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Walt Disney Co. reveals 9 new startups in the Disney Accelerator spanning robotics, cinematic VR and AI @ TechCrunch.

The Walt Disney Co. is kicking off the third session of its corporate accelerator this week, and revealed 9 new companies admitted to the program. … The companies are developing everything from cinematic virtual reality and holographic content, to robots with human-like facial expressions. Because alumni of the Disney Accelerator have scored big partnerships with the media and entertainment juggernaut in the past, it is seen as one of the more desirable corporate accelerators out there.

  • Ader – a marketplace connecting brands with eSports and gaming influencers. The company’s network of influencers reaches over 50 million monthly viewers. Ader has raised $125,000 in seed funding.
  • Atom Tickets – is a mobile movie ticketing app where customers can buy movie tickets, pre-order concessions, invite friends without having to pay for them, easily discover new movies, browse trailers, read reviews, and plan their next night out at the movies. Atom Tickets has raised $50 million in venture funding.
  • Hanson Robotics – a creator of human-like robots with a full range of facial expressions. Based in Hong Kong, Hanson Robotics is building a range of robots for the business and consumer markets. The videos of its robot “Sophia” have been viewed more than one billion times.
  • Jaunt VR – a developer of hardware, software, tools and applications that enable cinematic virtual reality content creation. Jaunt has raised $100 million in venture funding.
  • littleBits – a platform of easy-to-use electronic building blocks that empowers kids to invent anything, from a remote-controlled car to a dancing robot to a smart home device. littleBits was founded by Ayah Bdeir, Co-Founder of the Open Hardware Summit, a TED Senior Fellow and a graduate of the MIT Media Lab. LittleBits has raised $60 million in funding.
  • Nom – an online live streaming video community for chefs and food lovers. Nom users can create, share, watch, and participate in live videos while chatting and interacting with each other. Nom was founded by Vijay Karunamurthy, former YouTube engineering lead, and Steve Chen, Co-Founder and CTO of YouTube.
  • OTOY – A holographic content platform bringing light field rendering and network streaming to virtual reality and augmented reality experiences.
  • Playbuzz – a content-creation and audience-engagement platform that helps tens of thousands of publishers, marketers, bloggers and brands to create engaging content using mobile-friendly formats that are optimized for social sharing. With offices in New York and Tel Aviv, Playbuzz has raised $31 million in funding.
  • Pley – a toy subscription company. For a monthly fee, members receive their preferred toys from a catalog of at least 500 toys shipped directly to their door and can play with, keep or return each toy whenever they wish. Pley has raised more than $16 million in venture funding.

Read more.

Sphero was the bigger “winner” of the start ups in this program in the past, as mentioned in the article “Alumni of the Disney Accelerator include Sphero, which created the BB-8 droid Star Wars toy, a best seller for Disney in 2015 … One of the interesting things about Disney is storytelling is their DNA, you can see a story of how all or some of these companies could work well and within (and extend) Disney’s efforts and goals. Pley rents toys (and likely Disney toys now) … including a possible educational play with littleBits.

Nom is interesting to us just because we think streaming cooking is going to be big in the next 12 to 24 months, add a commerce piece like being able to purchase the kitchen gadgets and gear (and food) and you have a hit.

Back to littleBits, this for-sure seems to give Disney a path to acquire littleBits or something bigger, perhaps keeping away the other toy/edu makers.

And on a related maker-biz note with littleBits, in addition to what seems like some massive total of funding ($60m) it appears Jenny Lawton, the former CEO of MakerBot, and recent CSO of littleBits is stepping down, at least for the summer.