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A Pair of Business Accelerators Focus on NFC RFID Startups

AccelerateNFC and Startupbootcamp are providing mentorship and funding to Near Field Communication entrepreneurs in exchange for a percentage of equity.
By Claire Swedberg

Each of the 10 startups selected to participate in the NFC & ContactlessXL program will provide 8 percent equity to Startupbootcamp. Following the three-month program of working with mentors in Amsterdam, participants will also receive follow-up support from the organization, via an alumni growth program that encourages businesses to continue working with mentors. Startupbootcamp will also strive to connect participants with large customers or end users.

So far, Wesselink reports, applicants have submitted a wide variety of solutions, and tend to be "more mature teams" that have products already on the market. The continuation of the NFC and contactless technology program will depend on the growth of the NFC market during the coming year, he says. "We really like disruptive products," he states.

AccelerateNFC is also taking applications from a worldwide audience for its program, which will be hosted for the selected companies in Dallas, Texas. The firm was cofounded by Robert Sabella, who has a history in RFID and NFC technologies, together with Hall Martin (the founder of the Texas Entrepreneur Networks). Sabella is the CEO of AccelerateNFC, as well as of OTA Ventures' NFC Bootcamp, which offers a program of workshops and demonstrations of NFC around the world to those wishing to learn more about the technology. In 2003, Texas Instruments launched a similar event, RFID Bootcamp, to provide training for the use of RFID. This bootcamp, Sabella says, was the genesis for the accelerator program, and he based the format of NFC Bootcamp on the RFID Bootcamp events.

Dallas, Sabella says, is an advantageous place to learn about NFC, thanks to the presence of not just Texas Instruments, but also a host of other companies involved in NFC innovation, including mobile-phone company Samsung, mobile-payment venture ISIS, AT&T and contactless technology firm DeviceFidelity Inc.

The applications are reviewed by a committee composed of AccelerateNFC's mentors. To date, Sabella says, more than half a dozen mentors signed into the program. The committee eventually hopes to see that number increase to 20 mentors. While those mentors pay to support the program, they also share in the startups' equity. "This highly incentivizes them to pick the winners," he says, since they, too, "will be sharing in the rewards" of the startups' future success. Mentors include Sabella and Martin; Tony Sabetti of ISIS, who launched the RFID Bootcamp program while working at Texas Instruments; Jesse Money, the lead consultant at NFC consulting company Constratus; Matthew Kammerait of Quad Graphics; and Ian Robertson, the former head of RFID at Hewlett-Packard. The selected startups will then participate in a 12-week program in Dallas, working with a host of mentors in the NFC industry.

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