The hardware / connected devices accelerator hopes to bring on more diverse founders in its next batch -- which is now open for applications.
By Betsy Mikel (Managing Editor, Women 2.0)
Imagine a time when your bracelet couldn’t track the number of steps you took and report that data to your computer. Or think back to ancient times when your thermostat couldn’t magically adjust to your temperature preferences. Sure, it’s actually not so hard to think that far back. “Simpler times” in tech weren’t so long ago. But the landscape is changing -- and fast. The time is ripe for connected devices.
As The Internet of Things continues to drive innovation in tech, our day-to-day use of connected mobile apps, hardware and devices promises to change in just a few years -- or even months -- from now.
To help bring more of these products to market, startup accelerator TechStars announced a partnership last year with advertising agency R/GA (the guys behind the Nike Fuel band and Beats by Dre.) The two teamed up to create the Connected Device Accelerator: a 3-month intensive program that put just as much emphasis on building brands as it did on building the products. Last year’s inaugural batch of 10 companies had one female co-founder, Jeanniey Mullen, who founded ringblingz .
TechStars recently appointed Jenny Fielding to the role of Managing Director of the Connected Devices accelerator. In 2006, Fielding founded a mobile startup, Switch-Mobile and she describes the subsequent years running the company as some of the best and also most difficult of her life. The company was acquired in 2008 and she transitioned back to corporate for a few years.
Fielding was most recently the Head of Digital Ventures at BBC Worldwide where she evaluated various digital opportunities and investments. One of her favorite investments, Viki, a crowdsourced video platform was acquired last year by Rakuten for $200M. She was thrilled for the company as she participated on the board and became close with the founder.
At the BBC, she also founded Labs an in-house accelerator focused on the intersection of media and technology. Supporting her notion of diversity, she was proud of bucking the trend and selecting great female founded companies for the program. Foodity, Kosu, Social Spree, Oddizzi, Seenit, Buddy Bounce are among the portfolio. She’s also been an advisor for Women 2.0 for several years and strongly believes in the mission of supporting and encouraging women in technology. She’s judged our PITCH competition several times. (p.s. Are you an early-stage startup? The deadline to apply is July 15.)
“The decision to join TechStars is really about one thing – the people,” Fielding said in a TechStars blog post announcing her new role. “Through months of conversations, I started to get a sense of the powerful network that Techstars has created… It’s this ecosystem that is truly unique and compelling — and clearly unstoppable.”
Fielding hopes to bring more diversity to the next round of R/GA startups. So if you have a IoT or hardware startup, consider applying to the accelerator, which just opened applications. Apply by August 25.
“There are some great examples of female founders leading the charge such as Ayah Bdeir from littleBits and Christina Mercando from Ringly,” Fielding said. “I strongly believe that diversified teams contribute to successful companies.”
What do you think is next in connected devices?
About the author: Betsy Mikel is the managing editor of Women 2.0 and runs the content consultancy Aveck. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and a lifelong obsession with French language and culture. When she's not biking all over every city she visits to find its best taqueria, you can find Betsy on Twitter at @betsym.