The internet is boring; hardware is where it’s at. The UK’s Springboard accelerator is leading the charge with a new programme for hard tech start-ups. Alex Barrera reports.
This week, Springboard announced its latest move: a new vertical accelerator program out of Cambridge around The Internet Of Things (IoT). While the acceleration wave passes through Europe, Springboard head honcho Jon Bradford is stepping up to the plate by taking on a high-risk vertical: hardware. Brassy move, bro.
This is great news for accelerators everywhere, reminding them that there’s a lot more to technology than the internet – which, in any case, is getting a bit dull at this point. Paul Graham recently acknowledged the broadening ambitions of young entrepreneurs within Y Combinator; Bradford is smart to seize on the trend so early.
The best showcase of the rise of this industry is Kickstarter. A quick glance at the technology section on the site shows how prominent hardware projects are in the crowdfunding arena. That is to say: these are products people actually want to buy.
The fact that the Financial Services Authority (FSA) gave full regulatory approval to Seedrs, one of the top crowdfunding platforms in the UK, in May of this year, paving the way for this model of funding in Europe. And, as we know, Kickstarter is launching here too. What does this mean? Loads of money for hardware projects.
It’s interesting to differentiate general hardware projects from what’s being defined as Internet of Things. Essentially, we’re talking about projects that help bridge the physical-virtual chasm. Things like RFID, now rediscovered as NFC, and the ubiquity of WiFi networks are becoming important components in the movement.
It’s no surprise then that Springboard is spinning this new program out of Cambridge, partnering not only with ARM and Raspberry Pi, both headquartered there, but also with Unilever and Neul, also based in Cambridge and hardware providers of one of the largest commercial trials done by Microsoft of White Space wireless transmission to date.
According to James Collier, CEO at Neul:
The IoT is the engine for economic growth in the next decade, much of which will come from new and innovative applications. Neul is excited to see and support such initiatives as the ‘Springboard IoT’ since it will incubate this new generation of smart things – devices and applications which will benefit us all yet simply haven’t been possible before the emergence of an ubiquitous IoT communication network.
ARM is also happy to help, which is a smart move, positioning themselves at the center of this new trend. According to marketing director Gary Atkinson:
The Internet of Things is starting to evolve and grow as intelligence is increasingly embedded to create smarter, connected devices, such as sensors. By 2020 everything that can benefit from an Internet connection will have one, and this has the potential to help use energy and natural resources more efficiently, monitor healthcare more effectively and improve lives. This represents a massive opportunity to drive growth. ARM is delighted to support Springboard IoT as part of the wider ARM ecosysem, and further develop the brightest talent to realise the opportunity in this space.
This is one of the biggest bets on a growing niche I’ve seen in the accelerator world, so bravo to Bradford and his team for taking the plunge. As a mentor at Springboard, I’ve seen the program evolve and innovate as almost no other program in Europe has, achieving an incredible 70 per cent of funded start-ups in follow-up rounds.
The recent mobile batch from Springboard is very impressive, too.
So, if you’re up for the challenge, want up to $150,000 of free services, seed capital and mentoring, applications are now open until 6 January 2013 and the program will start on March 2013. Come on people. Let’s build those fucking hoverboards.