Techstars has announced the first nine startups chosen to participate in Amazon’s "Alexa Accelerator, Powered by Techstars," an immersive mentoring program that started this week in Seattle and lasts for the next three months.
The nine companies participating include Semantica Labs, which is focused on using artificial intelligence and deep learning to enhance chat interactions with customers, and Sensible Object, creator of the award-winning game Beasts of Balance, which integrates physical and digital play.
The program culminates Oct. 17 with a demo night, where teams from each startup pitch their products and seek investment from top venture capitalists and angel investors, according to Techstars.
The Alexa Accelerator program, launched late last year through the $100 million Alexa Fund, awards each participant $120,000 in exchange for a 6% equity investment. In the original announcement launching the program, Amazon said that about 10 to 12 start-ups would be chosen to participate. That number was never conveyed as a promise. The final announcement of nine participants this year might be a reflection of just how rigorous the selection process was.
The money these nine companies are getting certainly helps the young, small firms, but what they are really after is a bit of Amazon's acumen and whatever secrets they can glean from Amazon and its team about developing products and doing business before the 13-week program is up.
What all these companies have in common is that voice-based technology or voice interactions play a key role in the projects they are pursuing during the accelerator. Notably, none of them can obviously be defined as a retail or e-commerce company, as their areas of specialty range from Internet of Things to voice-enabled interactive entertainment to gaming and beyond.
Yet as Amazon has shown time and again, many technologies you wouldn't expect to impact retail can come to have retail implications. If the connections aren't clear, it might be because Amazon and the startups haven't shown all their cards yet.