Startup Opportunities: $125k in Innovation Programs, Merck Accelerator & More

February 25th, 2016

Where else will you find the latest opportunities with brands, from pilot programs to accelerators and events? KITE’s monthly startup newsletter, of course. Here’s our February edition. Don’t miss the next one, which sends March 23rd, and sign up today.

You already know it’s getting harder to raise a round, so you may be considering corporate VC and its strategic benefits. Take a look at this recent piece on brands that have jumped into VC and where they’re investing. Here’s a quick overview of the differences between corporate and institutional VC if you need a refresher.

ALSO: Check out & share our SXSW programming with top brands like Visa, PepsiCo and GSK.

Opportunities right now:

  • $100k in Unilever Foundry Pilots, $25k for Probiotic Innovation
  • Accelerators: Merck, Lowe’s Innovation Labs, The Brandery, Techstars Mobility, Techstars Retail
  • UNICEF Innovation Fund Investing In Open-Source Tech For Children
  • Start-up Academy at Cannes Lions
  • Event: Startup Marketing Conference

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$100k in Unilever Foundry Pilots, $25k for Probiotic Innovation

Unilever: Lux – Fragrance & Tech

Background: In 2015 Lux expanded from a mass soap into fine fragrances that cleanse. Looking to strengthen fine fragrance proposition by pioneering fragrance innovation technologies.
Challenge: A solution, a device, a technology to amplify the fragrance experience through consumer interactions with either the product or its fragrance. It can be an experience in store, at home or mobile.
Pilot available: $50k
Application Deadline:  February 29, 2016

Unilever: Improve Customer Experience In-store
Background: Unilever’s global network of customer insight and innovation centers provide opportunity to showcase new technology with a view to inspire rollout in retailer stores.
Challenge: Looking for digital technology companies who have robust shopper solutions which they are looking to scale and expose to new markets or retailers.
Pilot available: $50k
Application Deadline: June 15, 2016

Ganeden Probiotic Innovation
Background: Products fortified with Ganeden’s probiotics ingredients generated over $1 billion at retail in the past 12 months. Now the company wants to help further innovation in the food and beverage space.
Challenge: Submit ideas for a new product concept featuring probiotics. Categories of interest include snacks, beverages, cereals, sports nutrition and baked foods.
Award available: $25k

Application Deadline: May 6, 2016

Accelerators: Merck, Lowe’s Innovation Labs, The Brandery, Techstars Mobility, Techstars Retail

Merck Accelerator – Germany
What: Helping entrepreneurs worldwide build “big bang” companies in the fields of digital healthcare, life sciences and performance materials.
Where: Darmstadt, Germany
Length: 3 months
Access to: Space at the Merck Innovation Center, mentors from senior management, investors who attend Demo Day, global network of 50,000+ experts and Merck staff.
Deal: €25k for 0% equity
Application Deadline: February 29, 2016

Merck Accelerator – Africa
What: Helping entrepreneurs worldwide build “big bang” companies in digital healthcare.
Where: Nairobi, Kenya
Length: 3 months
What they’re looking for: Companies addressing the big healthcare issues in Africa regardless of current location that also want a long-term partnership and support beyond financing.
Access to: Mentors from senior management at Merck, experienced entrepreneurs in Nairobi, global network of 50,000+ experts and Merck staff. Program is digitally linked to the Innovation Center curriculum of the Merck Accelerator program in Darmstadt, Germany.
Deal: $15k for 0% equity
Application Deadline: February 29, 2016

Lowe’s Innovation Labs – Bangalore
What: Accelerator focused on augmented and virtual reality, 3D scanning and printing, and robotics.
Where: Bangalore, India
Length: 16 weeks
Access to: Opportunity to partner with the Lowe’s Innovation Labs to deploy their technology in the US.
Deal: Not specified.
Application Deadline: March 6, 2016

