Intel for deeptech startups: created by founders, for founders

Intel Ignite is an acceleration programme for early-stage deeptech startups. Launched in 2019 by Intel, its mission is to fuel a global ecosystem of deeptech innovation by empowering a diverse network of founders, mentors, domain experts, and investors to co-create enduring, industry-defining technology companies.

“Intel is by nature almost everywhere in the technology landscape,” said Ofer Shayo, Managing Director, Intel Ignite London. “So, looking at the talents, the knowledge, and the network we have in the company, it’s almost unlimited. We believe that by leveraging that network, knowledge, and expertise we can help startups move much faster.”

The programme and how to apply

Beginning with a 12-week programme and continuing over a lifetime, the platform aims to empower startups to succeed through customised support, access to global business and technology leaders, and a preferred path to the best investors.

The programme is divided into three sections, each focused on a critical aspect of startup growth:

1. Finding the right market fit

• Identify customer pain points

• Develop key differentiators

• Conduct competitor analysis

• Evaluate market feasibility

2. Conquering tech challenges

• Create your R&D strategy

• Prove the viability of your solution

• Build a working proof of concept

• Develop your product with enterprise testing

3. Positioning yourself for success

• Define your go-to-market strategy

• Create a roadmap for scalability

• Explore different funding types

• Develop an effective marketing plan

• Perfect your startup pitch

In order to apply, each startup must have a minimum of $1 million in seed funding, an experienced founding team, significant intellectual property, and a large market opportunity.

“We see ourselves as the bridge between seed and a round,” said Shayo. “What we’re looking at is the technology and the synergy with Intel. But also at the fundability – that ability to raise additional funds – and, the most important part, the coachability of the founders. We want to work with founders with a mindset of wanting to learn and to help others.”

Once the applicants are whittled down to just 10, the process of onboarding begins. During this process, Intel will look to learn more about the needs and challenges of each startup in order to build a personalised plan and, during the 12 weeks, Intel will work with each startup on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis in order to help them meet their targets.

The power of Intel

One of the ways that Intel optimises startups for success is by leveraging its own vast resources – from access to global market and world-class engineering talent to enterprise testing opportunities.

Startups can be guaranteed to meet internal and external customers who can provide feedback and support, as well as receive top-level access to senior executives and technology leaders across the company.

“We sit with each company and create a list of KPIs, which is completely different between each company, and we are matchmaking the right mentors,” says Shayo. “It can be an AI expert, a hardware expert, or a go-to-market expert, it depends on their needs. This is really the type of personalised support we offer founders during the programme.”

Making the world a better place

Many of the startups that apply to the programme, and most of those that are selected, are trying to make the world more efficient and sustainable utilising technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, next-generation computing, and Web 3.0 infrastructure.

One such example is a startup called Granulate – a Tel Aviv-based firm developing AI software to streamline operations in the Cloud and data centres. Granulate took part in the accelerator programme in late 2019 and in March 2022 Intel announced plans to acquire the company.

To date, Granulate has raised $45.6 million and received backing from Insight Partners, the New York-based VC that also previously invested in and WalkMe.

Intel’s plan is to “rapidly scale” Granulate’s optimisation software across its data centre portfolio and the acquisition will help its Cloud and data centre customers “maximise compute workload performance and reduce infrastructure and Cloud costs.”

Becoming an acquisition channel is not the programme’s main objective but Granulate is a great example of a very strong collaboration and, in many cases, a startup will end the programme with some form of commercial cooperation with Intel.

The future is deeptech

Intel Ignite already has centres in Tel-Aviv and Munich and more recently in London. London is the hub of deeptech and a very good fit for a deeptech accelerator.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to engage with the British deeptech industry,” notes Shayo. And it’s no surprise as, despite a challenging economic climate, the passion for entrepreneurship remains alive as more than 800 startups applied for the latest cohort in spring 2023.

“We had over 800 startups apply for our accelerator programme for the spring cohort. We chose 30 total across Israel, Europe, and the United States. These startups have garnered on average $7.1 million in funding, demonstrating that promising deep-tech early-stage startups still get funded despite economic headwinds,” Tzahi Weisfeld, Intel Vice President and General Manager of Intel Ignite.

In addition, Intel Ignite has established its first-ever customer advisory board of chief technology officers, chief information officers and chief data officers from leading companies.

Members will help connect cohort startup leaders with high-level tech executives for feedback and business collaboration.

Customer advisory board members will also be able to connect advisers to top disruptors in the tech ecosystem, developing a networking pool and opportunities to gain market insights and collaboration prospects with their peers.

This article originally appeared in the Sept/Oct issue of Startups Magazine. Click here to subscribe