Stephen Plumlee, R/GA’s global COO and managing partner of R/GA Ventures, explained that the interactive agency’s “venture studios” started out similar to other startup accelerator programs, but they’ve expanded to provide access to “financial capital, creative capital and client relationship capital.” In other words, startups don’t just get funding and advice — they also work on products and partnerships with R/GA’s creative staff and clients.
In this case, the Media Tech Venture Studio is a 14-week program for up to 10 companies, which will receive $100,000 in funding each and work out of Verizon’s new “open innovation” space in New York City. The company says it’s looking for startups in areas like content creation and personalization, virtual reality and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, content distribution, interactive advertising and e-sports.
“The idea is for Verizon to really get out there and see what’s going on in the market,” said Paul Heitlinger of Verizon Ventures. “What’s really compelling for the companies who participate is, they get to work directly with Verizon’s business units. … They get access to our technologies, our networks, all behind-the-scenes stuff.”
At the same time, Heitlinger said participating in the program “doesn’t mean you have to work exclusively with Verizon.”
As for whether these startups are then teed up for additional funding from Verizon Ventures, he said, “We wouldn’t say no, we wouldn’t say yes. … If we feel that there’s a particular company that’s well-suited or well-aligned with Verizon’s business, just like any other startup we would invest.”
Verizon has been trying to move deeper into digital media, with initiatives like its go90 mobile video app, not to mention its acquisition of AOL (which owns TechCrunch) and the still in-progress Yahoo deal.
The deadline to apply to the Verizon Media Tech Venture Studio is May 30, with the program starting on July 31.