Two NYC startups join buzzy R/GA-Techstars accelerator program

Two NYC startups are among the 10 companies named to the second class of the R/GA Accelerator, a business-development crash course for companies developing everyday devices that connect to the Internet and software to support them, the company announced Monday.

Astro and One Million Metrics both will join the nearly four-month program, an initiative of R/GA Ventures LLC, a joint venture between the digital marketing agency and the Interpublic Group of Companies (NYSE: IPG). The accelerator program Techstars provides key support.

Astro, founded by Shaun Springer in his Bed-Stuy apartment in April, builds smart-home devices that don’t require installation or new infrastructure to work. Its first product is Twist, a platform for wireless lighting, video cameras and speakers that work like a light bulb. His team includes several startup veterans.

One Million Metrics, founded by Haytham Elhawary and Aditya Bansal, has developed a wearable device that monitors industrial workers’ lifting posture, giving employers feedback that they hope can forestall costly on-the-job back injuries. It hopes to build a suite of devices targeting worker safety and health.

Elhawary used to be the director of a prior hardware incubator, the Zahn Center at City College, and Bansal left a job building microprocessors at IBM.

For the second class, the accelerator’s organizers decided to expand its focus to include companies that are developing software that allow connected devices to work together and share data. Its first class targeted the hardware makers only.

Throughout the program, R/GA executives and a wide range of partners advise the companies on strategy and coach them through the sticky parts of building a tech company. Other partners include MakerBot and its parent, Stratasys, SOLIDWORKS, design firm Astro Studios and logistics company PCH International.

The program will culminate in a demonstration day in February, where media, R/GA clients, potential investors and industry leaders will be invited. Companies will be eligible to receive up to $120,000 in investment from R/GA and Techstars.

New director Jenny Fielding also specifically sought to expand the geographical representation in the class. She succeeded, with three countries, seven states and D.C. included in the group.

In addition to Astro and One Million Metrics, the participants include:

Bitfinder (South Korea and San Francisco) Developed a portable device and software platform that detects airborne and environmental irritants.

Chargifi (London) Provides wireless and location-based charging stations with a platform for content or advertising.

Diagenetix (Honolulu) Has built a low-cost, portable diagnostics tool that allows food producers, processors, and buyers to test for pathogens.

Freedom Audio (Florida) Develops durable and waterproof wireless audio products.

Latch (Washington, D.C.) Develops a connected, keyless entry security platform using beacons to manage building access.

LISNR (Cincinnati) Using a supersonic beacon platform, LISNR can activate second-screen experiences from any source with a speaker.

Pinoccio (Reno, Nev.) Has developed an IoT kit to build wireless, web-enabled projects that are mesh-networked, open source and Arduino platform compatible.

SkySpecs (Ann Arbor, Mi.) Offers a hardware-enabled software system to avoid drone collisions.

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