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January 24, 2020
The Boston-based Techstars Air Force Accelerator has announced the 10 commercial startup firms it will help hone their offerings for potential US military use. They range from new training methodologies to a software platform for improving robotic arms to a mobile drone launch/recovery system.
Techstars has been working to connect the Air Force “to early stage commercially-oriented startups with innovative technologies,” and help the service adapt its business processes to those of the commercial world since 2018.
Techstars partners with both the Air Force and BAE Systems FAST Labs, which joined in 2019. According to a company announcement yesterday evening, the 2020 program is also being sponsored by the Air Education and Training Command (AETC), the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN, formerly MD5), AFWERX, the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) and AFIMSC Tyndall Program Management Office (PMO). (AFWERX is the Air Force’s internal innovation hub launched in 2017.)
“Of our 20 alumni companies, 19 have gone on to win a collective $20+ million in Department of Defense contracts from AFWERX/AFRL’s newly re-designed Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) “Open Topic” program. Many of these companies are also executing proof-of-concept projects from commercial entities and have raised significant private investment as well,” said Warren Katz, Techstars managing director, in a statement yesterday
As Breaking D readers may remember, AFWERX and AFRL acted in October to make the SBIR program more attractive to commercial startups and potential venture capital investors by increasing its matching grants up to $3 million. Air Force head of acquisition Will Roper has been a key supporter of spurring the service to find innovative ways to work with venture capital firms and commercial startups.
Techstars has innovation hubs in Boston and Los Angeles. In November, it launched a new industry accelerator focused on space and allied connectivity, Techstars Allied Space Accelerator. The Ministries of Defense of the Netherlands and Norway, and the Norwegian Space Agency are co-sponsoring that initiative that will work virtually with overseas startups.
The 2020 winning startups and their products are: