The Walt Disney Company is looking for growth-stage startups with the ability to dream big, as well as have a vision for making a significant impact on the future of technology and entertainment. The Disney Accelerator—a program designed to accelerate the growth of innovative companies from around the world—is now accepting applications for the three-month mentorship program that will connect these visionary startups with the creativity, imagination and expertise of Disney. Ten growth-stage startups will be selected for the 2020 Disney Accelerator, which will officially begin in July and will conclude with a Demo Day in October.
“We created the Disney Accelerator six years ago to explore the incredible innovation that could occur between The Walt Disney Company and companies working on the forefront of technology,” said David Min, vice president, Corporate Innovation, The Walt Disney Company. “Not only has the Disney Accelerator become the premier and longest-running media and entertainment accelerator in the industry, but the program has also launched a number of products, experiences, and cutting-edge technologies. We look forward to discovering new companies and technologies through this year’s program that will continue to position Disney as a leader in today’s dynamic media environment.”
The game-based learning platform Kahoot! joined the Disney Accelerator in 2017, and last year more than 200 million games were played on Kahoot! by 1.2 billion players in 200 countries. Its participation in the program has enabled Kahoot! to pair educational content with Disney brands such as Star Wars in order to better reach educators and youth across the globe, as well as support the goals of the Disney Youth Program to engage educator and student audiences with fun, educational content connected to Disney parks. “Participating in the Disney Accelerator was absolutely the right decision for Kahoot! in 2017,” says Eilert Hanoa, CEO. “In retrospect, our participation in the Accelerator is the only way both companies would have gotten to know each other in such a focused, efficient and productive manner.”
The Disney Accelerator provides participating companies with unique access to Disney’s leadership team. “It was truly inspiring to interact with dozens of Disney senior creative and business leaders to openly discuss their unique business priorities and brainstorm collaboration opportunities,” Hanoa says, adding that in advance of these senior leadership meetings, the Accelerator team provided Kahoot! with valuable mentorship, feedback and support to maximize the value of these introductions.
The Kahoot! team was surprised and impressed by the clarity of Disney’s focus on innovation, “looking not only from within, but also outside the organization,” Hanoa says. “The curiosity and genuine interest of senior Disney leaders in our business at the outset of our tenure with the Disney Accelerator have set the tone for productive ongoing discussions with several lines of their business ever since.”
Kahoot! is just one of the many Disney Accelerator companies that continue to thrive and have collaborated with divisions of Disney to bring innovative products and experiences to market following their participation in the program:
Sphero, a company that creates programmable robots and STEAM activities that connect learning and play, was part of the inaugural Disney Accelerator and created numerous robotics toys with Disney, including the BB-8 droid toy, the No. 1 Star Wars toy in 2015.
Epic Games, maker of Unreal Engine, joined the Disney Accelerator in 2017 and has since worked with numerous parts of Disney. Most recently, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and Epic Games developed groundbreaking LED stage production technology for the hit Lucasfilm series, The Mandalorian. Epic also worked closely with Walt Disney Imagineering to leverage Unreal Engine’s real-time rendering capabilities to create the interactive experience found on board the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run attraction at Disneyland in California and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida.
StatMuse joined the Disney Accelerator in 2014 as a three-person company and today is a leader in voice and text-based search for sports stats and information.
When asked what differentiates the Disney Accelerator from other startup accelerators, Hanoa has a simple answer: “It’s Disney,” he states emphatically. “The Disney Accelerator offers entrée to businesses that span the breadth of The Walt Disney Company. The sheer size and scope of such an opportunity sets this accelerator apart and The Walt Disney Company is an impressively dynamic, creative and open-minded organization by any standard.”
Applications are due by April 3, 2020. For more information and to apply for participation in the 2020 Disney Accelerator program, visit DisneyAccelerator.com.