A number of new startup accelerator and incubator programs have popped up lately, a response no doubt to the success of the Y Combinator and TechStars programs and the success of the programs' participants. At some level, many of these programs offer similar features: networking, mentoring, office space, and funding.

Many of these new programs are modelled on YC or TechStars, but that doesn't really guarantee their success. So in order to help entrepreneurs have a better understanding of which programs were really worth the time and effort, Aziz Gilani from DFJ Mercury, working in conjunction with Tech Cocktail and the Kellogg School of Management, undertook a research project to actually rank the accelerator programs in the U.S.

Some of the results of his research were made available today on Tech Cocktail, and although the details of the methodology and the findings won't be released until later this summer, the initial results and rankings are interesting nonetheless.

According to Gilani's research, the best accelerator program in the country is TechStars Boulder, which narrowly beat out Y Combinator for the top spot. Rounding out the top 5 are Chicago's Excelerate Labs, Durham NC's LaunchBox Digital, and TechStars Boston.

The rankings were based on a number of factors, reports Tech Cocktail: qualified financing events of participating companies, success of those companies, and the characteristics of the startups (the money startups receive, the equity the accelerator takes, and so on). Gilani also interviewed investors and participants to get a better understanding of how the various programs are perceived in the industry.

And while the perception of "who's number one" will make headlines, some of this other data that Gilani will release will likely be even more important. It will help startups approach applications to accelerator programs with a fuller understanding of how these opportunities really compare.