Microsoft just launched an accelerator program for home automation startups

Google and Apple have already made some big moves to establish themselves as players in the Internet of Things — that horrible catch-all buzzword that loosely describes the effort to unite all your physical devices wirelessly. Microsoft, however, doesn’t have much of a presence in the connected home space.

But the company is looking to change that. Lately Microsoft has been making an concerted effort to raise it’s profile within the startup community through various incubator programs funded by Microsoft Ventures, and now it’s setting its sights on the nascent smart home market.

Earlier this week, the company launched new tech accelerator in Seattle through a partnership with American Family Insurance for startups related to the connected home. Oddly enough, this is the first U.S. accelerator program Microsoft has announced since it launched its Ventures program last year. Applications to join the program are open from now until July 21, and the accelerator will run from August to December of this year.

Unlike other accelerator programs, such as Y Combinator, Techstars, and others, Microsoft doesn’t demand equity stakes in firms that join the program — but it does reserve the right to become early investors should they see potential in a given startup. That being said, however, American Family Insurance is offering a $25,000 equity investment to participating startups looking for extra funding.

It’s easy to assume that this new program is basically Microsoft’s response to Apple and Google’s early lead in the smart home space, what with Google’s acquisition of Nest and Apple’s recently-announced HomeKit framework. However, Microsoft Ventures partner Rahul Sood claims that isn’t the case. In an interview with TechCrunch, he explained that that Microsoft has actually been in the connected home game for a while. Just check out the video below.

In any case, regardless of whether this new accelerator is reactionary or not, it’ll be exciting to see what comes out of the program, so we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it moving forward.

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