While the food world has no shortage of accelerators as big CPG companies race to reinvent themselves in the face of a rapidly changing market, home appliance brands have largely stayed out of the accelerator space.
This changed last summer when BSH Home Appliances (BSH Hausgeräte GmbH) announced it had teamed up with Techstars to create the BSH Future Home Accelerator. The new accelerator was a declaration by Europe’s biggest appliance maker that it was getting serious about fostering innovation within appliances by looking outside for new ideas.
The accelerator’s first class of ten startups offer a mix of products ranging from recipes apps, hardware to add intelligence to kitchen appliances, kitchen commerce platforms and smart home tech. The companies, which are in Munich today to kick off the 13 week accelerator program, will each receive an investment of $20 thousand in exchange for 6% of their equity (standard for all Techstars program participants). In addition to the $20k investment, a $100 thousand convertible note is made available to program participants (also standard for Techstars programs).
The companies include:
MealiQ (UK): An AI-powered app that searches public available recipes that match a user’s taste preferences, health criteria, etc.
ckbk (UK): Essentially a Spotify for cookbooks, ckbk offers subscribers access to a database of 100,00 recipes across a huge number of cookbooks. Users can search for recipes, create “playlists” and get personalized recommendations. (You can read the Spoon article on ckbk here).
YouAte (USA): A food logging app that allows users to track what they eat by asking a series of personalized questions. The app’s goal is to help users better understand their eating habits and the “emotions associated with them”.
Rocky Robots (UK): A conversational voice bot that is focused on helping users with motivation, tracking routines and reinforcing good habits. The company is developing physical social robots prototypes that, from the looks of it, will at some point go into a person’s home or kitchen.
WIFIPLUG (UK): Voice-interface enabled Wi-FI smart plugs focused on monitoring activity of consumption of consumables by appliance. The WIFIPLUG utilizes an API to monitor and deliver data to appliance OEMs, enabling it to add consumable replenishment capabilities to traditional appliances. The WIFIPLUG is compatible with Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft & IFTTT.
Inirv (USA): Inirv makes a retrofit smart knob for existing stoves and cooktops. Originally focused on fire prevention, Inirv has expanded into also being a broader smart stove platform to also enable remote cooking monitoring and management, reminders, etc. Inirv is a 2016 SKS Startup Showcase alum.
aimee (DE/USA): A retrofit system to make existing fridges smart. The system includes both a camera and a smart home/kitchen interface for the front of the fridge. The Aimee system enables auto-reordering and allows you to control other smart home devices via the front-of-fridge control interface.
Sensorscall (USA): A privacy-sensitive eldercare monitoring system that uses AI to analyze for irregularities in patterns from the system’s sensors and alerts family members and loved ones.
Qi Aerista (Hong Kong): a smart tea brewer with a patented multi-infusion system that brews hot, cold and strong-brew. The brewer also has nine preset brewing brewing programs. The tea brewer is connected to a tea marketplace where users can order teas through single purchase and monthly subscriptions.
I had a chance to interview Tibor Kramer, who heads up the accelerator effort for BSH. You can read our interview below:
Will this accelerator pick a new class annually?
Yes. The BSH Future Home Accelerator Powered by Techstars will run annually for three years. Each year will include a new class of 10 companies, identified through a rigorous selection process, to participate in the 13-week program.
How did you discover the various startups to participate?
After defining the search fields, Techstars sought out to its network and to the future home vertical in order to find the most innovative companies in that space. Through this work, Techstars was able to connect with founders working on a wide range of different products and speak with hundreds of entrepreneurs from around the world. Ultimately, we narrowed it down to the top 10 startups that BSH and Techstars felt to be the best fit for the program. These 10 companies are all creating meaningful innovations in the future home space, and are reflective of the type of companies we and Techstars were looking to engage for the BSH Future Home Accelerator Powered by Techstars inaugural program.
There is a mix of startups from the smart home, kitchen and food spaces. Was there a predesignated balance of types you were looking for, or did these 10 just rise to the top? Was there a regional focus (Europe only vs Global)?
We had a clear focus on both smart appliances and digital services for end consumers for this program. Within this focus there was no weighting – the best teams made it to the top 10 and were selected to participate in program. Our method involved evaluating applicants by looking first at the team, then market traction, fit to BSH, and business model. It was crucial to make selected teams were well-rounded and will be responsive to mentorship, including critical feedback.
How would you characterize the split in both management and financial ownership of this between Techstars and BSH?
Techstars and BSH are committed to helping the entrepreneurs succeed. Techstars has operated more than 165 accelerators since its inception in 2006 and has a proven approach. We (BSH) are bringing the industry expertise, connecting entrepreneurs with >30 mentors within BSH, who bring specific knowledge relevant to the business models and support the companies actively, also with opening further doors. BSH and Techstars are in a partnership. Each has it’s respective areas of expertise and resources which we brought in. It’s a partnership with a primary goal to support our companies throughout the life of their businesses. BSH and Techstars are invested in the companies, details of the financial ownership are not disclosed.
What is the relationship with this group and BSH Startup Kitchen? Are they both a part of a broader effort by BSH to connect with the future kitchen startup ecosystem?
Both the BSH Startup Kitchen and the BSH Future Home Accelerator powered by Techstars aim at connecting to startups on a broader base. Both are managed by the Strategic Ventures Team in BSH’s Digital Business Unit.
The Accelerator targets startups that focus on customer-facing innovations (products and digital services). These startups typically tend to be rather seed / early-stage. In contrast, BSH Startup Kitchen targets startups that develop cutting-edge enabling technologies for our next-gen home appliances—or for our operational systems (e.g. Industry 4.0). BSH aims to become one of the first clients / partners of top-notch startups. Eventually, BSH Startup Kitchen offers a program to initiate long-term B2B business relationships between top-notch startups and BSH. These startups typically tend to be more mature / later-stage.