investors. Companies show a growing inter-
est in working with start-ups (Cruz, 2016) because they
look for innovative products or new firms to acquire
as part of their business strategies (Dempwolf et al.,
2014). Moreover, there is a considerable number of
companies that outsource the company’s accelerator
management to established accelerators. This hap-
pens because the launch and execution of a corporate
accelerator program are complex tasks, and usually, the
parent company does not have the required capabili-
ties (Kanbach and Stubner, 2016). In some cases, inves-
tors can be considered as real customers. They provide
capital to the accelerator to get a service that consists
of the reduction of the research and selection costs of
early-stage investments (Bauer et al., 2016).
Products
Products are the bundle of goods and services that cre-
ate value for customers by satisfying their needs and
wants (Biloslavo et al., 2018). The product that accel-
erators make available to start-ups is the acceleration
program. Although this is variable based on the accel-
erator’s type, it is possible to identify some common
characteristics.
According to Goldstein et al. (2015), the acceleration
proposal is made up of five basic steps: the selection
process, the deal, the program, the completion, and
the alumni program. The selection process defines the
methods of scouting and selecting start-ups (Goldstein
et al., 2015). The selection process can have multiple
interactions, such as interviews, pitch events, and Q&A
sessions. The deal marks the beginning of the accel-
eration program and determines the contractual ties
between the start-up and accelerator (Goldstein et al.,
2015). The acceleration program consists of a series of
services that the accelerator provides to start-ups to
boost their growth. The program closes with a demo
day inviting the network of investors and business
angels, as well as internal investors, to create funding
opportunities, and representatives of the organization
to assess possibilities of further cooperation (Goldstein
et al., 2015). The start-ups that have completed the
program continue to develop and scale in the alumni
program. This is the time when start-ups receive fol-
low-on funding. The key elements of the program iden-
tified in the literature review are:
Limited duration: the duration of the program is
typically three months (Cruz, 2016) and no more
than six to instill a sense of urgency and, thereby,
encourage fast results (Goldstein et al., 2015).
Journal of Business Models (2020), Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 1-21
10
The education and training: business accelerators use
to organize specific training that all accepted start-
ups go through. They include lectures, seminars,
workshops, masterclasses, and business games
that can cover a wide range of topics, from finance,
marketing, logistics to legal, and HR aspects, among
others (Zhdanova and Milyaev, 2016).
Support from the management team: this means
regular interactions with the management team to
review progress and provide business advice(Nesta,
2014). Teams receive regular counseling, often in the
form of weekly oce hours. These regular meetings
with the accelerator management team generate
mutual trust, providing the founding teams with
business assistance and enabling a constant review
of their progress(Clarysse et al., 2015).
A program of events, expert workshops, and inspir-
ing talks (Goldstein et al., 2015).
Structured mentoring: mentorship is frequently
cited as one of the most valuable aspects of accel-
erator programs (Roberts, P.W., Edens, G., David-
son, A., Thomas, E., Chao, C., Heidkamp, K. and Yeo,
J.H., 2017). The accelerator directors and program’s
mentors meet founders on a periodical basis to pro-
vide guidance, network opportunities and to create
a mutual trust with stakeholders that potentially
could become later-stage investors and advisors
(Goldstein et al., 2015).
Co-location: shared open space co-location in a
shared open oce space encourages peer–to–peer
learning and collaboration(Clarysse et al., 2015),
moreover, it informally stimulates peer pressure
to guarantee quality and time management (Gold-
stein et al., 2015).
Networking opportunities: these can be estab-
lished with experts and professionals and with
other start-ups. The cohort meets together for
weekly speaker dinners, and start-ups have regular
oce hours with mentors(Clarysse et al., 2015).
Funding: access to investors is a service that all
accelerators provide to start-ups. They facilitate
these connections through both investor events
and one-to-one matchmaking.
