So much for the news slowing down as we roll into the holidays. There’s a huge announcement today from Nike that they’re launching a Nike+ Accelerator powered by TechStars to support startups that are building on top of Nike+ and FuelBand technology. Best of all? It will be housed right here in Portland.
The Nike+ Accelerator is for technology-oriented companies whose businesses can connect to our Nike+ APIs and development tools. The focus is to allow companies to leverage the Nike+ platform and products to build companies and offerings that inspire and assist people to live more active lifestyles.
“We’re excited to be working with Nike on the Nike+ Accelerator. I’ve been an avid Nike+ user and there are limitless possibilities for startups in this area,” said David Cohen, founder and CEO of TechStars. “I think there is so much that can be done in the quantified self space as well. I can’t wait to see what sorts of startups apply – it’s a unique opportunity to get funding for your startup and work with amazing mentors.”
The program will select 10 startups to participate. Applications are due February 3, 2013. The program will run March through June with demo days at Nike headquarters in Beaverton and in Silicon Valley.
Portland, Oregon: Accelerator-ville, USA?
Ever since the Nike+ presence at SXSW, this year, there have been any number of rumors swirling about something like this in the works. So I have had plenty of time to think about it. It’s great to see Nike getting more involved in the startup scene, but personally, I think this is even more incredible news for the Portland startup scene on any number of fronts.
1) Portland has more startup accelerators per capita than any startup scene. In a day and age where folks are bemoaning the increasing prevalence of startup accelerators, I’m willing to bet that no one location has managed to accumulate a more diverse and critical mass of startup accelerators and mentors than Portland—Upstart Labs, StarveUps, Portland Startup Weekend, Portland Seed Fund, Portland State Business Accelerator, Portland Ten, OEN, OTBC, PIE [Full disclosure: I work for PIE]… the list goes on and on. And for a town that prides itself on being the “more x per capita” capital of the world, we know how to manage that. From brew pubs to strip clubs to food carts, Portland understands how to excel at critical mass within a niche. Dare I say, we’ve got the chance to be the de facto hub of accelerators?
2) TechStars has a more established presence in town. While we’ve been lucky to have TechStars alums like Vizify, Cloudability, and Glider make it back to town, we’ve never really had access to TechStars proper. And while this program is very much a Nike program powered by TechStars, it’s a start. And it will be great to have more TechStars presence here in town. Even if it isn’t TechStars proper.
3) It’s in Portland. You read that right. Not Beaverton. Portland. Even a presence like Nike has a hard time cracking the “West Hills divide” that keeps talented startup developers and their more corporate counterparts at a greater distance than the miles would belie. By planting the Nike+ Accelerator in Portland, the team stands a much better chance of attracting talent—and exposing more people to what’s happening here in PDX.
4) Mentors mentoring mentors. The strongest component of any TechStars program, corporate or traditional, is their access to the TechStars mentor network. Now, they’re adding Nike employees to that mentor network and giving Portland TechStars alums a more accessible way to participate in mentoring with TechStars. Meaning? Meaning we, as a startup scene, gain stronger mentors and have mentors who can mentor mentors on how to be better mentors. Also? Mentors.
5) Portland gains international startup appeal. If the Microsoft Kinect Accelerator powered by TechStars is any indication, the Nike+ Accelerator stands to draw a whole bunch of interest from outside Portland and outside the US. That means more exposure for our startup scene. And more eyes on what’s happening here, be it Nike related or otherwise.
6) Hacking Nike+ fits Portland’s hobbyist hacker culture. Talk to most Portland hackers about Nike+ and FuelBand, and their usual response tends to be “I’ll be more interested when they open up the API.” Well, this accelerator is doing exactly that. And, with any luck, the broader developer will get the benefit of this API as well.
7) Portland just became a much more sought after destination for startups. We Portlanders aren’t terribly good at promoting our accomplishments. So it’s always nice when someone else can shine a light on the potential to be found here, on the depth of talent, and on the opportunity. With all the activity already happening here, combined with all of the talent, combined with this big old spotlight that just got pointed at town… this is an opportunity. For all of Portland. To champion what’s happening around here.
Brad Feld, who helped cofound TechStars, provides his thoughts on the Nike+ Accelerator.
Several years ago David Cohen, Jason Mendelson, and I started talking about the idea that the same principles of an accelerator model could apply to specific vertical markets or companies. TechStars Cloud, which is about to start it’s second program, was our first experiment with this. The first year was a great success, we learned a lot from it, and applied much of our learning to our first “powered by TechStars” accelerator that we did with Microsoft.
David provides some additional thoughts in his own post.
Today, Nike announced their first Nike+ Accelerator program, powered by TechStars. Ten companies will participate in a three-month, mentorship-driven program. The technology focus will be about leveraging the success of the Nike+ FuelBand, Nike+ Running and NikeFuel to support digital innovation. Anyone that knows me will tell you I’m a quantified self geek and enjoy data. I’ve been using the Nike Fuelband for several months and I’m loving it. I’ve used other “quantified self” devices and lost 35 pounds in the last 9 months because of the accountability associated with things like this. Living a healthier life is a hot topic in an exciting space and Nike is perfectly positioned to address this technology.
Welcome Nike and TechStars to the Portland startup scene
I’ve been chatting with folks about 2012 in the Portland startup scene. You know, like you do. Especially at the end of the year. And in my mind, 2012 has been very much a building year. Strong companies have gotten stronger. Programs have gotten better. But in reality? There hasn’t been anything explosive happening, this year.
I’m thinking 2013 may be one of those game changing years. And the Nike+ Accelerator powered by TechStars may very well be the first inkling of how incredible this next year is going to be.
Welcome to the Portland startup scene, Nike and TechStars. We’re glad you’re here.
For more information, visit Nike+ Accelerator powered by TechStars or read the press release on the new project. And if you’re interested in participating? Get to work on that application. You’ve got until February 3.