The rising number of startup accelerators across Europe can leave budding entrepreneurs bamboozled. Step forward UK investment group NESTA, which is compiling a detailed list of the continent’s programs.

Formula 1 - F1 - used under CC license courtesy of Flickr user Ph-stop

It’s been impossible to ignore the rise of the accelerator program over the last few years. And it’s no surprise that the idea of a low-investment bootcamp has become widely mimicked: after all, who wouldn’t want to ape Y Combinator, which has produced the likes of Reddit, Dropbox and Airbnb?

The trend spread quickly to Europe, and now countries all across the continent are stuffed with short-run programs promising small investments and intensive mentoring to teams of young entrepreneurs. Last summer I counted more than 50, and it’s carried on rising all the time.

So how do you keep track of them all? And what’s the difference between this program and that one? Last year I stirred up some interesting conversations by questioning the value of some of the startup accelerators springing up across the continent, but the problem remains: how can entrepreneurs know which one is best for them?

Step forward NESTA, the independent funding and research body set up by the British government back in the late 1990s, which has just released a new project: Startup Factories.

It’s a list of European accelerators, including details on when they run, where they run, what they offer and — perhaps crucially — what to expect from them. It currently lists 19 accelerators from Ireland to Greece and in most countries in between.

I suspect that it’s probably only a small portion of the actual number of accelerators in Europe, though the project has stringent criteria on what counts. From the about page:

It grew from a NESTA research project which looked at the rise of such programmes in the United States and Europe and found that there was a need for better information for founders about what programmes were available in Europe and how to apply for them.

It’s something important and useful, though I’d also like to see performance taken into account too.

F1 image used under Creative Commons license courtesy of Flickr user Ph-stop

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