Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Microsoft to launch home automation accelerator with American Family Insurance

Iain Morris
June 19, 2014

Software giant Microsoft has teamed up with insurance provider American Family Insurance to launch a business accelerator aimed at startups targeting the home automation sector.

The accelerator’s goal is to help startups create technologies that will lead to “safer and smarter” homes.

Microsoft (Seattle, WA, USA) is inviting companies that are interesting in participating in the venture to apply online, and says the accelerator will be hosted on its campus in Redmond and run from September until December this year.

American Family Insurance (Madison, WI, USA), which claims to be the eight largest homeowners’ insurer in the US, is to provide advice and expertise on home automation applications to the startups that join the accelerator.

Besides contributing its “wealth of homeowner knowledge”, the insurance player will also offer a minimum $25,000 equity investment in each startup accepted into the program.

“Home automation is ripe for startup innovation,” said Steve Guggenheimer, corporate vice president of developer experience and evangelism for Microsoft. “We are working closely with American Family Insurance to provide a one-of-a-kind experience for entrepreneurs in our accelerator.”

“Startups accepted into the program will gain critical industry insight to build companies with the potential to have an enormous impact on our lives,” he added.

Microsoft’s statement provided few details of the types of service to which the accelerator may give rise, but they could include applications allowing consumers to control heating and lighting appliances via their smartphones – or that use motion sensors to detect if an elderly or infirm resident has suffered a fall.

A recent tie-up between German telecoms operator Deutsche Telekom (Bonn, Germany) and German insurance company Allianz (Munich, Germany) is aiming to develop similar services for the home automation sector.

“We are focused on helping early stage companies bring new products and services to market that can make our policyholders’ homes and lives safer,” said Dan Reed, managing director at American Family Insurance. “Working closely with startups and making early-stage investments in emerging technology companies is a great way to support the ecosystem and also benefit our customers.”

“We look forward to working with the next generation of companies that are reimagining the connected home,” he added.

Microsoft already runs startup accelerators in the cities of Bangalore, Beijing, Berlin, London, Paris and Tel Aviv.
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