With Nike+, a shoe company made its first step into the digital revolution. And with the Nike+ FuelBand, Nike proved that they could build electronics on par with the world’s best. So maybe it shouldn’t seem so surprising that it is now teaming with accelerator TechStars to found the Nike+ Accelerator, which will fund and mentor 10 companies tasked with creating “products and services that will inspire athletes across a broad range of activity and health goals, including training, coaching, gaming, data visualization and quantified self.”
Each company receives $20,000 in funding, along with IT support, work space, and mentorship. The mentor panel really is illustrious, too, including Stefan Olander, Nike’s vice president of digital sport; David Cohen, founder and CEO of TechStars; and Naveen Selvadurai, cofounder of Foursquare. Interestingly enough, Nike won’t retain any equity in these companies, while they will ensure opportunities to pitch investors, VCs, Nike execs, and other “influential industry leads” at the three-month program’s culminating Investor and Demo Day.
So why do it? “We’re looking to launch the next generation of innovation on the Nike+ platform,” a spokesperson tells us. “By offering great services and products that connect to this platform, we add value; are able to continue to expand the Nike+ platform; and we expand our digital connection with consumers.”
The other, maybe equally illustrious part of the experience is that participating companies will get access to the Nike+ API, SDK, and the FuelBand SDK. In other words, these companies will be among the first Nike outsiders empowered to connect to the Nike+ platform (an honor formerly bestowed on a relative few like Apple and Path). While Nike’s future SDK/API plans are unknown, the new trend seems clear: Nike is opening up Nike+ to outside development.
It’s a big deal. Nike has traditionally integrated with other platforms—platforms like iOS—to make their digital products a success. Now, Nike is boldly positioning itself as the technological hub and allowing in other innovators to serve as the spokes. They’re making Nike+ the platform, not the iPhone nor even the Nike shoe. And they’re asking for applications by February 3.
[Hat tip: TechCrunch]