Revenues
Revenues are divided among benefits delivered to soci-
ety and the environment (i.e., public and partner value)
and revenue sources by which the firm captures some
economic value for itself (Biloslavo et al., 2018). In the
2016 Gust Report, 60.2% accelerators indicated that
they intended to follow the traditional cash-for-equity
model, established in 2005 by Y Combinator. This
model is based on investing a small and fixed amount
of money, between 15.000$ and 30.000$, in exchange
for a fixed percentage of start-up’s equity, between 5%
and 10% (Brunet, S., Grof, M., Izquierdo, D., 2016). Even
if it is still very used, this model is being replaced by
other forms of revenue. The reason must be sought in
the tiny percentage of successful exits and the long-
time required for these to be realized. In a sample of
accelerators analyzed by Nesta (2014), only 2.1% had
gone through an exit of $5 million or more, and less
than 10% generated revenues from equity returns or
success fees charged to investors (GALI, 2016). Moreo-
ver, exits usually happen not before three to five years
of a start-up’s lifecycle, which highlights the issue of
additional revenue streams for maintaining the costly
programs (Greiler, 2017).
Alternative revenue streams are usually mentorship
fees, rents, events, and very often, corporate spon-
sorships and partnerships. In 2016, corporate reve-
nues generated by accelerators came from two main
sources: corporate partnerships, generally in the form
of a white-labeled or jointly-run acceleration program
created by the accelerator on behalf of the corporation,
and corporate sponsorship packages sold by accelera-
tors (Brunet, S., Grof, M., Izquierdo, D., 2016).
Costs
Costs are divided between costs that represent the neg-
ative impact of a firm’s outcomes and outputs on soci-
ety and environment and cost drivers that impact the
financial aspects of a firm’s performance. (Biloslavo et
al., 2018). The costs that an incubator could incur can
vary depending on the nature of the services as well as
on the business ecosystem and target group. The main
costs for the accelerators analyzed are stang costs
(Stam and Buschmann, 2011). However, the costs for the
Journal of Business Models (2020), Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 1-21
11
equity purchase and the costs related to the coworking
spaces are also significant expense items(Torun, 2016).
Key success factors and key risks factors
Business models support management in the system-
atic analysis of the factors of success and the adap-
tation of business activities (Nielsen et al., 2018). As
accelerators have dierent goals and objectives, the
literature concerning accelerators lacks clear informa-
tion about key success factors (KSF), as well as key risk
factors (KRF). However, they are a further important
aspect of the literature (Fowle, 2017). There have been
many attempts to bring together accelerators’ success
factors, but these are generally derived and adapted
from incubators (Fowle, 2017). Additionally, due to the
start-up nature of many accelerators, they do not have
time and resources for gathering and processing data,
which they do not commonly convey or publish (Brigl,
M., Roos, A., Schmieg, F. and Watten, D., 2017). Table
2 shows the thirty KSFs identified in the forty-two
papers examined, connected to each building block of
the business model canvas.
Considering the value proposition as the essence of
the strategy (Kaplan and Norton, 2001) and the most
influential component of a business model (Lecocq,
2010; Teece, 2010), the presence of a clear value propo-
sition is a relevant indicator to determine the success
of an accelerator. Biloslavo et al. (2018) highlight three
types of value, namely customer value, partner value,
and public value. The success of an accelerator is not
only determined by the value delivered to its custom-
ers, but also by the value delivered to its partners, like
alumni, mentors, and investors, and to society, i.e., the
other actors of the ecosystem in which it operates. As
stated by Haslam (2015), “a firm’s business model is
also about total value creation for all partners involved”.
Focusing on the extended network of relationships
outside the company (Biloslavo et al., 2018; Morten and
Nielsen, 2014), this broader overview allows considering
the impact in the ecosystem as a key success factor,
which takes into account the critical role of an accele-
rator in boosting its entrepreneurial community. Accel-
erators act as focal points for introducing and building
connections between founders, investors, and other
stakeholders. Symmetrically, the disconnection to the
local investment community must be recognized as a
key risk factor. In our literature review, it is only men-
tioned by Miller and Bound (2011), but it is confirmed by
the accelerators we interviewed.
