Amazon has a shiny new startup accelerator to advance conversatinal AI

Amazon has a shiny new startup accelerator to advance conversatinal AI
Amazon has a shiny new startup accelerator to advance conversational AI

Big tech companies have been creating accelerators left and right to evangelize their brands and get developers engaged with APIs and other open-source efforts. Today, Amazon joined the corwd by announcing a new program for startups developing conversational AI.

This is Amazon’s first foray into the world of accelerator programs, though its $100 million Alexa Fund has already invested in 22 companies within the space. These investments have occurred acroos various company stages and verticals. More recently, Amazon created the Alexa Prize for conversational AI, tasking university studnets with building bots that can actually hold a conversation.

Dough Booms, VP of corp dev for Amazon (wink, wink, also in charge of Amazon M&A), expained to TechCrunch that the new accelerator wasn’t designed to be a feeder for the Alexa Fund nor to be a next step for teams competing for the Alexa Prize.

Amazon’s accelerator strategy seems rather open-ended at this point. No formal constraints have been set as to what types of startups wil lbe welcome in the batch that could encompass teams working on connected cars, smart homes and everything in-between.

Rather than go it alone, the entire 13-week program is being run in partnership with Techstarts. Amazon first approached the acclerator about a potential partnership to support conversational AI. Togerther, Amazon and Techstarts will be inversting an initial $20,000 in all participants at the start of the program.

Selected companies will be housed in space rented from the University of Washington. Founders wil lbe given exposure to mentors fro mboth groups. At the end of the program, gropus will be eligible for an additional $100,000 in the form of a convertible note.

Startups can bgin applying for the program in January. Amazon and Techstars will be hosting joint information sessions in major cities around the world before the program begins in July. As is typical with most accelerators, a demo day will be held in October for investors to view company presentations and interact with founders.

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