Cable Tech

CableLabs Mothballs Its Startup Incubator

CableLabs confirmed that it has suspended a startup incubator program introduced about three years ago as it seeks new ways to engage with young companies developing technologies and products that could fit with the future aims of the cable industry.

UpRamp, a CableLabs-sponsored startup accelerator, launched its "Fiterator" program in 2016, with the aim of helping those new companies mature and find ways to engage with cable operators.

Startups selected for the Fiterator program participated in a three-month program that included meetings in Boulder, Colo. With UpRamp fronting the cost for startups to participate in the Fiterator program (including elements such as transportation and lodging), the process culminated in demonstrations to the MSO community and guaranteed business deals.

In exchange, UpRamp typically would request a small, 3% equity stake in startups that took part in the program. Or, as UpRamp explains it on its website: "Our goal is to align our interests by having everyone put some skin in the game."

From 2016 to 2018, UpRamp hosted three Fiterator cohorts involving ten startups. Examples included Averon (mobile identity platforms); Mutable (network-agnostic public edge cloud overlays); Bansen Labs (adapters that enable people with disabilities to use set-tops, consoles and other consumer electronics devices); Teltoo (software for a P2P-assisted content delivery network); and Edgewater Wireless (advanced WiFi tech).

Startups that complete the program then get an opportunity to strike deals with CableLabs members. Among recent examples of post-Fiterator activity, Edgewater Wireless collaborated with CableLabs on a new Dual Channel WiFi focused on high-capacity, low-latency wireless connections, and also notched a deal with Mediacom Communications for WiFi products focused on the enterprise and hospitality markets.

CableLabs didn't spell out all the reasons for its decision to halt UpRamp's Fiterator program, though other operators in the industry, such as Comcast/NBCU, have established their own startup incubators or run venture capital firms that invest in new companies that develop technologies or products that could benefit their parent companies. Still, Fiterator, or the concept behind it, could return in a different form, as CableLabs noted that it is seeking out new ways to connect with startups as other, broader changes are underway at UpRamp.

Working on 'UpRamp 2.0'
"We are now looking for new ways to engage entrepreneurial thought leaders -- the disruptors who are inventing the future," CableLabs said in an emailed statement. "As a result, we have made the decision to no longer run the Fiterator program in its current form, and we're working with the UpRamp team to develop UpRamp 2.0."

CableLabs also confirmed that Scott Brown, the former managing director of UpRamp, is no longer with CableLabs. UpRamp is currently being led by Ike Elliott, chief strategy officer and SVP of strategy at CableLabs, and president of Kyrio, a for-profit unit of CableLabs.

The coming changes at UpRamp are also occurring amid other new, strategic initiatives underway at CableLabs. A big one underway is a new cross-industry event called 4Front that will cover areas such as gaming, artificial intelligence, sustainability, healthcare, automotive and security. 4Front is set to run June 23-24, 2020, at the Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center near Denver International Airport.

That event is taking shape after CableLabs hosted its final Summer Conference earlier this year, and a couple of years after hosting its final Winter Conference. While those cable industry-focused conferences were for CableLabs members and suppliers and generally closed to the media, 4Front will be a bigger, more open event that is intended to cover a broader spectrum of industries and technologies.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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