Nike turns to start-ups to fuel Nike+ innovation

Nike is asking start-ups and developers to create new applications for its Nike+ fitness tracking platform in a bid to source the next generation of innovative fitness initiatives.

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Sportswear business preps accelerator scheme to introduce the next-generation of digital fitness products.

The ten week accelerator scheme runs between March and April next year and will invite ten start-ups in areas such as training, coaching, gaming and data visualisation to develop health-related digital services.

Participants will be given access to technical support and Nike’s APIs as well as being mentored by experts from Nike and the Silicon Valley community including Nike’s vice president of digital sport Stefan Olander, Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai and venture capitalist Jeff Clavier.

The program will end with demo days at Nike’s headquarters in Oregon and in Silicon Valley.

Nike says the initiative aims to nurture the “next generation” of innovative ideas on the Nike+ platform and it is hoped the move will lead to more applications launched on the fitness tracking platform in the future. The business has been pushing technology in health and fitness through its Nike+ running app and more recently its Nike+ fuelband.

The sports brand is partnering with start-up incubator TechStars to organise the scheme. Nike took part in its advertising agency’s Wieden+Kennedy’s Incubator Experiment in June.

Accelerator programs, which offer funding and mentorship in exchange for equity, are becoming increasingly useful for brands as they look for more cost-effective ways to foster innovation.

Unilever is to invest £100,000 in a incubation scheme for UK start-ups to identify new ways customers can engage with its brands on smartphones and social networks, it announced yesterday (10 December).

John Coombs, managing director of Unilever Ventures, says: “There is a revolution in how people are relating to brands and what brands are for their customers, but the biggest revolution is in the types of services that customers can engage with using mobile and social techniques.

“The UK has always been at the forefront of media and marketing communications and we are seeing a lot of innovative start-ups at the moment.”

Cadbury and Telefonica have also launched their own incubation schemes to work with start-ups in recent months.

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