UpRamp, a subsidiary of CableLabs, and Boomtown Accelerator have struck a three-year partnership under which they will select and help an array of early stage startups that are focused on connected devices and software.
The program will originate from Boomtown’s headquarters in Boulder, Colo., and utilize a Connectivity Lab there that is being sponsored by Comcast Labs.
UpRamp and Boomtown plan to select six “cohorts,” or group of about ten to 12 startups, over the next three years that will go through a 12-week program/curriculum to help those companies reach the next level in their development.
"We will invest in approximately 20 early stage startups over those three years,” Toby Krout, Boomtown’s executive director, said. “Boomtown will be the operator of the accelerator. We're aiming for companies that are in the cable broadband connectivity space and we'll be making co-investments with UpRamp."
"The focus here is on hardware and connectivity startups," added Scott Brown, UpRamp’s executive director. "It's part of the reason why we're excited about this partnership with Boomtown -- their ability to find young and emerging startups, [people] with a dream and a couple of slides in this space, that can have a real material impact on the subscribers across our 57 members around the world and how we can pull those software-based and hardware-based startups into our ecosystem."
The application process for the first group, open to startups in the U.S. and abroad, is now underway, and UpRamp and Boomtown expect to make their first picks this summer and conduct the first cohort this fall.
In exchange for the 12-week program and typically $20,000 in seed capital, UpRamp and Boomtown will share in up to a 6% equity stake in each startup that is selected. That sort of equity arrangement is similar to the approach UpRamp takes with its “Fiterator” program, in which the CableLabs subsidiary gets a small stake in selected startups and a guarantee that selected companies come out of it with valuable exposure and commercial deals with cable operators.
The partnership is focused on very young companies that are just getting their feet under them and a program that could serve as a stepping stone to UpRamp's Fiterator program.
"We see the Boomtown relationship as kind of a feeder organization into the UpRamp Fiterator program, but it's not guaranteed" Brown said, holding that the Boomtown process is designed in part to help those startups prove out their central idea.
UpRamp announced its first Fiterator class last August, and recently said that its first four graduating teams now have 18 engagements with cable and broadband operators. UpRamp has started to accept applications for its fall 2017 program, which requires that companies have more than $1.5 million in financing or “sustainable revenue” and a working product or service that fits with the cable, broadband and wireless industry.
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The Boomtown/UpRamp curriculum will focus on “founder preparedness" in that it will get the founder or co-founders to obsess about the customer and the core problem that their company is trying to solve. The program will also provide some exec-type training so founders can a fix on how to tackle adversity and handle conflict and help young entrepreneurs, if they’re successful, get ready to run large, high-growth startups.
In addition to coming out of the program with a viable product or service that will likely attract competition, they want to cultivate a fast-moving team that knows the problem better than others so they are positioned to win the long game, Krout explained.
The program will “focus a lot on the founders themselves and the character of the founders and the team dynamics,” Krout added. “The idea, obviously, is really important as well but we're different from some accelerators in that the most important thing to us is not that they are far, far along, with traction, revenue and profitability. We think that, because we invest so much in our program -- it's constantly evolving based on feedback from every class -- that we can go earlier stage and have a bigger impact, so it's important to us that the quality of the team is top notch."
Boomtown has invested in more than 70 companies. Earlier this year, it launched The Farm Accelerator in Atlanta with Comcast NBCUniversal’s LIFT Labs for Entrepreneurs program.