The Walt Disney Co. chief Bob Iger has long been an early adopter and supporter of new technology and digital platforms. Now the Mouse House has launched a program to invest in startups through Disney Accelerator, a three-month mentorship and seed-stage investment program.
The Los Angeles-based venture, will be overseen by Michael Abrams, Disney’s senior VP of innovation, and run with Techstars, which operates similar investment programs in eight cities each year, including Austin, New York, Seattle and London.
Disney Accelerator will choose 10 startups to support with $120,000 in capital to develop their ideas. Companies must have “transformative” consumer media and entertainment product ideas, Disney said.
The ventures will also be mentored by leaders from Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, ESPN and Walt Disney Imagineering and be given access to stories, characters, technology and other resources at Disney. Iger, himself, will join other entertainment leaders, venture capitalists and Techstars entrepreneurs, investors and executives as a mentor.
“Disney has always been defined by innovation, leveraging the technology required to build the future of entertainment,” said Kevin Mayer, executive VP, corporate strategy and business development, the Walt Disney Co. “Disney Accelerator offers a unique collaboration between some of the best creative minds in the entertainment industry and the modern-day visionaries who are starting businesses on the strength of exciting new ideas.”
The program begins June 30, and applications are being accepted through the Disney Accelerator website, with submissions being taken through April 16.
Teams will present their companies on an investor demo day in September.
Move by Disney comes as investment in startups is spreading across Hollywood, as everyone from studios and talent agencies to their celebrities looking for new business and revenue opportunities outside of traditional entertainment.
Last March, United Talent Agency and venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers paired up with the University of Southern California to back the Viterbi Startup Garage, a so-called “technology accelerator” that will provide financial grants, strategic guidance and mentorship to an initial round of 10 companies. In return for the investment, partners will own 4% of the companies.
During the summer, Warner Bros. launched Media Camp as a 12-week accelerator program that educates entrepreneurs on how the film industry works and helps them build their media-related technology businesses. DreamWorks Animation also has backed startups like mobile video app Ptch, which was purchased by Yahoo.
Individuals like Ashton Kutcher also kicked off a side business for celebs to invested in startups like Foursquare, Airbnb and Fab.com, with Ryan Seacrest the more recent success story in the space.
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