RESOURCES PROCESSES PRODUCTS
SOCIETY
VALUEPROPOSITION
COSTS REVENUE
Ecosystem
development
Regional
development
Social
innova4on
Fast
valida4on
Advisory Communica4on
Events
Selec4onprocess
Demodays
Staff
Officespace
Credibility/Brand
Knowledge
Financialresources
Mentors
Investors
Alumni
Technologicalpartners
Corporates
Startups
Entrepreneurs
Companies
Investors
Mentoring
Monitoring
Educa4on
Technicalassistance
Financialassistance
Accelera4onprogram
Startups
Investmentopportuni4es
Equityreturns
Mentorshipfees
Events
Corporatesponsorship
andpartnerships
Staffingcosts
Rent
Equitypurchase
Figure 2 The accelerator’s business model framework
Journal of Business Models (2020), Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 1-21
12
Similarly, considering the partners’ building block (Bilo-
slavo et al., 2018), mentorship quality is the most cited
KSF, together with the extent of the partners’ net-
work. Indeed, these are crucial factors for start-ups and
entrepreneurs who decide to join an acceleration pro-
gram (Gali, 2016). All practitioners we interviewed con-
firmed the importance of the development of partners’
networks, providing similar responses. The network is
widely recognized as the biggest asset for accelerators
because it adds credibility to the product they deliver
(i.e., the program) through the involvement of men-
tors, investors, corporate executives, experts, and
alumni (Roberts et al., 2017). Concerning the alumni
network, we identified a specific KSF in the literature.
The alumni network is an important source for mentors
and investors, as successful graduates are more likely
to invest back into the community, which supported
them in the first place (Fowle, 2017). Furthermore, they
actively contribute to raising brand awareness of the
accelerator.
Building Block Key Success Factors Sources
VALUE PROPOSITION Definition of clear long-term objectives 7
Set of transparent and aligned goals 3
Definition of a clear value proposition 3
SOCIETY Impact in the ecosystem 4
Location 3
PARTNERS Mentorship quality 27
Extent of partners network 21
Extent of alumni network 9
Corporate backing 5
Quality of experts involved 4
RESOURCES Brand reputation 9
Accelerator team experience 6
Links to funding sources 5
Product expertise 4
Business expertise 4
PROCESSES Events as network opportunity 11
Dialogue with startups and inside cohorts 5
Clear definition of selection process & criteria 4
Eective organization design 3
Definition of metrics to track startup success 3
Quality of applications 3
CUSTOMERS Startup financial support 7
Right startup portfolio size 3
Services for companies 2
PRODUCTS Quality of the program 7
Strategic alignment 4
Action orientation 3
Extracurricular programs 3
Education oered 2
Time limited support 1
Table 3: Key Success Factors identified in the literature
Journal of Business Models (2020), Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 1-21
13
Interestingly, in the resources building block, we stated
brand reputation and credibility as crucial resources.
Biloslavo et al. (2018) recognize the brand as part of
the resources, as it is “required to deliver the value
proposition to customers”(Biloslavo et al., 2018, p.
754). An accelerator builds its brand through features,
positive associations, and remarkable alumni stories.
Reputation allows it to attract more partners and bet-
ter applicants, creating a virtuous cycle: the increased
quality creates better outcomes and a richer stakehold-
ers and alumni network who enhance the reputation
still further (Fowle, 2017). The eects of accelerator’s
brand reputation are not limited to raising investors
and attracting the best applicants, but it also aects
start-ups’ reputation. In any negotiation, the repu-
tation of the start-up, which has no track record, is
heavily aected by association with the accelerator.
Therefore, brand reputation could be a KSF as well as a
KRF, if it arises from negative feedbacks and opinions.
