A Harpswell company using artificial intelligence to analyze player performance in esports competitions is one of 10 startups chosen for a new accelerator program aimed at boosting Maine’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator said Tuesday that it had chosen Omnic Data, eight other U.S. companies and one from Chile. The companies were picked from a field of hundreds of teams that applied for the 13-week program at which they can refine their business models and interact with other entrepreneurs, institute faculty and potential investors.
The accelerator, which started operations Monday, is a collaboration between the Roux Institute at Northeastern University, a Portland-based graduate school and research center, and Techstars, a Colorado-based startup accelerator with more than 24 locations. The Portland accelerator is the second in New England after Boston.
“Our goal is that these companies build a deeper relationship with the state, the Roux Institute and Northeastern and they keep a portion of their team here,” Chris Wolfel, the institute’s director of entrepreneurship, said.
Techstars invests in companies that go through the program and owns a small percentage of common stock, Lars Perkins, managing director for the Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator, said. The aim is to attract companies at an early stage that will readily accept mentorship.
For Shaun Meredith, co-founder of Omnic, that means using the accelerator to attract aspiring gamers, including college students. The fast-growing esports market is valued at more than $1 billion, according to Statistica. That market is currently dominated by semi-professional and professional players who can make several hundred thousand dollars each per season and millions as a team, plus endorsements. That makes upping one’s game a must for players, Meredith said.
“But no one knew what to measure,” he said. That’s why he co-founded the company 18 months ago.
Omnic’s service uses machine learning and computer vision to analyze player’s movements so it can tell them, for example, if moving their play a bit to the right would give them a better chance of winning. The Roux Institute focuses on teaching artificial intelligence, so Meredith hopes contacts made at the accelerator will help him tap workforce talent in the future.
He also expects to find some synergies with other accelerator companies such as Breathing.ai, a New York startup with a product that helps people interact in a healthier way with their computer.
“There’s a lot of burnout in esports,” Meredith said.
The Roux Institute announced its opening with great fanfare in January 2021, saying it would invest $100 million and attract up to 4,000 students to become an innovation hub for the state. The Harold Alfond Foundation kicked in another $100 million, $63 million of which will be used for scholarships over the next decade. The institute recently said it is buying the iconic B&M Baked Beans factory near Interstate 295 in Portland for its new campus.
The accelerator program will end on Dec. 9 when companies will pitch their businesses to community members, mentors and potential investors. Among the other companies are those focused on simplifying childcare, making medical billing easier, improving data-capture tools for patient care and reinventing how people pay rent.