More and more automakers are getting into the accelerator game in the hopes of staying connected to entrepreneurs and scoring the next big technology for their brands. Yesterday both Mercedes-Benz and Honda separately announced that they are backing accelerator programs in Berlin and Redwood City, CA respectively and Ford announced their own program earlier this year.
Automakers are lining up partner with these accelerator programs in hopes of getting first bid on the hottest new car technology and to scoop up talented engineers in both software and hardware. They generally co-sponsor programs with insurance companies or other transportation-centric companies. Honda, however, has chosen to eschew this trend and partner with the Evernote Accelerator – founded of course by Evernote. In Ford’s case, they are going it alone and opened an mobile app developer program that gives access to its SYNC API architecture to promising startups.
For startups, the upsides of becoming involved with an automaker-centric accelerator program include access to engineering departments and the global reach of these automakers. The usual cash infusion and free office-space doesn’t hurt either. But does pairing with an automaker help the startups in question or hinder their growth potential? In most cases the effect is a net positive, but for some being beholden to the slow and clumsy approval process that any automotive technology must currently go through is enough to scare them away.
As our vehicles become more wired automakers are going to have to continue courting promising startups to develop for their architectures. And if you think Apple vs Android is annoying, just wait until you have to argue Honda vs Chevy vs BMW ecosystems.