- Amazon and Techstars have disclosed the nine voice technology startups participating in the second Alexa Accelerator, according to a press release. The education, mentorship, networking and investment program is a joint venture of Techstars and the Amazon Alexa Fund.
- The startups work with smart home technology, science, gaming and enterprise applications, among others. The 12-week program started last week and concludes on Oct. 9 with a Demo Night, where the participants can pitch their concepts to venture capitalists and angel investors. Companies that participated in last year's Alexa Accelerator raised more than $10 million in capital, Techstars said.
- The nine participants in this year's accelerator are: Blutag, which focuses on voice shopping experiences; Conservation Labs, a smart water meter maker; HelixAI, which applies Alexa technology to scientific laboratories; Imageous, which deploys artificial intelligence to help manage commercial buildings; Jargon, a translation service and technology company; Novalia, which combines touch-based experiences with an audio platform; Presence AI, a developer of AI meant to replace business calls with texts; Unruly Studios, an education technology company; and Voiceitt, a tech maker that seeks to help those with speech impairments to communicate.
"Alexa, what are your plans for the future?" Evidently the answer is much more than entertainment, news and shopping, which are its most common uses today.
With competition intensifying in all areas of the retail universe, uncovering new ideas and encouraging new tech talent has become an important part of companies' future strategies.
The latest class of participants in the Alexa Accelerator have proposed multiple uses to keep the technology relevant in the home, community, science lab and enterprise. While some may result in marketable products, they all hint at how the world of voice technology might grow and improve in the future. To that end, Amazon also recently ran Alexa Dev Days with Intel to expand the virtual assistant's ecosystem.
The accelerator is similar to others run by Techstars, like Target + Techstars, which also got underway on about the same timetable. That accelerator is in its third year, and 20 previous participants have raised more than $50 million collectively. Target is engaging in several spin-offs, including its Takeoff accelerator program for wellness-focused businesses, a mini-accelerator for beauty companies and an accelerator in Bangalore, India.
Walmart is making big strides in technology in many areas, too, including robots, mobile upgrades, automation and e-commerce. The giant retailer has its own technology startup incubator called Store No. 8, named in honor of where founder Sam Walton conducted retail experimentation.
Past participants in the Alexa accelerator have gone on to raise more money. These include Comet.ml, a machine learning company that raised a $2.3 million seed round in April; Novel Effect, which uses voice technology to develop interactive storytelling and closed a $3 million Series A investment round in May; and Pulse Labs, a maker of testing solutions for voice tech developers, which this year raised $2.5 million seed funding.
Techstars and Amazon invest $20,000 initially in each of the participating companies in exchange for 6% common stock, and there is the potential for another $100,000 convertible note, reported GeekWire. The accelerator is backed by the $100 million Alexa Fund, which has invested in over 35 startups. The nine in this year's program were chosen from hundreds of applications from 44 countries.