Engage Ventures is a new, Atlanta-based accelerator fund for early-stage deals. It isn’t managing a ton of money — it just closed on $15 million for its debut effort — but it does have some interesting financial backers.
Unlike a corporate venture unit that’s trying to satisfy one company, Engage has instead secured its capital commitments from 10 Fortune 1000 companies that are, frankly, all over the map, and include AT&T, Chick-fil-A, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, Georgia-Pacific, Georgia Power Foundation, Intercontinental Exchange, Invesco, The Home Depot and UPS.
The idea, says managing director Thiago Olson, is to ensure Engage’s portfolio companies have as many potential partners, as well as acquirers, as possible.
It’s an interesting proposal, and one we saw more recently and on a much larger scale with Fifth Wall Ventures, a real estate-focused venture firm that earlier this month closed on $212 million in commitments from an array of heavy-hitting corporations in the real estate industry. (Among Fifth Wall’s investors are CBRE, the brokerage and real estate services giant, and Lowe’s, the home improvement franchise.)
Engage isn’t a micro fund, exactly. It’s more like the accelerator spin-off of an Atlanta-based venture firm called Tech Square Ventures, where Olson, a former entrepreneur, is also a venture partner. The outfit is being run independently, however, and it plans to invest in 16 companies each year, focusing in spring and summer on eight companies for three months at a stretch, beginning this August.
Other things to know: There is no sector focus. A startup’s initial product should be built or near completion. And interested startups will receive $75,000. In exchange, Engage is asking for upwards of 6 percent of their businesses. (Olson says Engage will take a smaller ownership stake in startups that are further along or have already raised some outside funding.)
Engage is also promising office space to companies that need it, along with mentorship from a network of local founders and operators who intend to aid the startups with their growth tactics, pricing structures and go-to-market strategies.
Naturally, introductions to Engage’s 10 corporate backers are designed to sweeten the deal, too.
If you’re thinking that Engage sounds an awful lot like the hundreds of other new accelerator programs around world, we’re with you. (As of last year, at least, there were 160 of them in the U.S. alone.)
But it is smartly taking advantage of a growing trend — that of giant companies trying to keep up with the technological shifts that could impact their businesses, and that are willing to work together if it helps to keep them relevant.
Startups can certainly benefit from that trend, too.
To become a member of Engage’s inaugural class, here is more information. Engage, which is based in Georgia Tech’s Technology Square, began taking applications yesterday.