PARC Partners With Seattle B2B Startup Accelerator 9Mile Labs

4/2/14Follow @bromano

Nine Seattle-based startup companies will have access to mentoring, technology, intellectual property, and other assistance from the storied Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in Silicon Valley through a partnership between the Xerox subsidiary and business-to-business startup accelerator 9Mile Labs.

9Mile began early last year, and is currently halfway through its second 16-week program. The Seattle accelerator provides selected startup companies with $35,000 (an increase over the first year), office space, mentorship, professional services, and access to potential customers and investors in exchange for an 8 percent equity stake.

“A key element at the early stage of a company’s formation is being able to build a product or service,” says 9Mile partner Enrique Godreau III. “Our goal has been to help provide resources to mitigate those technology risks as fast as possible.”

In addition to a financial contribution in support of the second 9Mile Labs cohort, the PARC partnership gives the accelerator and its companies access to nearly 200 staff researchers, who will be available as mentors. The companies can also access PARC intellectual property and prototyping facilities. And they can use PARC office and meeting space in Palo Alto, CA, and tap into the PARC network.

“PARC provides a presence for these Seattle-based companies in Silicon Valley, the heart of the IT industry,” Godreau says.

Established by Xerox in 1970 with a mandate to create “the office of the future,” PARC is famous as the birthplace of many technologies, including the graphical user interface, local-area computer networks, and various programming languages and software architectures. Today, the research center—still a wholly owned Xerox subsidiary, though now with a range of corporate clients—lists competencies including ethnography in support of business objectives; security and privacy; ubiquitous computing; large-scale data gathering and analysis from online virtual worlds and other contexts; and a broad range of materials research and applications.

Godreau worked at PARC “in the last millennium” and was able to approach his contacts there to discuss the partnership, he says. It is the second startup accelerator program that PARC has sponsored, he says. The other is the Palo Alto, CA-based Cleantech Open.

Before a formal deal was reached, 9Mile Labs and PARC tested out their proposed relationship with Comr.se, a company that went through the accelerator program last year and recently raised $1.2 million. Godreau says Comr.se, which provides software to help merchants enable their customers to make online purchases without leaving social media sites, is taking advantage of a PARC big data platform.

“It would have been possible for Comr.se to build those technologies on their own, but the amount of time would have been extraordinary,” Godreau says.

PARC also made a key introduction that supported Comr.se’s fundraising efforts, he adds.

For its part, 9Mile Labs is providing PARC with visibility into the emerging business opportunities its entrepreneurs are pursuing, helping researchers decide where to focus their efforts, Godreau says. PARC is not taking equity in any of the companies.

The nine companies in the 9Mile Labs accelerator now are working on new businesses in areas including digital marketing, enterprise resource planning, computer graphics, “collaborative consumption,” and e-commerce, Godreau says.

Three of the nine companies had a product or service in the market when the program began in mid-January. Now, at the halfway point, six of the nine do. The companies will present themselves to investors at the program’s Milestone 9 Demo Day in Seattle May 16.

That will also mark the start of a business-to-business focused Startup Weekend event, which 9Mile Labs has been helping to organize, and is co-sponsoring, says partner Sanjay Puri.

Puri and the other founders began 9Mile Labs with a goal of bolstering support for business-to-business startup companies in the Seattle area.

“9Mile labs [itself] certainly helps the B2B startups, but we wanted to figure out other ways to encourage entrepreneurs to come out of the woodwork,” Puri says.

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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