New accelerator launches in Europe offering Valley road trip

Accelerators, Accelerator, Accelerators! There’s a rash of them appearing everywhere, and the latest is the Rockstart Accelerator, a new startup program aimed at Europe’s most promising startups that want to hit a global scale (but then don’t they all?). However, this one has some credible partners in the shape of Google, Microsoft BizSpark, Mozilla WebFWD and StartupHouse in San Francisco.

Oscar Kneppers, founder of Rockstart says the program is for startups from the whole of Europe. Based in Amsterdam, it’s looking for 10 teams of founders and will subject them to 99 mentors for 100 days, and combine that with an additional three-month summer program that culminates with a 25-day Silicon Valley road trip. That last point is probably not a bad idea, for obvious reasons, though Seedcamp takes its teams for four weeks and has done it for the past three years.

Teams will stay a the Startup House in San Francisco as a base and will vist Google headquarters in Mountain View for a few days, meeting the Google developer team and meeting Don Dodge, Developer Advocate at Google. The usual Microsoft BizSpark sweeteners are being offered and the Mozilla WebFWD people will be offering one-on-one mentoring with “Mozillians”.

Seed investment in the startups includes up to $20,000, six-months of free office space, and a three-week road trip to Silicon Valley. Rockstart Accelerator asks eight percent equity in the startups that are selected. It starts on March 22, 2012 and is now open for applications and closes today.

How does this compare with the some of Europe’s leading accelerators?

Well GammaRebels in Poland offers a predefined equity investment of up to €12,000 (PLN20,000) in exchange for 10% equity, mentoring support and office space during the program.

This is a low stake and a high percentage compared to Springboard in the UK and Seedcamp, but then the costs (staff, offices, living) in Poland are much, much lower.

With Springboard each team gets a low £15,000 of investment capital and they take 6% in ordinary founder shares. Office space etc is free.

The well known Seedcamp meanwhile puts in around €50,000 (Euros) per team and takes a variable stake of around 8%-10% of its startups.

A brand new UK one, Ignite100 in the UK, puts in up to £100,000 per team and takes a set 8%.

HackFwd takes 27% of a company it invests in, but funding amounts to up to €191,000 (depending on the size of the team) and the programme runs for a whole year.

In the US, Ycombinator takes around 6% but can do anywhere from 2%-10% while TechStars take around 6-10%.

StartupBootcamp has 3-month programs in various European locations and caters to startups which are much earlier than the Seedcamp stage (seedcamp takes startups which already have an initial product). Teams have access to office space and other resources in each of their country locations. SBC takes 8% of the company and gives 12,000 Euro and free office space upfront. They tend to do follow-up investments of around 40-50K€ (although Magma was 250K€). Rainmaking (a Danish company and type of “startup factory”) created Startupbootcamp and put Alex Farcet in charge of the initial program in 2010. Since then, Bandwidth (Dublin) and Okuri Ventures (Spain) have come on board and are run by Eoghan Jennings and Luis Rivera respectively.

There is also LeCamping in Paris, a 6 month program created by the non-profit organization, Silicon Sentier. It funds 12 startups, has a network of mentors, provides free workspace and offers €4,500 per team without taking equity. Large companies such as Google, SNCF, BNP Paribas, L’Atelier and GL Events are sponsors and supporters in conjunction with public sector bodies like the European Social Funds and the Regional Concil of Île-de-France. Seven of its startups have now raised between €150K and €700K each.

Commenting on the Rockstart launch, Reshma Sohoni of Seedcamp said: “Seedcamp at the core has always believed the US is important to the startup story so US mentors visiting Europe and in US have been a big part of our mentor base. So a new accelerator promoting that isn’t something new I guess.”

Jon Bradford of Springboard said: “Im very comfortable about new acceleraotrs coming on strem, as there is absolutely no lack of talent in Europe. In fact, the appearance of new accelerators appears to be increasing the number of startups over-all as more people join startups.”