Amazon’s Alexa Accelerator is up and running for the third consecutive year as another batch of early stage startups test the boundaries of voice technology.
Nine startups from across the country will spend the next three months at the Techstars Seattle office, building their companies and finding unique ways to incorporate Alexa, Amazon’s artificial intelligence and machine learning-powered voice platform.
Amazon didn’t really know what type of founders it would attract when the company launched its Alexa Accelerator in 2017 with Techstars, said Paul Bernard, Amazon director of worldwide corporate development. The first class ended up being one of the most successful in Techstars history, based on initial fundraising results.
Since then, voice technology and the overall market have evolved in a big way. Two years ago, there were 15,000 Alexa “skills,” or different Alexa voice apps and capabilities. Today there are more than 90,000.
Amazon meanwhile has added more capabilities for Alexa, the brain of its popular Echo devices, as it battles Google and others in a voice market expected to reach $31 billion by 2025. Alexa has been built into 150 different gadgets made by other companies, and the total number of Alexa-powered devices sold is more than 100 million. The voice technology has also made headlines recently related to privacy questions about how the company handles user voice recordings via Alexa.
The latest cohort demonstrates how the industry and accelerator have evolved and matured. It includes companies such as Anycart, which helps people create and discover cooking videos — an intriguing use case for Amazon’s Echo Show — and Ejenta, a Bay Area startup developing intelligent agents for remote healthcare.
“The companies are getting much more thoughtful about taking advantage of the breadth of things Alexa is offering,” said Bernard, who also leads the Alexa Fund, Amazon’s $200 million venture capital arm for voice tech startups.