In this sense, one practitioner said: “we are strongly
concerned about the development and monitoring of
our brand awareness, indeed nowadays reputation is a
strong driver of attraction if positive, but if negative it
is totally a business threat.
Considering the processes building block (Biloslavo
et al., 2018), events, meetups, talks, and hackathons
work as communication channels both for accelera-
tors and start-ups. Indeed, networking at events and
conferences is considered an important success factor
for two reasons. For accelerators, this represents the
possibility to identify and attract promising start-ups
with skilled entrepreneurial teams and excellent ideas.
On the other side, for start-ups, events like demo days
represent the possibility of connecting with potential
investors (Nesta, 2014). In the same context, another
important success factor is the dialogue between accel-
erator directors and participating ventures to “encour-
age ventures to learn and adapt” (Cohen and Hochberg,
2014). Fowle (2017, p. 12) highlights the role of dialogue
inside cohorts, saying that “the practice of dialogue in
accelerator cohorts creates a culture of dialogue that
founders are more likely to take into their start-ups”.
Finally, looking at customers, we identify start-ups and
entrepreneurs as the main customers for an accelera-
tor. The most cited KFS concerning this building block
is start-up financial support. In this sense, Kaplan
and Strömberg (2001) assert that, for a start-up,
participating in an accelerator, of itself, may signifi-
cantly mitigate the principal-agent problem. Consid-
ering the product, Fowle (2017) focuses on two main
KSFs, namely the quality of the program and the action
orientation. The last one is recognized to be a criti-
cal entrepreneurial trait, and this is confirmed by the
practitioners interviewed in our study. Many of them
endorse the use of practical methods, which means
doing things to deal with problems and not just talking
about ideas.
Although most of the identified KSFs are common to
all four types of accelerators identified. It is possible
to identify some KSFs that are more relevant for some
types rather than others. For venture-backed accelera-
tors, it is imperative to produce an economic return;
therefore, the KSFs that lead to it are brand reputa-
tion, business expertise, and program quality (Fowle,
2017). For government-backed accelerators, the impact
on the ecosystem and the location are fundamental.
For corporate-backed accelerators, the link between
the accelerator and the financing company is manda-
tory. Thus, the accelerator team is an essential KSF and
must refer to a mix of people inside and outside the
company (Kanbach and Stubner, 2016). Finally, for the
university-backed accelerators, the training is the most
critical aspect; consequently, the education oered is
one of the most relevant KSF (Komarek et al., 2016).
Discussion and Conclusions
To conclude the paper, the authors reflect on the main
findings of this study and, therefore, develop and
address several implications for practitioners, policy-
makers, and scholars in the following sub-sections.
Implication 1: Focusing on accelerators’
definition
The starting point of our article is the eort to pre-
sent a clear definition of an accelerator, identifying the
main characteristics cited in the literature. As stated
by Torun (2016, p. 1) “there is an ambiguity about the
definition of accelerators and incubators as well as
their dierences. However, if an adequate amount of
literature is reviewed, one can easily reach the needed
sta about the incubation and acceleration industry.
We encountered plenty of varying definitions and
approaches which reflect the heterogeneity of the
Journal of Business Models (2020), Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 1-21
14
field. Given the pragmatic role of accelerators in the
entrepreneurial ecosystem, the lack of a clear definition
prevents practitioners from understanding the activity
of such organizations and the distinctive role of other
entities like incubators. Regarding the future stream
of research, it seems reasonable that scholars should
try to build their studies upon a common basis to cre-
ate a homogeneous understanding of accelerators and
their potentialities. Additionally, “dierent definition
or focus of studies may impede their comparative use
when drafting international industrial policies” (Mas-
saro et al., 2016). Making the concept of accelerators
more transparent, understandable, and manageable
enables a clearer perception also for policymakers who
are in charge of developing the right policies and regu-
lations in compliance with the phenomenon. As stated
by Massaro et al. (2016), “scholars should focus on
the stakeholders of research findings, thus develop-
ing pragmatic science”. This is considered by Anderson
(2011) the most important type of research because
it conjugates both methodological rigor and practical
relevance. It aims to fill the gap between research and
stakeholders of research findings, specifically address-
ing their practical needs, thus improving collaboration
between scholars and practitioners. The findings of
this study help to reach a shared definition of an accel-
erator. Interestingly, not all the papers analyzed define
the concept of an accelerator, making comparison dif-
ficult for academics and practitioners.
