Target is the latest big company to launch its own startup accelerator.
This will a partnership between Target and Techstars, and it’s being led by West Stringfellow, former chief product officer at Big Commerce and Rosetta Stone. (There are plans to hire a managing director as well.)
Stringfellow said this was one of his initial ideas when he joined Target’s entrepreneur in residence program earlier this year. The aim is to “accelerate our own innovation at Target” and to build up the startup community in Minneapolis, where the retail giant is headquartered.
“We intend to make Minneapolis and the Twin Cities the epicenter of the Silicon Prairie and the epicenter of retail innovation,” he said.
Techstars has previously worked with companies like Disney and Barclays to create accelerators focused, respectively, on media/entertainment and financial tech. (Sphero, a robotics startup in the Disney accelerator, was picked by CEO Bob Iger to build a BB-8 droid based on Disney’s upcoming Star Wars film.) However, Stringfellow said this is “the first retail-focused accelerator that Techstars has created.”
Ten companies will be selected to work out of the Target offices for three months next summer, where they’ll be mentored by Target executives, as well as other local entrepreneurs and business leaders.
The focus is on retail, but Stringfellow said that especially in this first class, “We’re going to be very broad in terms of the categories of companies we’re accepting.” So he’s encouraging anyone who sees “where Target can add value to their company or they can add value to Target” to apply.
That doesn’t mean the startups will limited to working with Target. Stringfellow and Daniel Feld (vice president of operations at Techstars) both emphasized that participants will be free to work with other retailers.
“Ultimately, the startup needs to do what’s right for the startup,” Stringfellow said. “We’re not setting expectations about investment or acquisition or partnership or anything like that.”
And while the accelerator includes a small equity stake, Feld said, “Techstars is the investor. … Target is going to be investing time and energy and talent into the companies for the benefit of the companies.”
Interested entrepreneurs can apply for the Techstars Retail accelerator here.
Update: Techstars has also announced the hiring of Ryan Broshar, founder of Matchstick Ventures and co-founder of Beta.MN, as its managing director.