Intel is joining the accelerator bandwagon. Like Microsoft, IBM, Samsung, and many others (Apple, so far, remains a notable exception), the company is opening an accelerator program in Israel.
Known as the Intel Ingenuity Partner Program (IPP), it will develop a model that Intel believes can set the tone for the company's engagement with startups around the world.
The recent explosion in accelerators and startup-nurturing programs sponsored directly by tech giants - today, nearly every multinational involved in software and hardware has one - could be one of the early effects of the Internet of Things, and an indication of just how large of an impact IoT will have on the IT industry.
In an IoT future, software and hardware develop will meld into a single product - the chip that will give online life to refrigerators, washing machines, smart wearables, and the million other little things that will constantly upload, download, and analyze data to the nth degree.
To succeed in that game, companies need the help of startups that can develop services, user interfaces, data analytics, and engineering to make interconnectivity work. In an increasingly interconnected world, tech firms have come to realize that they cannot do it all by themselves - and that by partnering with others, they can increase their own value a great deal more than they could by trying to keep everything in house.
It's that philosophy that's behind the IPP's approach, said Roy Ramon, director of the new program.
"It's more of a partnership program than an accelerator, actually, in that we are partnering with promising companies to help them scale up their technology. We initiated the program in order to strengthen ities with startups and help promote them. Israeli entrepreneurs chosen to collaborate with Intel will receive wealth of opportunities for growth."
Although was announced in early July, it's already begun; instead of opening up the program to applications, as will take place in upcoming editions of IPP, Intel Israel chose nine companies it felt would fit in with the program's objectives, said Ramon. "It was easier for us to get started without a flood of applicants right away, and we were already engaging with these startups in other capacities already."
The six-month program will feature the usual trappings of accelerator life - free space and resources to develop ideas, plenty of face time with mentors, and opportunities to meet with investors both from inside (corporate division heads) and outside (VCs, angels, and so on) the company. Each company will be assigned a 'master mentor' from within the company - a senior-level programmer or business development person, said Ramon - that will help the startup navigate its way around Intel, helping it secure resources, meetings, and business opportunities.
The companies chosen for the program won't necessarily early-stage startups; rather, they are companies with ideas or projects that are likely to succeed commercially or technologically, but which need further development.
At the end of the program, companies will participate in a Demo Day, in which top Intel executives and investors will have a chance to see what they have been working on.
Intel is not taking equity in any of the companies, but will not necessarily invest in the companies either (beyond the costs borne by IPP participation, which is free for the startup). If the company is interested in a startup's technology, investment and equity issues will be discussed on a per-case basis, said Ramon. Indeed, the only criteria for participation is development of technology that uses Intel hardware - not a huge challenge, considering how ubiquitous the company's processors and chips are.
Intel, of course, is not new to the world of startups; the company sponsors startup programs, competitions, and seminars around the world. But for Intel, there hasn't yet been anything quite like IPP, a program that incorporates all the elements of start-up engagement in one place.
"We've had 40 years of experience working with startups in different capacities, and we've do the same things IPP is doing many times in the past. But this is the first time we are putting all these services together in a single program," said Ramon.
That IoT looms large in the minds of the Intel executives who came up with IPP is clear from the program's first round of participants. Among the chosen startups: Lexifone, which has developed a phone translation system that allows users to speak in one language (such as English) and be heard in another (Spanish); Dov-E, which uses ultrasonic waves to communicate with vending machines and cash registers; Onsysus, which is developing a virtual reality editor; and Robomow, which is developing robotic lawn mowers.
"We welcome applicants from Israel and beyond, and we hope we will be able to provide significant help to companies with good ideas. Although Israel is unique in that it has a wide variety of start-ups and technologies in a small geographical area, I think this could be a good model for Intel around the world, as well," Ramon said.
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