Turin-based start-up ALBA Robot, incubated in I3P, is one (the only Italian) of the 7 start-ups selected globally by Alexa Fund, Amazon's $200 million investment fund that provides venture capital to fuel voice technology innovation, and Techstars, a startup accelerator and funder, to join the first class of the Alexa Next Stage.
Supported by Techstars, Alexa Next Stage is the virtual accelerator program - born from the success of the Alexa Accelerator, Powered by Techstars - designed to support startups looking to integrate Alexa with their technology in order to create new and innovative user experiences.
Spin-off of Moschini S.p.A. and Teoresi Group S.p.A., ALBA Robot is working on the development of a platform to make traditional wheelchairs smart, autonomous and controlled by voice avoiding the use of hands, equipped with on-board navigation systems and designed to improve the independence of people with reduced mobility especially in hospitals, airports and shopping malls.
The idea of Alba Robot was born in 2016 to initially respond to a personal need, when due to an arthritis problem in a knee, a brilliant 90-year-old woman ended up in a wheelchair and lost the autonomy she was used to. Over the years, the project has evolved and attracted the attention of technology giants, local entities and universities.
"While some people are thinking about going to Mars, we are focused on making life easier on Earth for people with disabilities," explains Andrea Segato Bertaia, CEO of ALBA Robot. "Thanks to technology, voice can become a fundamental tool and a unique interface so that people can move their wheelchairs without having to use their hands."
"We are proud that ALBA Robot has been selected among hundreds of startups applying globally for the program designed by Alexa Next Stage and Techstars," emphasizes Giuseppe Scellato, President of I3P. "ALBA Robot highlights the social impact that technology can have, offering innovative solutions for improving the quality of life of people with mobility problems."
Alexa Next Stage
The program has moved online this year, making it easier for teams from around the world to apply and participate remotely. In addition to Alba Robot, the other selected start-ups are: Symbl (Seattle, Washington); Blerp (Salt Lake City, Utah); Sybel (Paris, France); Blue Fever (Los Angeles, California); Lingvist (Tallinn, Estonia); Kardome (Tel Aviv, Israel).
During the eight-week Alexa Next Stage, Alba Robot and the other 6 selected companies will follow a program developed by Techstars and Amazon that features a global network of experts, mentors, business leaders and investors. Participants will take part in mentoring sessions related to large, growing companies, workshops led by the Alexa team on voice-design best practices.
The program will culminate on August 11, 2020, when companies will present their progress over the past eight weeks.