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Disney Invests in 11 Tech and Media Companies for 2017 Accelerator Program

The Walt Disney Co. is launching its fourth annual incubator program, announcing 11 technology and media companies — including Epic Games, Brit + Co and Samba TV — that will receive funding and other support under the 2017 Disney Accelerator program.

As in years past, Disney’s hope is that some of the young blood can be transfused into the Mouse House’s veins. The 2017 Disney Accelerator companies are again a diverse bunch, spanning video games, eSports, artificial intelligence, location-based virtual reality, online learning, messaging commerce, real-time entertainment, and robotics.

Disney is making equity investments in each of the 11 companies, but it is not disclosing the amount of the funding. The participating companies retain rights to all the intellectual property they develop while part of the Disney Accelerator.

Under the program, the companies will receive guidance from top Disney execs, entrepreneurs, investors and other entertainment and tech leaders, and will have access to a co-working space at Disney’s creative campus in L.A. The program concludes with a Demo Day in 2017 featuring presentations from all 11 firms.

Disney points to a few breakout wins from companies in prior Accelerator programs, some of which continue to work with the media conglomerate. Those include Sphero, which in 2015 released the best-selling BB-8 app-enabled “Star Wars” droid toy and this year brought out the Ultimate Lightning McQueen toy from Pixar’s “Cars” franchise; Atom Tickets, the movie-ticketing app startup that worked with Disney/Lucasfilm on “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” ticketing and exclusive merchandise promos; and Imperson, which has developed AI-powered chatbots for several Disney franchises, including most recently for Walt Disney World’s Pandora: The World of Avatar attraction.

“The Disney Accelerator has provided The Walt Disney Company incredible opportunities to connect with and be inspired by many talented entrepreneurs from all over the world,” Michael Abrams, Disney’s senior VP of innovation, said in announcing the 2017 program. “This year, more than ever, we are working with companies with the potential to help define the future of media and entertainment together with Disney.”

The 2017 Disney Accelerator companies are:

  • Ambidio: a company that developed a technology for creating a continuous sound field with a sense of depth and dimension through any device with stereo speakers.
  • aXiomatic: an eSports ownership group backed by leading sports team owners that holds a majority stake in Team Liquid, a top eSports team in the U.S. and Europe with 60 pro players, coaches, and analysts competing in nine games, and a minority stake in Super League Gaming.
  • Brit + Co: digital media company that aims to inspire, inform and entertain women through content, online classes, and products.
  • Epic Games: creators of Unreal Engine technology, which is used by video-game developers worldwide for games and experiences across PC, console, mobile, virtual reality and augmented reality platforms. Epic is known for creating the “Unreal,” “Gears of War” and “Infinity Blade” series of games, and newer titles such as “Fortnite,” “Paragon” and “Robo Recall.”
  • Hoodline: local news and content discovery platform that uses machine learning to distribute geo-tagged and relevant content from hundreds of media partners into websites or mobile apps.
  • Kahoot!: game-based learning platform with more than 50 million monthly active users in 180 countries.
  • ProductionPro: develops a tool for storytellers and creators focused on improving creative collaboration in film, TV, and theater production, by pulling scripts, research, designs, and continuity together to empower creative decision-making.
  • ReplyYes: creators of a mobile-enabled e-commerce system that lets customers simply reply “YES” to buy a product and have it shipped to them.
  • Samba TV: a data and analytics company that measures real-time viewership data across broadcast, cable TV, over-the-top and digital media.
  • Savioke: robotics company that develops and deploys autonomous indoor delivery robots that assist workers in busy environments such as hotels, logistics facilities, and apartment buildings. The company’s flagship robot, Relay, has been installed in dozens of hotels worldwide.
  • The Void: a location-based entertainment company that fully immerses guests in virtual experiences with friends and family, engaging all of their senses. The Void combines interactive sets, virtual reality, real-time effects, and state of the art technology to bring guests into their experience.

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