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TechStars, the seemingly ubiquitous startup accelerator, has launched an internet of things program with New York digital ad agency R/GA. This follows other specialty TechStars incubators such as the TechStars Cloud program that was built in San Antonio with Rackspace. The R/GA Connected Devices Accelerator will be based in New York City, but will culminate in a launch event at SXSW Interactive in Austin. There will also be a demo day in NYC.
The program is looking for startups doing basically all that is hot right now in the connected device and maker sector. A list on the site includes: wearables, 3D printing, “sensor-driven devices and networks,” connected toys, “socially enabled products and services focused on achieving personal goals,” products that interact with smartphones and services that make all this connectivity easier to develop.
The link between connected devices and marketing isn’t as obvious as the link between marketing and big data, but many of the most interesting connected devices and services coming out are either brand extensions for savvy companies or clever marketing. For example, the Nike Fuel Band is a brilliant way to expand the sporting brand’s presence into the digital sphere, something we’re likely to hear something about when Paul Gaudio from Adidas gets up onstage at our Mobilize event in October. But the marketing departments of many big name brands are pushing connected devices for publicity stunts like having drones deliver pizzas or for making sure consumers stay connected with their washing machines.
Thus, this new TechStars program will likely connect companies with connected product ideas with brands that want to exploit those ideas for marketing or strategic purposes. The R/GA’s Accelerator program startups will have access to an R/GA-dedicated services team that will provide design, branding, and engineering services such as prototype development, logo design, and marketing campaign strategy. Each accepted team is eligible to receive up to $120,000 in funding.
Applications to the R/GA Connected Devices Accelerator will be accepted starting Monday, with the deadline set for October 11th. The ten accepted startups will be announced in late November, and the program begins on December 2nd. I am both excited and a little worried to see what these companies dream up.