Meet the incubators and accelerators producing the new guard of design and architecture start-ups. This is part of a series profiling incubators and accelerators from our April 2018 Technology issue.
With a cutting-edge client list that includes Nike, Google, and YouTube, digital agency R/GA is committed to staying way, way ahead of the competition. So, when it came to the rapid rise of start-ups and disruptive technologies, R/GA was quick to jump in.
“We knew we would need a platform for innovation, even if we didn’t always know which forms of innovation would ultimately take off,” explained Stephen Plumlee, global chief operating officer of R/GA and founding partner of R/GA Venture Studio, a division of the company. “In order to find more and better innovations, solve problems for our clients, and offer new opportunities to our staff, we needed to get deeper into technology and start-ups.”
R/GA Venture Studio partnered with the mentorship-focused start-up accelerator Techstars and launched theR/GA Venture Studio program four years ago. The accelerator offers approximately ten-week-long thematic programs with R/GA, sharing its creative capital in terms of marketing, business strategy, branding, design, and technology; partners invest in each start-up and retain approximately 4 to 8 percent of their equities. R/GA also plays matchmaker, strategically partnering clients that have particular problems with start-ups that have potential solutions. Recent programs yielded a media technology initiative with Verizon and a collaboration with the Los Angeles Dodgers; an Internet of Things and connected devices program in R/GA’s London office has proved to be immensely popular. “We are constantly experimenting with our own program and have evolved beyond the traditional accelerator format into something unique to us,” said Plumlee.
One of the things that set the R/GA Venture Studio apart is the age of the start-ups accepted into the program. Rather than limit applicants to new ventures, R/GA will accept older start-ups that are more established and have completed as late as Series B funding rounds. It is also not tied to any one location—R/GA Venture Studio spaces are available in any R/GA office—allowing start-ups to continue business as usual beyond Demo Day and other important mentoring events. To avoid being boxed in and missing potential opportunities, R/GA will also accept applicants year-round for various programs—currently it has four running simultaneously. Within this ethos of avoiding constraints, the accelerator’s start-ups and programs have varied widely and have included blockchain, pet care, smart home technologies, wearable devices, and ad tech, to name a few.
Notable alumni include:
A smart vent system that allows homeowners to create climate zones throughout their houses.
Clarifai is an artificial intelligence company that empowers businesses and developers to solve real-world problems using visual recognition.
A software that connects devices to speakers and/or microphones by sending data over audio waves.