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Over the past year, the commercial arm of England’s almost century-old media powerhouse the BBC has been searching for the most innovative digital media startups based in London through its year-old accelerator program BBC Labs. And on Monday night, at an event in the offices of Wayra, BBC Labs announced its second class of six London-based digital media startups that will enter into the accelerator program. The companies range from a startup making a branded captcha, to a new freelancer portfolio site, to video image recognition software.
The main goal of BBC Labs is to find startups that BBC Worldwide (the BBC’s commercial arm) can work with on commercial partnerships. The startups in the program don’t get funding, but over a six-month period get access to office space, and more importantly, get access to the BBC’s huge network and BBC execs working on its digital content.
Jenny Fielding, who heads up of digital ventures for BBC Worldwide (the company’s venture arm) and also leads BBC Labs, told me during the event that her metric of success for BBC Labs is whether a significant number of the startups that go through the program can seal a commercial deal with the BBC. She noted that “We’re about three out of six for the first class of startups.” Startups from the first class that were able to do deals with the BBC include video tagging company wireWAX, and mobile learning startup KO-SU.
For the startups, the key to the program is landing the BBC as an anchor customer. Howard Kingston, founder of Future Ad Labs, one of the companies in the second batch of BBC Labs, told me that a deal with the BBC could “make” a company at a very early stage in the company’s life.
All of the startups in the BBC Labs program come from London’s emerging tech scene, which is receiving growing attention from the major U.S. internet players, the U.K. government, new and seasoned entrepreneurs, and the world’s venture capitalists. There’s hundreds of web and mobile startups that have emerged from London in recent years, including some well-known firms like car service Hailo, and gaming company Mind Candy. In part because of this, we’ll be holding our second-annual Structure:Europe event in London in September (more info on that here and more info on the Structure:Europe Startup Zone here).
Here’s the six startups that the BBC Labs chose for its second summer accelerator program:
1). Future Ad Labs: The company has created a new kind of captcha that brands can use to create interactive games and content. The idea is that there are 300 million captchas completed every day, and that content is a valuable and under-utilized space for brands. The company’s “playcaptcha” is a captcha that guarantees user engagement, Kingston said in his short pitch to the audience.
2). The Backscratchers: The Backscratchers is a free-to-use freelancer community for the creative industry. Freelance photographers, writers, musicians and artists, and designers are hand-picked and filtered by the company, and the startup makes a cut off when a freelancer is hired by a creative agency.
3). Peekabu Studios: The startup develops software that enables any video camera to be able to recognize an object or an image. The company can use the image recognition software to create branded experiences. For example, a food network show could use a spatula (or some cooking item) as a image-recognition password to open up a branded game.
4). Animal Vegetable Mineral: The company creates content for the intersection of television and gaming. One brand they’re likely trying to emulate is Rovio’s Angry Birds, which broke out across TV and even film.
5). Social Spree: This startup is working on a service that tracks social media engagement across platforms and helps content providers manage and boost social media activity.
6). Oddizzi: Oddizzi is a content company that makes educational material for schools internationally. The characters Odd and Izzi teach children different lessons.
This article was updated at 11:30 AM BST on June 19 to reflect clarification that the accelerator is part of the BBC’s commercial division BBC Worldwide.