In order to speed up the development of the Internet of Things, a communications agency is teaming up with the Techstars startup incubator to encourage the invention of new connected products.
The Internet of Things continues along the path to becoming an industry in its own right. Networking equipment manufacturer Cisco Systems, which has estimated that the number of connected objects in the world will grow to 2.8 billion over the next four years, recently set up a 500-person group dedicated to developing all kinds of connected items. Now the latest move is by full-service communications and marketing agency RG/A and high-profile incubator Techstars, which are to launch a new startup accelerator specializing in connected objects. By combining the design and branding knowhow of R/GA with Techstars’ mentoring methodology, this new accelerator has set out to launch the next major brands in the Internet of Things field.
Incubator specializing in connected objects
In its opening phase, the New York-based incubator will work with ten startups in the Internet of Things space, each team being eligible to receive up to $120,000 in funding. The program will last three months, at the end of which each team will present its project at demo sessions in Austin, Texas and New York City and try to convince an audience of business angels. The new incubator intends to focus primarily on connected objects that are likely to have an immediate mass market impact, the organizers stating that they are especially interested in projects relating to 3D printing, wearable technologies, smart sensors and smart homes. Underlined one of the founders: “If it’s an innovative idea in the connected objects space, then we’re interested in it.” With this new partnership, Techstars appears to be pursuing its vertical markets strategy, after working with Kaplan and Nike, but this is the first time an accelerator has focused exclusively on a field as specific as the Internet of Things.
Direct applications for marketing
In working for the first time with a communications agency rather than an individual brand or a development agency, the incubator is aiming not only to transform innovations into finished products, but also to spot potential marketing applications. Meanwhile RG/A also has much to gain from developing startups in the Internet of Things field, and the agency envisages the possibility of taking a direct stake in the most promising young companies in the form of convertible bonds. As the Harvard Business Review predicted recently, connected objects are likely to bring about a fundamental shift away from traditional methods of marketing and advertising by enabling both personalized messages and a continuous flow of interaction while the product is actually being used or consumed. A recent example is the unique campaign tested out by Diageo in Brazil, which saw ‘connected’ bottles of whisky interacting with the consumer via a smartphone.