Last week we entered phase 2 of the program, we’re now reviewing applicants (we have far too many to get all the great companies in!), and prepping for move in date on Dec. 2nd. It’s a good time to pause and share what we’ve learned so far.

(Astro Studios and R/GA at the NYC Hardware Startup Meetup, about to present on the Marriage of Hardware and Experience and announce the Accelerator. Good times!)

Having met with a lot of startups and mentors we found most people immediately picked up on how our program is different.

Everyone we talked to was excited about the mix of R/GA and client mentors’  expertise in design, communications and brand strategy with the established tech and product-led accelerator model. I was surprised how easily people got why we zeroed in on “Connected Devices” and the intersection of product and services, and how our program is different from other Hardware accelerators out there.

While we’re as enthralled as anyone about the emerging technologies fueling the maker movement, from 3D printing and open source hardware to Bluetooth 4.0, our program and the startups we’re attracting are really about building value systems and brands around interconnected products. In the video we made, Nick Law sums it up better than I could when he says “we help startups build a brand not just a product”.

Some people saw all the value we bring to the equation but questioned what we as an agency would get of out of it. The program isn’t about creating buzz, we see this as a natural extension of R/GA’s core competencies, and our history of co-creating with our clients using small, interdisciplinary teams, freed from distractions and conflicting accountabilities. Our job here is to create a program that facilitates this same speed, maniacal focus and collaboration between the right disciplines, across software, hardware, design, marketing, brand and strategy. More on this in coming months.

Thanks to those of you who’ve advised us along the way. Look out for updates here in here coming weeks as we announce the 10 startups.