YCombinator just open-sourced its accelerator program.

"Our goal is to replicate much of the YC experience," said Sam Altman, managing director. Anyone with a startup that wants to have the YCombinator experience without the jetlag can apply. The new program is taking applications through April 5.

Alaina Percival, founder and CEO of Women Who Code, a YCombinator graduate, says, "This online initiative will allow Y Combinator to take the value and knowledge that they have imparted to Women Who Code and thousands of other successful startups and scale it to a global audience."

Why you should care

"Going through an accelerator often comes at high cost to the entrepreneur," points out Professor Yael Hochberg of Rice University and MIT. She co-authored the latest Kauffman Seed Rankings report that identifies top accelerators. "The average program takes a 6% equity stake in the company, for a seed investment that averages $39.5K. Equity is an entrepreneur's most valuable currency, so the non-monetary benefits such as mentorship, network, and exposure to future investors are an important part of the decision to attend a program."

How to choose an accelerator

When it comes to accelerators, the sad truth is the list is mostly long and undistinguished. Dan Rose at Gust pegs the number somewhere around 400 accelerators around the world. It seems like every time someone takes a count, the number doubles--with corporations, universities, nonprofits, governments and funds all in the mix.

However, when it comes to accelerators that are startup superpowers, the list is short and sweet. SeedRankings uses confidential founder interviews to rank the top accelerators in the US. Last year, they were (in alphabetical order):

  • 500 Startups,
  • Alchemist,
  • Amplify LA,
  • Angelpad,
  • Chicago New Venture Challenge,
  • MuckerLab,
  • StartX,
  • Techstars, and
  • Y Combinator.

Exactly. YCombinator, which has backed some 1400 startups, is among the top-ranked in the world.

The new un-accelerator accelerator

Most accelerators are in major urban centers--many founders aren't. That's why it's so exciting for founders that YCombinator's latest offering, Startup School, is free, digital, and takes no equity. You don't even have to fly out or do video interviews. It may be a perfect match for startups on t.he new venture frontier or tough venture fundraising realities

If you just want to listen to the lectures, you don't even have to apply--the material will be posted online at StartupSchool.org. That said, if you are a founder, applying comes with significant benefits, including a class Slack channel, office hours, group projects, and having an advisor. The lectures are recorded at Stanford and will feature the usual YC lineup of Silicon Valley digerati, like Jan Koum of WhatsApp, Patrick Collison of Stripe, Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures, and Jess Lee of Sequoia.