Jenny Fielding Talks Plans for Next R/GA Techstars Accelerator Class
(Page 2 of 2)
they have the tools so you can create your own [printed circuit] boards. Usually you have to send the boards off, and it would cost a few thousand dollars, and you’d have to wait. Now you create your own. You don’t have to be a big company and buy a big machine for hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can do it in your home. That’s been really critical.
The resources now available to entrepreneurs, whether it is something like the BotFactory or 3D printers, the time and cost of prototyping has come down to a level that we’ve never seen before.
XC: What will be different with the forthcoming class at the R/GA Accelerator?
JF: From a thematic point of view, last time they were really focusing on connected devices. This time we’ve opened that up to Internet of things. We’re looking at a number of companies that are connecting hardware, but are not necessarily creating a physical product. We’re still going to take 10 companies, and it will be a similar format.
We’re adding a lot more founders as mentors. I think the best way to learn is from people who’ve done it. Some of the mentors have recently gone through the early stages of funding or running a company. Adam Sager, the CEO of Canary, is now one of our mentors. The advice he’s going to be able to provide to companies that are thinking about crowdfunding is going to be very different than some of the other mentors. I’m pretty excited to have entrepreneurs that are living it.
XC: Are there untapped opportunities in the Internet of Things that you’re hoping to see startups pursue with the accelerator?
JF: Because costs have come down, we’re seeing a lot of me-too products. There are a lot of companies doing everything from controlling different devices in your home to security; it’s unclear how many of them will be able to thrive. I am pretty bullish that there is still a lot of opportunity in that space.
We are seeing a lot of consumer-oriented startups apply to the program, and we are interested in consumer products. I think there’s huge opportunity on the businesses-to-business side, which is not such a sexy play. Companies working on infrastructure, that are working to make factories more efficient, or working in agriculture. Those things are especially great for R/GA to work with, because those are the people who need stories told. They’re the ones that need to make brands that are a little bit different.
If your big competitor is General Electric, you’ve got to differentiate yourself in a meaningful way.
We’ve been talking to lots of companies in the Midwest, in the heartland areas, and that’s exciting for us. As much as we’re happy to have companies from New York and San Francisco, the reality is there are a lot of resources for people already in those places.
Yesterday I spoke to a company innovating in Indiana. There’s probably not a ton of resources there in terms of capital, and there’s not a lot of accelerators. If we can help a company like that, I feel like we’re doing something great.