Implication 2: Types of accelerators and most
promising industries
This study finds dierent types of accelerators, con-
sidering the support they receive. As stated by Hatha-
way (2016), “not all accelerators are created equally”.
This reflects the dierent types of missions and the
objectives they intend to pursue, which explain why
they exist. For instance, focusing on public-backed
accelerators, they play a unique role as a policy tool,
contributing to local innovation and entrepreneurship.
Additionally, our study provides findings also about the
most promising industries for acceleration, which cater
implications, especially for policymakers. From a Euro-
pean perspective, policies like Smart Specialization
Strategies (S3), aiming to deliver smart, sustainable,
and inclusive growth, can take advantage of this kind
of study for their implementation. Indeed, regional pol-
icymakers need to ensure that their policies facilitate
innovation diusion and local development from the
very start (Carayannis and Rakhmatullin, 2014), which
means, e.g., targeting start-ups in specific industry
sectors. Therefore, they should be aware of which
industries to focus on and which not. In this context,
research can support policymakers in the decision pro-
cesses concerning the sectors to develop, the funds to
be allocated, and the programs to be implemented.
Implication 3: Business modeling for
accelerators
To describe accelerators’ business model, we have
applied to Biloslavo et al. (2018) framework. One of
its distinctive features is the presence of society as
a building block of the business model. Society as a
building block (including the natural environment)
integrates the framework developed by Osterwalder
and Pigneur (2010) and frequently used for analyz-
ing the accelerators’ business model (Dempwolf et
al., 2014; Torun, 2016). Additionally, looking at the
value proposition, one of the advantages of Biloslavo
et al.’s framework is that it considers all stakeholders
and their dierent perspectives. Considering customer
value, partner value, and public value as foundational
to build the value proposition, it links economic value
together with social and ecological value. Thanks to the
circular approach, the “eco-critical perspective of value
proposition” (Biloslavo et al., 2018, p. 753) could be
beneficial to the building of accelerators’ sustainable
business models (Carvalho, A.C., Grilo, A., Pina, J.P. and
Zutshi, A., 2017). Considering that most of the exist-
ing business model frameworks do not include society
in the group of stakeholders (Biloslavo et al., 2018), it
is not surprising that this element was the most dif-
ficult building block to analyze. Therefore, focusing on
the ecosystem perspective, it is necessary to investi-
gate the accelerator business model in a broader sense.
The Fifth Helix framework developed by Carayannis
and Campbell (2010) can be applied to this purpose.
The Fifth Helix is a metaphor that indicates five actors
interacting while maintaining their independent iden-
tity (Etzkowitz, 2007). The five actors are national or
regional authorities, the wider business community
(industry), academia (including other research-focused
institutions) (Etzkowitz, 2007), the media-based and
culture-based public and civil society (Carayannis and
Rakhmatullin, 2014), the environment and the natu-
ral environments (Carayannis and Campbell, 2010).
Journal of Business Models (2020), Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 1-21
15
Building on these premises, entrepreneurial initiatives
can be considered not only as of the actions of individ-
uals from the industrial sphere (Etzkowitz, 2007) but
also as the conjoint eort of all stakeholders in the eco-
system considered. This is confirmed by Carayannis and
Rakhmatullin (2014) who label accelerators as hybrid
institutions synthesizing elements of academia, indus-
try, government as well as society and environment. It
is necessary to develop a greater integration with the
aim of developing an ecosystem that enables intercon-
nections between the dierent actors. However, in the
literature review, we did not find research on the topic.