The Brandery
What:  Seed-stage startup accelerator that leverages the expertise of the Cincinnati region, namely branding, marketing and design.
Where: Cincinnati, OH
Length: 17 weeks
What they’re looking for: Companies that can scale, are focused on consumers and see the value of treating the startup as a brand. Most interested in consumer internet, marketing SaaS, consumer services and products, and media and entertainment.
Access to: Mentorship, collaborative office space, legal assistance, marketing support, and companies like Procter & Gamble, dunnhumby and Kroger. Pitch investors and marketers at Demo Day.
Deal: $25k for 6% equity plus $25k in an uncapped convertible note
Application Deadline: April 16, 2016

Techstars Mobility (with corporate partners Ford, Verizon, Manga, Dana, Honda, McDonald’s, Munich Re and Michelin)
What: Accelerator focused on the rapidly changing mobility and transportation industry.
Where: Detroit, MI
Length: 3 months
What they’re looking for: software, hardware, and advanced materials businesses across all stages of development that power the efficient movement of people, goods and services across all modes of transportation. Also startups that align across themes including connected car, trucking and multi-modal transportation solutions across connectivity, mobility, autonomy, customer experience, big data, safety and security.
Access to: Mentors from the Techstars network plus execs from corporate partners
Deal: Up to $120k for 6 to 10% of equity
Application Deadline: March 20, 2016

Techstars Retail (in partnership with Target)
What: Accelerator focused on bringing new technology, experiences, products, and solutions to retail.
Where: Minneapolis, MN
Length: 3 months
Access to: Mentors from the Techstars network and within Target
Deal: Up to $120k for 6 to 10% of equity
Application Deadline: March 20, 2016

UNICEF Innovation Fund Investing In Open-Source Tech For Children

We dig that UNICEF, the UN’s organization for promoting the rights and wellbeing of children worldwide, has raised $9 million for its Innovation Fund and is using a VC-type model to help startups in developing countries in the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia.

If you’re eligible, act fast — the deadline is February 26.

UNICEF Innovation Fund

What: Up to $100,000k investment-style funding for early-stage tech startups working on open-source technology solutions for children.
Looking for: projects aligned with one of UNICEF Innovation’s three portfolio areas:

  1. Products for youth under 25 to address a range of needs including learning and youth participation
  2. Real-time information for decision-making and governance
  3. Infrastructure to increase access to services and information, including connectivity, power, finance, sensors and transport

Requirements: Have a working prototype, be registered in a UNICEF program country, be a registered company/institution, generate publicly exposed real-time data that can be / is measured. More info in this FAQ.
Deadline for Expression of Interest: February 26, 2016 at 6pm EST

Start-up Academy at Cannes Lions

The annual Cannes Lions Festival in France each June attracts 15,000 top advertising and marketers leaders from 100 countries. Increasingly visible at the festival and looking to do business are established tech companies — and now young startups, thanks to initiatives like R/GA’s Start-up Academy.

If you want an intro to Lions Innovation Start-up Academy Program Director (and R/GA exec) Jonathan Bradley, ping

What: Help 10 startups sharpen brand identity, focus business plans and market their products or services.
Where: Cannes, France
Length: Six days (June 19-24)
Access to: Intensive mentorship and an exclusive introduction to the community of leading creatives, senior marketers and high-level decision-makers that the Festival attracts.
What they’re looking for: Early, growth, or late stage companies with a working prototype and/or product in the market, who are looking to accelerate their growth through partnerships with consumer-focused brands and advertisers.
Deal: Accommodation and passes to Lions Innovation (June 21-22)
Application Deadline: April 24, 2016

Event: Startup Marketing Conference

Serval Ventures Startup Marketing Conference (in partnership with General Assembly)

What: Learn the essentials and skills to develop and walk away with a focused startup marketing strategy: find and target your key audience, discover influencer marketing, produce quality content that drives engagement, and more.
When: March 19
Where: New York
RSVP: More info soon on

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