Disney Accelerator's 2017 class spotlights emerging tech
- The Walt Disney Company announced the 11 startups making up the Disney Accelerator program's 2017 class in a company press release. The program, now in its fourth year, is designed to provide Disney a pipeline into the next generation of innovators who have the “potential to help define the future of media and entertainment together with Disney," Michael Abrams, SVP of Innovation at The Walt Disney Company, said in a statement.
- Many of the 11 startups included in this year's class share a common thread of underlying technology that includes artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), with wide-ranging applications from esports to mobile messaging e-commerce and storytelling tools.
- One of the companies, Hoodline, leverages machine learning to distribute geotagged, relevant local news content to hundreds of media partners' websites and mobile apps; ReplyYes also uses machine learning and AI to reduce friction in mobile messaging e-commerce. The full class list is available in the release.
As entertainment and media consumption quickly evolves past traditional mediums like print and TV, Disney clearly wants to get in on the ground floor with the emerging technologies powering that shift. By investing in startups focused on developing AR/VR and machine learning, along with more established channels like mobile, the company can more easily implement these tools and services across its portfolio.
Disney's continuation of its annual startup program also comes at a time when brands remain intrigued by startup accelerators and incubators but are more carefully weighing the value of operating such programs themselves. Coca-Cola shuttered its Founder's Program accelerator earlier this year, pointing to how many in the marketing space are struggling to maintain their startup initiatives. However, Coke continues to work with The Bridge, which it describes as a "commercialization program," with the project's goal being making and saving money for the soft drink giant by either selling off successful startups or continuing to invest in their growth.
The Disney Accelerator has found previous hits with startups including Sphero, the creator of the BB-8 app-enabled toy that ended up being the number one selling Star Wars toy of 2015, per the release, and imperson, an AI firm that develops conversational chatbots for Disney projects.