Indeed, elements such as universities, society, and the
environment are rarely and marginally treated. For this
reason, future research should investigate the multi-
faceted role of an accelerator in its ecosystem.
Implication 4: KSFs and KRFs of accelerators
According to this study’s results, the key success fac-
tors for accelerators have been primarily inferred from
incubators’ literature, and just a few authors have tried
to create a definitive list. Our findings confirm the frag-
mented literature about KSFs, yet identifying thirty
recurring success factors. This contributes to the iden-
tification of the so-called “spiral of success” (Fowle,
2017), which is a self-reinforcing, positive feedback
loop, such as the virtuous cycle of alumni and brand
reputation. On the other hand, we have not identified
a significant number of key risk factors (KRFs) or fail-
ure factors. As for key success factors, risk factors can
be taken up from incubators (Sramana, 2013); other-
wise, key success factors can be seen from the nega-
tive side (Preuss, 2015). This scarcity of KRFs shows a
lack in the literature; therefore, more in-depth research
on the subject is required. Research under theories of
failure and risk could bring knowledge also about the
dierent perspectives of stakeholders, their role, and
motivations, improving the understanding of accel-
erators’ activity in the broader ecosystem they oper-
ate. Interestingly, building on Lyytinen and Hirschheim
(1987) categories of failure, failure can be viewed not
just as a lack to meet objectives and specifications, but
also an expectation failure. In this sense, a key factor
to be retrieved is stakeholder’s perception over time,
whose decisions and actions contribute to shaping the
outcome. As studies of success and failure are com-
mon in emerging fields (Miskon, S., Bandara, W., Gable,
G. and Fielt, E., 2011), these should be addressed in
future research about accelerators, providing guidance
to practice on what to emphasize and what to avoid.
Finally, analyzing failure factors not just as hindrances
to the achievement of success, but also as outcomes
of specific organizational, cultural, and political aspects
(Gable, 1996), can implement the strategic view of fail-
ure as a step towards success.
Limitations and future research
Despite its multiple insights for scholars, practition-
ers, and policymakers, this study implies some limi-
tations. First of all, the framework of the business
model adopted in this study could require some degree
of adaptation by managers used to look at the most
famous Osterwalder and Pigneur’s (2010) tool. The addi-
tional element of society and the ecological perspective
embedded in the model can raise questions about the
appropriateness of these elements for the building of
accelerators’ business models. Additionally, given the
rigid nature of the analytical approach adopted, it is
unlikely that every available scientific and practitioner
publication was included in the literature review we
conducted. However, despite the fragmentary and nov-
elty nature of the topic investigated, the sample should
provide a significant contribution to the advancement
of the research in the field. Indeed, literature reviews
contribute to developing research paths and questions
by providing a foundation on which to build on prior
discoveries (Massaro et al., 2016). In this context, our
study opens the way to several new research opportu-
nities. First, scholars should be focused on developing a
clear, widely-accepted, and shared definition of acceler-
ators. This could be achieved with the collaboration of
practitioners, given the strong practical implications of
the topic investigated. Second, further research should
focus on the social role of accelerators, given the extent
of relationships they build in the ecosystem they oper-
ate, especially looking at the implications derived from
public-backed accelerators. Finally, another research
stream could be built on success and failure factors in
order to develop a common framework useful both for
practitioners and policymakers.
Journal of Business Models (2020), Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 1-21
16
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20
Carlo Bagnoli is full Professor of Business Pol-
icy and Strategy at the Department of Man-
agement, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. He
received a Ph.D. in Business Economics at Ca’
Foscari University of Venice. He was visiting
research fellow at the University of Florida. He
is Scientific Director of the Innovarea Project
funded by the Regional Italian Government.
His research interests include knowledge
management, competitive strategy, business
model innovation. Carlo’s research work has
been published in various outlets, including
the Journal of Business Economics and Man-
agement, Industrial Management & Data Sys-
tem, Journal of Management and Governance
and Journal of Intellectual Capital.
