Not Your Typical Hardware: The R/GA Accelerator’s Class Of 2015

This year’s class of 10 startups shifts its focus away from connected devices to IoT, where data and software trump hardware.

Not Your Typical Hardware: The R/GA Accelerator’s Class Of 2015
[Communication: VLADGRIN via Shutterstock]

Wherever there is hardware, software and streams of data are following close behind. NYC’s R/GA knows this better than most companies, given their key role in the creation of the Nike+ FuelBand and the Beats Music service. Today, the R/GA Accelerator announces its second class of 10 startups, who will begin working with the program’s mentors this month.


Last year, the Manhattan-based interactive brand agency R/GA and the global startup mentorship program Techstars teamed up to transform 10 fledgling connected devices companies into surefire VC investments with their three-month-long R/GA Accelerator. The program’s $120,000 in seed funding helped pair each company’s hardware product with colorful digital marketing campaigns and attractive apps. And it worked: The startups attracted millions of dollars in outside funding and are now preparing their products for market.

This year, the R/GA Accelerator is letting software and data take center stage as the connected devices themselves take a step back. All hail the Internet of Things.

Here’s a look at R/GA’s newest class of startups:

1MM – New York, NY
1MM connects the workplace to make it safer. Its hardware solution tracks the activities of employees who are most at risk of workplace injury and uses data to improve their conditions. Think warehouses and factories.

Astro – New York, NY
Astro’s product has the form factor of a light bulb but functionality to do much more than light up a room. It automates a home’s entire suite of appliances, requiring no new wireless networks.

Bitfinder – Seoul, SK / San Francisco, CA
Bitfinder helps individuals suffering from autoimmune conditions, such as asthma and eczema, with its portable device that helps detect airborne and environmental irritants.


Chargifi – London, UK
Chargifi provides wireless and location-based charging stations that double as platforms for advertising and interactive content.

Diagenetix, Inc – Honolulu, HI
Diagenetix, also known as Smart Dart, uses sensor-detection and data streams to screen the food processing chain for pathogen risk on a large, industrial scale. The low-cost, portable diagnostics tool covers all stakeholders from food producers and processors, to buyers.

Freedom Audio – Orlando, FL
Freedom Audio is creating an all-terrain wireless, waterproof stereo that will be fully connected to music services via a touch-screen interface. It’s just one more product in its existing line of durable audio products.

Latch – Washington, DC
Latch is rethinking the keyless entry security platform for residents and building managers. They’re looking at beacons and other ways of implementing the keyless entry system.

LISNR – Cincinnati, OH
LISNR is a second-screen-experience company whose technology uses audio to activate another device’s screen. It’s already raised a fair amount of funding, making it one of the more mature companies in R/GA’s second class.

Pinoccio – Reno, NV
Pinoccio has an Arduino-type maker kit that allows users to build wireless projects that are mesh-networked and open source.


SkySpecs – Ann Arbor, MI
SkySpecs brings drones onto R/GA’s roster. Its Air Bumper technology helps drones avoid collisions, making them more accessible for industrial and consumer applications. The FAA recently grounded a stunt that SkySpecs planned at an Ann Arbor football stadium.

“We don’t think of ourselves as a hardware accelerator,” says Stephen Plumlee, R/GA’s chief operating officer.

Although all of these startups have hardware in their product lines, he says, their offerings can evolve within the Internet of everything scope. The software or data component might become more valuable than the hardware by the end of the program. And this differentiates R/GA from the run-of-the-mill hardware accelerator.

“We’re thinking about the broader ecosystem of what IoT means. And it’s way bigger, of course, than just gadgets and wearables and portable devices,” Plumlee says.


About the author

I write about science and technology in the global marketplace, with a bent towards women in STEM. My work has appeared elsewhere in Quartz, Fortune, and Science, among others. I'm based in Amsterdam. Follow me on Twitter @tinamirtha.