By most quantifiable measures Nike+ is the dominant digital fitness offering on the market today. The Nike+ ecosystem currently includes smartphone apps, simple accelerometer shoe inserts, pre-loaded software on the iPod Nano, and its latest addition, the wrist-worn Nike+ Fuel Band. While at least two third party apps are already leveraging Nike+ data from its (soon to open) APIs, Nike made a move this week to groom 10 startups for a new Nike+ Accelerator program that it launched through TechStars.
It's worth noting that Nike has been a longtime underwriter of Rock Health, the first digital health accelerator. The new Nike+ Accelerator program, however, has a much more specific aim: to quicken Nike+'s transformation into a true platform.
Interested developers and startups need to question whether Nike+ will be able to sustain other companies built on top of the platform. Sure, it will likely be able to support some helpful apps, but can those really grow into companies with the kind of revenues investors expect from their portfolio companies? Nike and an impressive group of Nike+ Accelerator mentors seem to think so.
For the accelerator program Nike is looking for startups that can leverage Nike+ technology and data to help people be more active. While Nike+ specifically calls its users "athletes", the company also optimistically declares that "if you have a body, you're an athlete". The program will take place in downtown Portland, Oregon from March 18th until Demo Day on June 13, 2013. Nike world headquarters is 10 miles away in Beaverton. Applications are due by February 3rd and selected companies will be notified by February 18th, 2013.
Nike listed a handful of examples for the types of startups it is searching for: training or coaching programs that help athletes reach their goals; games that use NikeFuel 'to remind people that movement is supposed to be fun"; tools to motivate millions of Nike+ runners to perform better or train smarter; programs built around achievement and rewards for activity; wellness solutions that promote active, healthy lifestyles; social challenges that deliver motivation and challenges with friends; master dashboards for the ultimate quantified self geeks.
The 10 chosen "partner companies" will receive $20,000, access to the Nike+ APIs, Nike+ mobile SDKs, and Nike+ FuelBand Dev Kit (Beta); a Nike+ FuelBand for each team member; tech support from experienced developers who've built companies, or built with Nike+ Application Programming Interfaces (APIs); code and solution reviews during the program; mentor sessions with Nike executives and leaders in the start-up community; two investor demo days: one at the Nike World Headquarters and one in Silicon Valley.
While Nike will not take any equity in the startups from the outset (it may choose to invest later), TechStars will receive 6 percent of each participating startup. Nike will not retain IP that is "exclusively developed" by the participating companies.
Does a chosen startup's offering have to run exclusively on Nike+ data? Nike says no: "This is the Nike+ Accelerator, so, the ultimate goal here is to create businesses that leverage the Nike+ platform and products. That does not preclude the solution from being available on other platforms as a complement to Nike+ or the Nike+ FuelBand solution."
In a few days Nike expects to launch a "developer sand box" so that any one can access Nike+ APIs. For now, Nike highlights two APIs that will be made available: Nike+ Activity API, which returns the Nike+ activity requested for an authenticated user. And User Authenticate, which allows your users to connect their Nike+ Apps via an OAuth flow.
Nike has listed 40 mentors on its accelerator website, including a number of Nike executives. Mentors include investors from Foundry Group, Physic Ventures, Navimed Capital, Madrona Venture Capital, Founders Co-Op, Softech VC, Mayfield Fund and more. Mentors also include execs from Spotify, Path, Foursquare Twitter, Facebook, Everymove, Resource Interactive, MobiPlug, Cir.ca, Stocktwits, Glider, Gnip, and Cloudability.
As new activity trackers and wearable wellness devices continue to trickle into the market, with this launch Nike appears to have moved the goalposts yet again.