Amazon Alexa Fund Reveals 2020 Next Stage Accelerator Startups
Amazon has announced the startups chosen for the Alexa Next Stage accelerator program. The seven startups from five countries will take part in the program, organized through the Alexa Fund and Techstars.
Alexa Next Stage is the new name for the Alexa Accelerator program that ended after three years. The revamped design doesn’t just recruit the newest startups as the previous version of the accelerator had done. Next Stage is also a fully digital, online experience, transitioning from an in-person program in order to accommodate more advanced startups across the whole globe. Having a virtual accelerator also mitigates the current risk of long-distance traveling and physical gathering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that is likely a coincidence since the changes have been in the works since before the health crisis began.
The accelerator is put together and run by Amazon and Techstars as part of the $200 million Alexa Fund. which invests up to $150,000 in each company. The investment gives Techstars and the Alexa Fund participation rights in any future funding rounds. The startups work closely with Techstars’ managing director and are connected to the extended Alexa and Techstars network during the program. The earlier version of the accelerator counts some notable successes among its 27 alumni. Presence AI and Sensible Object were acquired by Groupon and Niantic respectively, while Jargon, Pulse Labs, Novel Effect, and Aspinity have all gone on to raise venture capital funding.
The seven members of the new cohort hail from Estonia, France, Israel, Italy, and the U.S. and will work with mentors from Amazon in Seattle and around world the on building both the tech and business aspects of their companies. Amazon evaluated hundreds of applicants to find startups working on ideas that can use Alexa to improve or enhance an aspect of people’s lives. The new version of the accelerator is aimed at finding new success stories on a bigger geographic scale.
“The evolution reflects how Alexa has expanded and that great startups can be found all over the world,” the Alexa Fund’s Rodrigo Prudencio explained in a blog post. “The companies in this year’s class can both deepen the experiences that Alexa has become known for – engaging audio content and high quality audio processing and extend capabilities in new areas such as meeting productivity, social audio, language learning and emotional assistance. For the selection of this class, we paid close attention to how these kinds of experiences are helping customers thrive in new and emerging environments today, including ways that Alexa could be at the center of more touchless interactions.”
The startups in the new cohort include:
ALBA Robot (Italy): Builds voice commanded self-guiding wheelchairs for use at hospitals and airports.
Symbl (Seattle): Voice and text software API designer for businesses to build virtual assistants.
Blerp (Salt Lake City): Audio soundbite search engine for sharing on Twitch and other streaming platforms.
Sybel (France): Licensed character-based audio content studio.
Blue Fever (Los Angeles): Conversational app for young women using emotion-sensitive AI to create a “judgment-free digital best friend.”
Lingvist (Estonia): Voice-based virtual foreign language vocabulary teacher.
Kardome (Israel): Developing audio tech for smart speakers to perform better when it’s noisy.