Microsoft Picks Startups for 'Internet of Things'-Themed Accelerator

Microsoft on Wednesday announced the 10 startup firms that will participate in its first home automation-focused accelerator.

First announced in June, this accelerator is a joint effort between Microsoft and private mutual firm American Family Insurance. The 10 startups were chosen from over 400 applications to participate in a four-month, residency-type program on Microsoft's Redmond, Wash. campus, according to a blog post by Steven Guggenheimer, corporate vice president and chief evangelist in the Microsoft Developer Experience group.

"The goal of this Accelerator is simple: to help a new generation of companies create smarter and safer homes," Guggenheimer said.

The 10 startups are Chai Energy, which makes a mobile app that monitors home energy use; Heatworks, which manufactures a completely electronic water heater; Neura, which develops ways to make users' various Internet-enabled devices interact with each other; Novi Security, a provider of digital home security systems; Reemo, a wearable technology system focusing on home automation; Plum, a manufacturer of "smart" outlets that can be controlled remotely via a mobile app; Red Balloon Security, which develops security solutions for embedded systems; Scanalytics, which provides solutions to record and analyze consumer behaviors in the physical world, instead of online; Sentri, which makes a mountable sensor that records data on a home's environment, including temperature and air quality; and Wallflowr, a company that aims to reduce household fire risks using "connected" technology.

The home automation focus of this accelerator dovetails into Microsoft's wider vision of an "Internet of Things" (IoT) world, which essentially involves cultivating and using data from numerous Web-enabled devices to improve consumers' real-world experiences.

A wider-scale implementation of that vision is Microsoft's CityNext initiative. Launched at last year's Worldwide Partner Conference, CityNext aims to connect municipalities around the world with Microsoft partners to implement solutions aimed at, for instance, lowering agencies' energy costs, regulating traffic, improving the efficiency of systems used by emergency responders and managing social services. There are currently 171 partners participating in CityNext, according to the program's Web site.

"The Internet of Things, and home automation in particular, is rapidly emerging," Guggenheimer said. "With consumer demand growing for solutions that are intuitive, connected and affordable, there are tremendous opportunities for new players in the space."

The 10 startups will use a designated facility on the Microsoft campus to develop their products and receive mentoring from executives in the home automation industry. Other benefits, according to the program's FAQ page, include $60,000 worth of Microsoft Azure credits, a Microsoft BizSpark membership, business education and technical support, free or discounted legal and financial services, and an optional equity investment from American Family Ventures of at least $25,000.

Microsoft itself takes no equity in the participating startups.

The program will culminate with a Demo Day in December, in which the startups will have an opportunity to pitch their products to an audience of angel investors, venture capitalists and other executives, including some from Microsoft.

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Gladys Rama (@GladysRama3) is the editor of, and, and the editorial director of Converge360.