Nike has partnered with TechStars to launch the Nike+ Accelerator focused on digital health and fitness startups. There is also a clear emphasis on companies utilizing the newly released Fuelband APIs as a core element of their business model.
While this is a very intriguing angle, it could also be very limiting if the accelerator chooses to only accept companies that utilize the Fuelband in some way.
It will be based in Portland, ten miles from Nike's headquarters in Beaverton, and follow the standard TechStars model of $20K cash, temporary office space and access to dedicated mentors from the technology and financial worlds.
I think it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to field ten startups that utilize the Fuelband as the primary component of their business model. I can imagine they will receive a lot of original ideas for wellness programs which take advantage of the data collected by the Fuelband, but how many wellness companies can they have in one class of startups?
It's great to see Nike embrace the accelerator model and I hope they are able to field a diverse class of startups. It will depend largely on the capabilities of the API Nike offers the companies to build unique web apps for their customers. This initiative is actually very similar to the Microsoft Kinect Accelerator, where I can see how Microsoft will probably be able to field dozens of new and viable ideas for each new class of startups that use the Kinect as their core technology. But it is a stretch to see how Nike will be able to fill out a class with ten viable idea stage startups built on the Fuelband technology, let alone multiple classes of startups.
Nike recently launched a new virtual game built off of the Fuelband data called Nike Fuel Missions (see video below). It seems to involve creating a virtual avatar of yourself and then use the data captured by your Fuelband to battle obstacle courses and even compete against others. This is a logical extension of the current platform, and I would say there could be strong potential to monetize a virtual environment centered around and individual's daily activity. I think we can expect the companies supported by this accelerator to provide products/services that look very much like the video below.