Over the past few years, Disney’s accelerator classes have been transitioning away from what was once a roughly standard early-stage growth framework. Rather than the “adopt-a-company” models prevalent among most accelerators, it has been leaning hard into how it can create mutually beneficial relationships with companies that run the gamut from well-established to really just beginning.
The latest class, announced today, really shows how far the model has evolved beyond its early partnerships with Techstars. The press release that came along with the list rightly calls out Sphero as a success story from its last batch. The little-robot-company-that-could had been making a very cool controllable ball for a while but had struggled to really latch into the customer consciousness.
Disney was able to lend its IP (as well as senior executive and storyteller staff) to the company — a relationship that resulted in the smash hit BB-8 bot.
That mashing together of unique talent with Disney’s storytelling, IP, incredibly horizontal org and deep executive talent pool as advisers makes its accelerator one of the more unique programs operating in the startup space. Especially now that it is solidly differentiating its approach from the rest of the pack.
Some of the opportunities are obvious. The VOID is one of a small group of companies making a strong go at creating VR experiences in physical anchor spaces – an effort to drive traffic and create a movie-like experience. Unlike most of VR, this sector is having some kind of commercial success. That experience plus Disney IP seems like an interesting bet.
The aXiomatic selection is smart because ESPN is a hop and a skip away from esports. Epic being included here just means an embarrassment of riches — it’s got a great thing going already but there’s a lot of plussing that could happen.
Others are more oblique – Brit + Co is a media and goods company, and Hoodline is a hyper-local news and analysis company. But given that I saw a Hoodline mentioned on a local ABC affiliate a few weeks back, I think I can see where that is going.
(Hoodline was co-founded by former TechCrunch co-editor Eric Eldon, but he wouldn’t tell me what they’re up to yet. Too much media training probably.)
I’m very interested to see how some of the companies in this eclectic grouping will capitalize on the relationship with Disney. Here’s the full group of companies this batch (descriptions are Disney’s).
An innovative sound company that creates a continuous sound field with a sense of depth and dimension through any device with stereo speakers, bringing an immersive sound experience to everyone.
A broad-based esports company built by leading sports team owners with ownership interests in esports teams and esports content distribution. The company has a majority stake in Team Liquid, a top esports team in the US and Europe with 60 pro players, coaches, and analysts competing in nine games as well as a minority stake in Super League Gaming.
A digital media company that inspires, educates and entertains real women with a creative spirit. Through inspirational content, online classes, and products, Brit + Co enables their audience of over 125 million to use creativity to shape their best lives.
Creators of Unreal Engine technology, which is used by millions of developers to ship visually stunning, high-quality games and experiences across PC, console, mobile, VR and AR platforms. Developers also choose Epic’s Unreal Engine for cinematic production, visualization, design and simulation. Epic is known for creating the Unreal, Gears of War and Infinity Blade series of games, as well as newer titles such as Fortnite, Paragon and Robo Recall.
A local news and content discovery platform, that uses machine learning to distribute geotagged and relevant content from hundreds of media partners into websites or mobile apps. Hoodline also analyzes data sets to unlock insights for businesses and media companies.
A game-based learning platform with more than 50 million monthly active users in 180 countries. Kahoot! makes it easy to create, discover, play, and share fun learning games in minutes—for any subject, in any language, on any device, for all ages.
A tool for storytellers and creators focused on improving creative collaboration in Film, TV, and Theatre production. ProductionPro pulls scripts, research, designs, and continuity together to empower creative decision-making.
A frictionless e-commerce over mobile messaging experience: customers simply reply “YES” to buy the product and have it delivered.
A data and analytics company providing essential television insights by leveraging a source of real-time, opt-in viewership data across broadcast, cable TV, OTT, and digital media. Through software integrations with smart TV manufacturers, Samba recognizes content and associated viewership patterns making TV audiences more addressable and measurable while helping marketers activate cross-screen campaigns and maximize their impact.
A robotics company that develops and deploys autonomous indoor delivery robots that work alongside people in busy environments such as hotels, logistics facilities, and high-rise apartment buildings. The company’s flagship product, Relay, is an autonomous delivery robot that is already installed in dozens of hotels worldwide.
A location-based entertainment company that fully immerses guests in virtual experiences with friends and family, engaging all of their senses. The VOID combines interactive sets, virtual reality, real-time effects, and state of the art technology to bring guests into their experience.