Microsoft has one, IBM has one – and now Intel does, too.
The company this week announced its Ingenuity Partner Program (IPP), an accelerator program that will provide assistance, mentoring, and connections to companies that Intel Israel accepts into the program.
And like other successful tech accelerators that got their start in Israel – notably the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator, now a flagship program of the company worldwide, Intel Israel sees IPP as a model to be built and developed in Israel and duplicated elsewhere in the Intel empire, said Intel Israel IPP director Roy Ramon.
IPP may be new, but Intel has had a lot of experience with start-ups. That experience, though hasn’t been organized in single unit.
“The big innovation of IPP is that we are formalizing the process to help start-ups. We’ve had 40 years of experience working with start-ups in different units and departments. Now we will marshal all that experience to develop a partnership program to help companies bring their products to market,” said Ramon.
With the announcement of IPP, the first round of the program is already under way, and nine start-ups are currently enrolled for the first six-month program. According to the Intel model, start-ups spend two months getting to know the resources inside the company that they can take advantage of, followed by four months of lab work.
“We didn’t really announce the program publicly in advance so that we could do a ‘test run’ with companies we were already set to work with. Now that the program is officially open we are getting ready to recruit new companies that will participate in the next round,” said Ramon.
At the end of this period, the companies will be expected to produce at least a proof of concept of their project, if not something more substantial. The project will be presented on Intel’s demo day, presumably in the presence of Intel executives and investors. Intel IPP partners will also get to meet with Intel’s investment fund. Throughout, they are guided by mentors, hand-picked by Intel Israel management to match the company’s technology, and the temperament and skills of the staff.
What’s in it for Intel? That depends, said Ramon. “We are trying not to have an impact on the business model of participating companies, and there are no hard terms or clauses. As a rule we are not seeking equity, but that could be part of an agreement depending on whether or how much Intel invests in a company. In the past, though, we have generally not sought a commitment from start-ups.”
What will benefit Intel is the fact that smart, sharp entrepreneurs will be working with Intel hardware and software, developing solutions that will make the tech giant’s products more relevant. “We did not create this program in order to foster an environment that will lead to acquisitions, but in order to enhance start-ups’ abilities to use Intel products and to develop a go-to-market approach for their technologies,” said Ramon.
Because Intel’s tech is so ubiquitous – and because it is not grooming companies for potential buyouts – Intel is not really competing with other accelerators or start-up programs. “We see this whole thing as more of a partnership than an accelerator, in the sense that we see our mission as helping companies
scale up whatever technology they have developed,” said Ramon.
For that reason, the first nine firms in the program are start-ups that have been around for a few years, and have well-developed technology that they are beginning to market. Indeed, some of the companies are veterans of other tech accelerator programs, and may be enrolled in other programs even while they work with Intel.
It’s a bit of a different model than other companies’ accelerators – and Ramon believes it will be a big success.
“It’s a win-win scenario for all that we believe will be readily adopted elsewhere in the Intel ecosystem, although I have to say that I think it will work best in Israel. Intel is a major market force here, and the geographical area here is small, so it’s easy to find innovative companies in commuting distance – something that might be harder elsewhere. Nevertheless, we think this can be a good model for others, and we look forward to developing the program and working with start-ups from Israel and abroad.”