An Echo Dot device sits on a side table, next to a lamp and a small vase holding a branch, on top of a book.

Meet the 2019 Alexa Accelerator Class

Ever wondered where new features and services for Alexa come from? Meet the founders of nine early-stage startups who are helping shape the future of voice technology.
on July 24, 2019
On a recent sunny morning in Seattle, nine startups walked into the University of Washington’s Startup Hall for day one of the 2019 Alexa Accelerator, powered by Techstars. Created in 2017 and run by the Alexa Fund and Techstars, the accelerator is a three-month program that gives early-stage startups the support they need to grow their network, gain traction, incorporate Alexa, and engage with investors. Over the next three months, the founders of these startups will have the opportunity to meet with a diverse group of mentors from Amazon and the Pacific Northwest tech community all while forging lifelong connection with each other.

Whether its grocery shopping and recipes, augmented reality, executive coaching, or turning videos into conversations, the 2019 Alexa Accelerator, powered by Techstars class offers another glimpse into how Alexa can make customers' lives easier, more productive and more entertaining.

Founders of companies selected for the 2019 program include:

  1. Ambit

    Gregory Lok, CEO & co-founder (in photo)
    Arjun Sundararajan, CTO & co-founder

    As a previous startup founder and an employee at various Fortune 100 companies, Greg Lok understood the importance of empathy in the workplace, but also knew that very few companies taught, tracked or quantified how employees are communicating with each other. He set out to change that and, together with CTO Arjun Sundararajan and a small team, Ambit was born. Their product quantifies vocal patterns during team meetings and provides actionable insights & data on how communication behaviors impact team dynamics and business outcomes.
  2. Anycart

    Rafael Sanches, CEO & co-founder (in photo)
    Renato Peterman, CTO & co-founder
    Silvia Curioni, COO & co-founder
    Payman Nejati, CRO & co-founder

    The founders of Anycart believe that shopping and cooking should be an integrated experience. Simply search for a meal you want to cook, and Anycart will recommend a recipe, add the ingredients to your preferred grocery delivery service cart, provide step-by-step video cooking instructions, and recommend other recipes that can use excess ingredients. The team consisting of Rafael Sanches, Silvia Curioni, Renato Peterman and Payman Nejati have created a mobile application that enables users to create and discover cooking videos and amassed over 2 million installs and 1 million monthly active users.

    Rachna Dhamija, CEO & co-founder (in photo)
    Maarten Sierhuis, CTO & co-founder

    Ejenta believes the future of healthcare is at home, and has set out to provide remote care technology for the millions of patients living with chronic conditions. The team built an AI-based service that uses intelligent agents to allow health providers to remotely monitor patients, predict health, and take autonomous action. Rachna, a three-time startup veteran, started the company with CTO Maarten Sierhuis, who previously worked at NASA where he developed AI technology to support astronauts on the International Space Station.
  4. EX-IQ

    Chris Donohoe, CEO & co-founder (in photo)
    Darren Ward, CTO & co-founder

    Army Ranger and Delta Force Veteran Chris Donohoe came up with the idea for EX-IQ while pursuing his Master’s in Foreign Affairs. At the time, he was driving from his home in North Carolina to Johns Hopkins in Washington DC and listening to recordings of his coursework on the commute, and wanted a way to track progress and save content. Together with Darren Ward, (CTO) they created EX-IQ to turn digital documents into interactive audio files, allowing students and employees to interact with written content to highlight, tag, and dictate notes by using their voice through a mobile app or an Alexa skill.
  5. Midgame

    Jason Shen, CEO & co-founder (in photo)
    Wayne Gerard, CTO & co-founder

    Today’s gamers are not just playing Mario Kart. They’re commanding epic adventures and battles with multiple stakeholders and complexities. Jason Shen and Wayne Gerard were tired of the distractions and delays of reading user-generated game wikis and searching the web for tips and tricks to help them become the next esports legend. They created Midgame to build game-specific interactive agents that allow gamers to keep track of in game activities, query for specific insights, and log achievements all hands free using voice, so gamers can stay in the game.
  6. nFlux

    Seyed Sajjadi, CEO & co-founder (in photo)
    Collin Miller, director of product & co-founder
    Anton Safarevich, director of product & co-founder
    Danny Pena, software engineer & co-founder

    nFlux CEO Seyed Sajjadi has spent his career focused on creating the future of Artificial General Intelligence, working towards building JARVIS while avoiding Skynet. After struggling to make sense of the massive amounts of data he came across while working at NASA, he set out to find a better way to generate insights from unstructured data. Seyed assembled a team of ML, AI, cognitive architecture, and autonomous systems researchers and engineers to create nFlux – a system that ingests large amounts of unstructured data (like video) and generates contextual insights that can be queried through natural language. nFlux was introduced to the program through the Alexa Fund Fellow at California State University, Northridge.
  7. TogethAR

    Elena Zhizhimontova – CEO & co-founder (in photo)
    Andrew DiLosa, CTO & co-founder

    Founded by two former Amazon engineers who helped launch Alexa on FireTV, Elena Zhizhimontova & Andrew DiLosa understood the power of having the right information at the right time on the right device. After seeing the trends in AR/VR, they wondered what else in our day-to-day lives could be augmented. Together they created TogethAR and built AI technology that could augment conversations by presenting relevant information and content pertinent to the topic of the conversation. Proving the technology in an AR-chat app, they are exploring other applications and use-cases where augmented conversations will power the future of business.
  8. VoiceHero

    Joseph Truong, CEO & co-founder (in photo)
    Jacob Chan, CTO & co-founder

    A participant in season six of the Amazing Race Canada and recipient of numerous accolades and distinctions throughout his academic career, Joseph Truong knows what it takes to hustle. Joseph joined forces with Jacob Chan with the desire to create a company that would ride the wave of the explosive growth in voice. After months of customer discovery efforts and a few pivots leading up to the Alexa Accelerator, they found the opportunity to create VoiceHero, a suite of simple, useful tools to launch and market voice skills.
  9. YourIKA

    Rob Henderson, CEO & co-founder (in photo)
    Dr. Shady Shehata, CTO & co-founder
    Dr. Fakhri Karray, chief scientist & co-founder and a recipient of the Alexa Fund Fellowship

    The team behind YourIKA (Your Intelligent Knowledge Assistant) is transforming the way the world learns by using artificial intelligence (for good) to solve the most significant problem in e-learning: there aren't enough instructors, teachers, or tutors to meet the on-demand and personalized needs of today's online learners, creating a massive gap that makes learning unattainable or unavailable when students need it. The founding team of YourIKA includes CEO Rob Henderson, who assembled an expert team with industrial and research backgrounds from the University of Waterloo; CTO Dr. Shady Shehata who spent the last 20 years engineering A.I. powered learning platforms; and CSO Dr. Fakhri Karray, the co-director of University of Waterloo’s AI Institute and recipient of the Alexa Fund Fellowship.
About the Author
Brian leads portfolio management for the Alexa Fund, where he helps founders access the people, tools, and products they need to grow their startup and integrate with Alexa.
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