Maurizio Massaro, Ph. D., is associate profes-
sor at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. Before
joining academia, he was founder and CEO of
multiple consultancy firms. He has been a vis-
iting Professor at Florida Gulf Coast University
and Leicester University. His research inter-
ests include knowledge management, intel-
lectual capital, and research methods. In 2016
he won the Emerald Literati Award for Excel-
lence as Highly Commended paper in the Jour-
nal of Knowledge Management. His last book
“Sustainable Development in the Developing
World” got the endorsement of US ambas-
sador Andrew Young who wrote the “to the
reader” section.
About the Authors
Journal of Business Models (2020), Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 1-21
21
Daniel Ruzza is currently a PhD student at
Luiss Guido Carli in the department of Busi-
ness and Management. He was a research
fellow at Ca’ Foscari Venice University and he
received a M.Sc. in Accounting and Finance at
Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. His research
interests include business model, blockchain,
and business model patterns.
Korinzia Toniolo is currently a PhD Student
at University of Bologna. She was a research
fellow at Ca’ Foscari Venice University in the
Management Department. She received a
M.Sc. in Economics and Management at Ca’
Foscari University of Venice. Her research
interests include business model and artificial
intelligence.
About the Authors
... Incubator and accelerator research is rich (Hausberg and Korreck, 2020), however, despite the long tradition of researching the evolving dynamics of incubation and acceleration by scholars such as Grimaldi andGrandi, (2005), Bergek &Norrman (2008), Cohen and Hochberg (2014), Kanbach andStubner (2016), Del Sarto et al. (2018), Bagnoli et al. (2020), Hausberg and Korreck (2020), few identify the phenomenon of venture builders and their process of new venture creation. Hausberg and Korreck (2020, p. 170) mention company builders as part of an agenda for future research. ...
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The present paper considers a business accelerator which is a new market infrastructure institution for the Russian venture capital market. This institution is well established abroad and is actively conquering the Russian market, expanding opportunities for funding and accelerating the innovations commercialization process, as well as contributing to the evolution of financial-economic processes in general. Despite the fact that at the present time, venture capital infrastructure increasingly complicates, there is a lack of various institutions able to provide quick and quality support to venture projects. Such an institution is a business accelerator. The authors defined the function of business accelerators and their role in the venture capital market, considering both the micro and the macro level, and presenting original classification of business accelerators according to the eight classification criteria. In addition, the authors propose to introduce the concept of "black accelerators". In the framework of conducted studies, the authors identified key criteria for the selection of venture projects by the business accelerators with a view to further support.
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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to investigate how the context of open innovation offered by accelerators can affect the successful growth of start-ups. The authors explore accelerators practices and tools in sustaining start-ups and increasing survival probability in their innovation process, with the aim of addressing the following research question: how can start-ups benefit from participation in an accelerator programme from an open innovation perspective? Design/methodology/approach A review of the literature on start-up successes and failures and on major practices in the open innovation paradigm was carried out, delineating them in the context of accelerators. Given the absence of literature on accelerator practices for supporting start-ups, and aiming at a comprehensive understanding of how the open environment within the accelerator influences a start-up’s survival (or even success) by mitigating the probability of failure, the authors conducted an exploratory case study in an English accelerator. Findings The open innovation practices mediated by an accelerator and the ones that are not covered, but that can benefit a start-up’s survival, are shown. On the one hand, main effective practices, such as dyadic co-creation with accelerator network partners and crowdsourcing, are revealed to address mostly the lack of, or wrong direction in, product, marketing and relative managerial abilities, which are not usually owned by a start-up due to its “newness”. On the other hand, some causes of failures, such as the intrinsic characteristics of founder teams, do not seem to be addressed by an open approach and neither does participation in an accelerator programme. Originality/value This paper is the first to study and link the literature on accelerators, start-ups and open innovation.