The Best Incubators For Entrepreneurs: West Coast

by Ryan Babikian

This is the second installment in our Best Startup Incubators & Accelerator series. This time we are exhibiting the best entrepreneurial opportunities available to ambitious youths out on the West Coast. From L.A. to Seattle, we have assembled a list of programs that will accelerate your startup and nearly guarantee success for you and your team.

These accelerators and incubators are the equivalent to an MBA for the aspiring entrepreneur. Regardless of if you have a functional company, a semi-completed project, a promising idea or simply the hunger to obtain success, these incubators and accelerators are the best resource to help you reach a level other entrepreneurs only dream of.

Without further ado, here are the best incubators on the West Coast:

Y-Combinator (Mountain View, California):

Hands down the best incubator out there, Y-Combinator [YC] was founded by Paul Graham in 2005 and has since accumulated a total value of over $7 billion. Graham and the other co-founders created a new model of startup funding with the formation of Y-Combinator. Yes, this was the first incubator to change the game. All other incubators were borne in response to the success of Graham's Y-Combinator. No matter where you live, any and every legit entrepreneur in the country - even the entire world - has been inspired by Y-Combinator.

Twice a year, Y-Combinator invests, on average, $18,000 into a large number of startups (most recently, 80). The team members of each startup that is accepted move to Silicon Valley for 3 months. During that time, Y-Combinator works intensively with them to get their company into the best possible shape and refine their pitch to investors.

Each cycle culminates on Demo Day. Demo Day is the final event where all Y-Combinator startups present their products to an audience of investors and serial entrepreneurs that decide whether or not they want to invest their millions into the most impressive presentations. If you were good enough to be accepted, the chances are high that you will obtain serious funding and make extraordinary connections.

But, Y-Combinator does not end there: Graham's team continues to work with Y-Combinator Alumni for years to come.

Dropbox and Airbnb are just the biggest names in Y-Combinator's portfolio. Y-Combinator has funded 460 successful startups since its inception, including: Loopt, Reddit, Clustrix, Wufoo, Scribd, Xobni, Weebly, Songkick, Disqus, ZumoDrive,, Heroku, A Thinking Ape, Posterous, Heyzap, Cloudkick, DailyBooth, WePay, Bump, Stripe, AeroFS and Hipmunk.

Investors tend to fight over Y-Combinator startups at sky-high prices, with an average of $45 million invested into each startup company accepted. If you can get into Y-Combinator, your venture's success is near-certain.

AngelPad: (San Francisco)

Founded by seven former Google employees in 2010, AngelPadhas one of the hottest portfolios on the West Coast. This 10 week program covers all aspects of a company launch – forming an idea into a product with market fit, customer acquisition and fundraising. They also take care of the less glamorous things like incorporation, immigration visas or setting up books.

A strong emphasis is also put on helping founders to prepare for demo day, which occurs towards the end of each program and allows companies to present their idea, vision and product to several hundred investors.

During the course of the program, we also receive guest speakers and host several events as different as intensive 'angel days' and relaxed mingling happy hours.

What is unique about AngelPad?

  • It is a small program - around 12 startups - that allows for personalized mentoring
  • They provide an emphasis on product development and market fit
  • The mentors are also strongly involved in fundraising
  • They provide a combined office space for all startups that fosters a community spirit amongst the founders and facilitates access to mentors

LaunchPad LA: (Los Angeles)

Founded in 2009, 23 companies have already gone through program with 19 having received funding and 5 have been acquired. Launchpad LA runs a series of educational meetings, mentor discussions and networking events that are designed to foster knowledge sharing and experiences between serial entrepreneurs, veteran tech executives and new CEO's.

The idea came from LaunchPad founder Mark Suster's frustration with seeing too many companies being scooped up by Northern California Venture Capitalists, who would then have them move to the NoCal area. The Launchpad LA initiative is a true collaboration among the area's best Venture Capitalists who all have a shared interest in seeing a robust tech community continue to grow and thrive in Los Angeles.

Launchpad LA is currently accepting applications for its fourth class of tech startups. The application deadline is June 21st and the class will run from July until the end of November. Each company that is selected will receive $50,000 in funding, free office space and access to their world-class network of mentors and advisors. Apply now if you are interested in an incubator, especially since Launchpad LA is one of the only that currently accepting applicants.

500 Startups:

This program provides startup companies with funding between $10,000 and $250,000 in funding via seed investments, elite startup accelerators and new micro-fund models--like the Twilio Fund. With over 160 experienced startup mentors around the world, creative work space in the heart of Silicon Valley and a vibrant community of startup founders, 500 Startups helps companies succeed in ways other venture firms do not.

What is so unique about 500 Startups?

  • Design: Great products start with a great user experience—one that makes customers happy and brings them back for more. They help startups design functional solutions, not just pretty pictures.
  • Data: Successful startups can make informed product and marketing decisions, know how much customers are willing to pay and what it costs to acquire them. 500 Startups helps startups learn how to define and measure customer-driven metrics.
  • Distribution: Startups need scalable, cost-effective customer acquisition. We specialize in distribution for search, social, and mobile platforms, such as: Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Apple and Android.

KickLabs: (San Francisco)

This Stage-agnostic accelerator focuses on helping startups close their first deals with large brands and agencies. KickLabs works with a selected group of startups that are ready to start acquiring customers and generate revenue. Their focus is to connect companies with prospective partners and customers so they can build the relationships that accelerate their business's growth.

KickLabs does not compete with Y Combinator, Tech Stars, Angel Pad, 500 Start Ups or other technology incubator programs. KickLabs is a natural landing pad for companies that have either: already completed a top incubator program, like those above, or, are establishing a presence in Silicon Valley.

Seed funding may be readily available today, but after a start up graduates from an incubator program or secures seed funding, they need to find ways to turn their idea into a viable business. That is where KickLabs comes in.

Ryan Babikian | Elite.