Alexa Fund Opens Virtual Startup Accelerator Applications
Amazon announced a new startup accelerator program as part of the Alexa Fund on Monday. Alexa Next Stage will supersede the three-year-old Alexa Accelerator program, recruiting startups beyond just the founding point. Those chosen will take part in virtual classes and workshops this summer aimed at helping founders grow their companies.
The Alexa Fund and Techstars started running the Alexa Accelerator in 2017, graduating 27 startups from the program. Alexa Next Stage is designed in response to feedback over the years on how to improve the program. Instead of just brand-new startups, Alexa Next Stage is for companies that have a foundation laid and are trying to acquire talent, capital, and customers as they scale up their businesses.
Startups based in North and South America and Europe can apply until April 13 for a spot. Amazon will pick participants based on the idea and plan the company has for adding Alexa’s abilities to their product. The program will take place from June to August, with a Demo Night event in Seattle at the conclusion. The reason for the geographic limits is that, unlike earlier Alexa Accelerator programs, the program will be entirely remote.
“This year, we’re running the program virtually so founders can choose to stay close to home and connected to their networks and customers,” the Alexa Fund’s Rodrigo Prudencio wrote in the announcement “The program’s curriculum and workshops will be delivered in real time and participants will attend these sessions together. Like our past program, these sessions offer the opportunity to engage with Amazon and Techstars mentors distributed throughout the major tech hubs around the world so they can help companies address their next scale and growth challenges.”
The application doesn’t mention what, if any, funding will be included with acceptance to the program. Techstars has a standard $20,000 baseline for its accelerator programs, but there may be differences in the investments as the kind of companies and the program they are in have both changed. It’s also not clear if it’s just a coincidence that the new program is entirely virtual just as concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic are canceling many people’s travel plans. We’ve reached out to Amazon for information and will update if we learn more.
Even without direct investment, the Alexa Fund and Techstars can point to significant success stories for some of the program’s alumni. For instance, Groupon acquired text-message based appointment scheduling platform Presence AI in August, about a year after the startup went through the Alexa Accelerator program. A couple of months earlier, the 2017 Alexa Accelerator alumnus Sensible Object revealed that it had been acquired by Niantic, best known for its Pokemon Go app. Meanwhile, graduates like Jargon, Pulse Labs, Novel Effect, and Aspinity have all raised tidy investment rounds. Virtual or not, Alexa Next Stage will likely see plenty of interested founders applying.