Play Labs and the MIT Game Lab have announced that applications are now open for the second batch of startups within the playful technology accelerator, which will run from June through August 2018 on campus at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Startups that are accepted into Play Labs will each receive an initial investment of $20,000 in either cash or Bitcoin in return for common stock. Startups that graduate from the program and meet certain criteria will be eligible for up to $80,000 in additional funding from the Play Labs Fund and its investment partners.
Deadlines for applications are due March 15, 2018, after which time finalists will be selected and a subset of those finalists will be given offers to participate in the program. Applications are open to both MIT-affiliated startups, and startups with no MIT affiliation that wish to come to MIT for the summer to participate.
Play Labs provides mentoring, facilities, and funding for early-stage startups that utilize “playful technology.” The areas of technology for this second batch of incubated startups include:
- Digital Currency/Blockchain: The explosion of digital currencies like Bitcoin and the underlying technology, blockchain, have created a new virtual economy and opportunities for decentralizing many industries.
- E-sports/Video Games: Video games have moved into the competitive era, and e-sports is seen as one of the biggest opportunities for expansion.
- Virtual Reality (VR)/Augmented Reality (AR): A big focus for the first batch of incubated startups in Play Labs, now VR and AR are categories that continue to evolve and will revolutionize many industries.
- Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning: Artificial intelligence and machine learning software and hardware (i.e., robotics), have advanced to the point of many practical applications.
Candidate startups may apply these technology areas into any industry, including video games, e-sports, finance, healthcare, manufacturing, and more.
As before, the program will be run by Bayview Labs and its executive director, Rizwan Virk ’92 a prolific Silicon Valley angel investor, advisor, and mentor. Virk and Bayview have been early investors in Bitcoin and blockchain startups, as well as a long list of successful gaming-related tech startups including Tapjoy, Discord, Funzio, Pocket Gems, Telltale Games, and Sliver.tv.
“MIT has been the starting point for many successful startups over the years,” says Virk. “We had a successful first batch and we are excited to see what exciting technology projects MIT students, alumni, and the greater community will come up for this second batch. We started the accelerator because a lot of focus for these areas has been on the West Coast, but I believe that the ecosystem around MIT and Boston has great talent and startup ideas in these areas.”
“When I graduated from MIT and thought of doing my first startup, I wish I had this kind of accelerator program, with support from both MIT staff and industry entrepreneurs and mentors,” says Virk. “That’s why I designed the program in this way.”
Bayview will run Play Labs in conjunction with the Seraph Group, a seed stage venture capital investment firm founded by Tuff Yen. The teams will be supported by a group a successful mentors and partners, including Rajeev Surati PhD ’99 and co-founder of Flash Communications, Photo.net, and Scalable Display Technologies, based on his PhD research at MIT. Also participating is VR@MIT, a student organization on campus dedicated to fostering VR and AR entrepreneurship at MIT.
The MIT Game Lab, a research group in MIT's Comparative Media Studies/Writing program, and Ludus, the MIT Center for Games, Learning, and Playful Media, will host and conduct the educational program for Play Labs. Teams will be given workspace on the MIT campus for the duration of the program.
“MIT students thrive on innovation and creative exploration,” says Scot Osterweil, managing director for Ludus. “We are pleased that through Play Labs we will help them move their most imaginative ideas into the realm of the possible.”
“We see tremendous opportunity to invest, support, and partner with the MIT community of outstanding people, which is why we are supporting Play Labs’ second batch,” says Tuff Yen, president of Seraph Group. “Our network of successful investors will bring valuable experience, access and resources to startups.”
Full information on the program, eligibility, and benefits can be found on the Play Labs website.