Yesterday, seven startups from five different countries celebrated the end of the Alexa Next Stage, Powered by Techstars program after eight weeks participating in the startup accelerator.
The Alexa Fund, which provides up to $200 million in venture capital funding to fuel voice technology innovation, and Techstars, launched the Alexa Next Stage program in June 2020. Founders from nine different time zones followed a virtual curriculum designed by Amazon and Techstars to help them grow and understand how to integrate Alexa to evolve and innovate their technology. The program started with sessions focused on voice design best practices and each team had the opportunity to work with mentors, including Alexa solutions architects to help the teams understand the tools and resources Amazon makes available for developers to build exciting Alexa experiences. Startup teams also participated in hands-on workshops that guided companies on how to set up key performance indicators (KPIs), manage sales funnels, optimize marketing, conduct negotiations, and build fundraising strategies.
True to the "give first" Techstars motto, the startups benefited from a group of 100+ mentors from across Amazon and the Techstars mentor network. These professionals, including former or existing startup founders volunteered their time and expertise to give feedback and guide progress throughout the program. Amazonians from France, Israel, Italy, Spain, the UK, and the U.S. served as mentors, which is the first time one of Alexa Fund's accelerator programs included Amazon mentors from around the world.
"I was initially skeptical about the new 'all remote' format for this year's Alexa Next Stage cohort. In practice the format had many benefits. Companies were able to tap into the expertise of mentors from across time zones and geographies and gain a more diverse perspective," said Ran Mokady, director for Alexa Shopping in London. "In turn, this accelerated their ability to adapt to the rapidly changing environment. I am excited by the potential of cohort participants and can't wait to see the growing impact they will have over the coming years."
"It feels wonderful to turn the mistakes I made when I was a founder into lessons learned and positives for the companies I mentor," said Kate Edwards, business development manager for AWS Startups and former startup founder. “The growth I've seen across the Alexa Next Stage companies during the program has been transformative, and I can’t wait to see what's next for them."
We are so proud of the progress the participating startups made during the process.
Meet the founders
Located in Seattle, Washington, Symbl integrates with popular collaboration tools and meeting software to enable users to capture meeting highlights and improve post-meeting productivity.
"As we scale beyond early customers, Alexa Next Stage inspired us to revisit the why, what, and who for our next stage of growth resulting in us expanding our offerings to bring value to a wider range of workforce collaboration tools including the addition of a Symbl integration for the Chime SDK for developers building on Chime to quickly add robust conversational intelligence to their solution," said Surbhi Rathore, founder and CEO of Symbl. "The onset of the remote revolution is giving birth to use cases we could have only imagined before and Symbl is uniquely positioned to help companies scale their intelligence layer to add powerful value for their customers."
Located in Paris, France, Sybel is a content studio that creates original premium audio content based on licensed characters and stories.
"What I found the most useful during the Alexa Next Stage program was revisiting our product KPIs and ideas with inspiring mentors." said Virginie Maire, co-founder and President at Sybel. "I also liked the opportunity to participate in this program with other companies that are at the same stage as we are, to share the challenges we all face and to learn from the others’ points of view and experiences."
Located in Tallinn, Estonia, Lingvist is building a faster way to learn and retain foreign language vocabulary.
“The most useful part of the Alexa Next Stage program has been all the networking with great Amazonian product people and mentors, as we see a lot of potential in adding value to each other's products." said Mait Müntel, CEO at Lingvist.
Based in Tel Aviv, Israel, Kardome improves the performance of smart speakers in noisy environments.
"Participating in Alexa Next Stage gave us the opportunity to work closely with relevant teams at Amazon and to hear from the best professionals in the industry," said Dani Cherkassky, CEO and co-founder. "The program taught us a lot about how to optimize working with Amazon. The Alexa team was available and diligent to help us define our goals and succeed in achieving them."
Located in Los Angeles, California, Blue Fever is a conversational app geared to provide young adults ages 13-20 a judgement-free digital best friend.
"The support of mentors and program team was truly fantastic and unparalleled," said Greta McAnany, co-founder and co-CEO at Blue Fever. "Amazon's network of experts is as knowledgeable as it is caring. We are so grateful for all of the relationships we will be taking away with us."
Located in Salt Lake City, Utah, Blerp is the search engine for short audio soundbites that can be shared on streaming gaming platforms like Twitch.
"As first-time founders, we came into the program wanting to grow as much as we could. Alexa Next Stage felt like going to school to 'build our dream job' mixed with trying to solve a tough math problem," said Aaron Kc Hsu, CEO and co-founder at Blerp. "We worked really hard through the program and had fun building a valuable consumer business."
Located in Turin, Italy, ALBA Robot is building self-guiding wheelchairs powered by on-board navigation systems for use in hospitals, airports, and shopping centers.
“The most relevant part of Alexa Next Stage for us has been, without any doubt, the wide range of connections that it has brought to us," said Andrea Segato Bertaia, CEO at ALBA Robot. "We had the possibility to meet startup CEOs, experts in the health care domain, possible partners, and a wide range of people with great expertise and a deep and genuine interest in startup companies and in our project."