BSH Home Appliances (BSH Hausgeräte GmbH) announced this week it is teaming up with Techstars to create the “BSH Future Home Accelerator Powered by Techstars”, an accelerator targeted at “early stage companies with innovative digital business models that want to accelerate their ideas around the connected kitchen of the future home.”

The program, which will kick off in February 2019 with an initial cohort of 10 companies, will have a total of three cohort classes over the course of three years (2019-2021) and mentor a total of thirty startups.

While – as the name of the accelerator indicates – much of the focus will be on the kitchen, the company took pains to emphasize that the scope could be much broader than that.

“We didn’t want to be too closed on topic,” Tibor Kramer, the program’s manager, told me in a phone interview. He explained this was in part because they didn’t want to shut out interesting ideas that could help make a consumer’s life better.

But Kramer also made it clear that the main focus will be on the digital kitchen. The kitchen is the “heart of the home,” he said. “We at BSH, as a home appliance manufacturer, are quite focused on the kitchen and on kitchen appliances and cooking is the most creative process.”

The move by BSH into creating its own accelerator is part of a larger trend of established companies in the food, home and retail spaces trying to tap into new ideas and energy through the creation of an accelerator and incubator programs. BSH joins the likes of IKEA, Land O’Lakes and Chobani who have gone down this path, and will likely spur other appliance and houseware products to consider doing the same.

For BSH, the creation of their own accelerator could give them a leg up as appliance companies scramble to find new products and platforms to accelerate digital transformation. These companies are transitioning from a business largely centered around the one-time sale of non-connected, stand-alone products towards a future in which software-powered kitchens open up new opportunities for radically different business models.

“As a company focused on improving our customer’s quality of life, BSH is forging a path to be the leader in digital services for the connected kitchen,” said BSH Appliances CEO Karsten Ottenberg in the announcement.  “To be successful in this rapidly evolving space, it is important to continually expand our digital capabilities and align ourselves with the most innovative startups and technology – which we will achieve together with Techstars through this accelerator program.”

According to Kramer, while Techstars will mentor the cohort companies on how to build and scale a young company, the role of BSH – which owns a number of appliances brands such as Bosch, Siemens, Thermador, Gaggenau – will be as experts in the home appliance business.

“We will handpick our mentors from the Digital Business Unit (the new business unit where the accelerator will reside), as well as executives from BSH corporation that we think will give added value to the startups,” said Kramer. “We want to give them a good mentoring and connect them with the (BSH) network.”

The program will begin taking applications online on July 23rd and will notify those accepted in November.

BSH Appliances CEO Karsten Ottenberg will be at the Smart Kitchen Summit in October. If you’d like to hear him talk about transforming BSH towards the digital future, make sure to get early bird tickets today

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