If you're looking to enroll your business in a program at an accelerator, you may find it tight-lipped about its success and failure rates, even if you're willing to sign over a chunk of your company. To help you benchmark them, we've compiled data on eight of the top accelerators in the U.S., from the established to the new. These programs represent all regions of the country (many have multiple offices). And we've thrown in a taste of what makes each unique. When you're ready to apply, interview graduates about their experiences to get a feel for the program's style, says Luke Deering, author of Accelerate: Founder Insights Into Accelerator Programs.

A longer course (like MuckerLab's one-year session) may be smarter in a down economy or if your company is struggling, but if the business is maturing quickly, pick a standard, three-month session, he says. Give up as little equity as you can (the range is 2 to 10 percent, with an average of 7.3 percent), and don't shortchange yourself. "If the accelerator really wants the company in their portfolio, then they will be willing to accept a smaller chunk of the pie," Deering says. On the other hand, if your company has been unable to raise significant funding, if the program will help you break into a key market, or if it has a deeply involved, otherwise hard-to-reach mentor with a major track record, don't play hard to get.

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