Qualcomm Names First 10 Companies to Robotics Accelerator

Following a global recruiting effort that yielded hundreds of applications, San Diego-based Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) today named the 10 startups selected for the new robotics accelerator program it is operating with Techstars.

The inaugural class includes two San Diego robotics startups, Inova Drone and CleverPet, San Francisco-based Carbon Robotics, and early stage companies from Singapore; Athens, Greece; Rome, Italy; Alberta, Canada; Berlin, Germany, and Bristol, England.

The effort marks a substantial initiative by Qualcomm to accelerate the development of next-generation robots and intelligent machines, and to ensure its own place as a core technology supplier in an emerging market expected to grow fast. Qualcomm established a partnership last October with Boulder, CO-based Techstars, the program for mentoring and investing in seed-stage tech startups, to create what’s known officially as the Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator, powered by Techstars.

Each company admitted to the robotics accelerator gets a $20,000 investment from Techstars in exchange for a 6 percent ownership stake. Qualcomm provides an optional $100,000 loan that can later be converted to stock. Each of the 10 startups accepted the full $120,000 package, according to Houman Haghighi, an operations manager with Qualcomm Ventures who oversees the accelerator.

“The teams and companies were all excited to have Qualcomm Ventures and Techstars on their cap table,” Haghighi said.

Team leaders of the accelerator went on tour earlier this year to promote the specialized startup mentoring program in Las Vegas, Boston, New York, San Diego, and Boston.

Techstars' Ryan Kuder at Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator

Techstars’ Ryan Kuder

In the ensuing months, Haghighi said the robotics accelerator received “several hundred” applications for the program. But he declined to be any more specific, saying the international mix of the accelerator’s first class was a reflection of the applications that poured in from around the world. As Techstars’ manager Ryan Kuder put it, “the combined networks of Qualcomm, Techstars, and Qualcomm Ventures really do span the world.”

Qualcomm also opened its doors to showcase the accelerator’s 7,000-square foot collaborative space, which includes a lab and work stations—and promised access to the deep reserves of technical expertise within Qualcomm itself.

The 10 companies selected for the program:

Reach Robotics, from Bristol, U.K., is developing gaming monster robots that are controlled by a smartphone or tablets. The startup’s Mecha Monsters bridge the physical and digital components of the gaming world, and come with accessories that provide special abilities.

Skysense, based in Berlin, Germany, builds and sells charging infrastructure for drones. Founders Andrea Puiatti and Michele Dallachiesa say their charging station also serves as … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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