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Techstars has launched another “powered by” accelerator, this time with Sprint around mobile health. It’s based in Kansas City (Sprint’s headquarters) and is our fourth powered by Techstars accelerator, joining Nike, Kaplan, and R/GA.
I’m an enormous fan of four things about the Sprint Accelerator – what we call “PBTS” (powered by Techstars), mobile health, Kansas City, and Sprint.
The PBTS strategy is one we started working on in 2012. We knew that we would continue to expand Techstars geographically (in 2013 we’ve added London, Austin, and Chicago). At the same time we were talking to a lot of large companies with outstanding brands about building accelerators specifically around their ecosystems. It dawned on us that the dynamics of an accelerator could work as well for building innovation and new company’s around a particular company/product ecosystem as it could for a city. So far the results have been awesome with outstanding companies coming out of the Nike+ Accelerator and the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator.
As an investor in Fitbit, I’m an enormous believer in quantified self. As the son of a doctor who is obsessed with repairing the healthcare system I’m regularly subjected to hearing about the massive flaws in today’s healthcare system. My dad has beaten into my head that my healthcare is my responsibility, and I’ve become an enormous believer in consumer-driven healthcare. I’ve never been interested in investing in medical devices, but I’m very interested in the consumerization of the medical device industry. And the intersection point of many of these ideas for me is mobile health.
Kansas City has a special place in my heart. I’ve spent a lot of time there over the years, going back to the mid-1990s when I was an entrepreneur-in-residence at the Kauffman Foundation. I bought a house there last year to experiment with Google Fiber in the middle of the Kansas City Startup Village. While I don’t like BBQ or the Kansas City Chiefs, I like the people a lot and think it has one of the most exciting growing startup communities in the United States.
Sprint makes me smile. Many of you know that I have a long history and relationship with Softbank, which just acquired Sprint. I’m very loyal to my friends at Softbank and love any opportunity to work with them – directly or indirectly. Sprint was my first long distance carrier – if I think hard enough I can probably remember my Sprint calling card number – and I used it many times to call my parents and my ex-wife when I was at school at MIT. And Sprint is a great US entrepreneurial story that traces its roots to the Brown Telephone Company in Abilene, KS in 1899.
This is going to be a fun one! Applications are open.
Google gave all 5000 Google I/O attendees an HTC EVO (I guess it’s a Sprint EVO) running Android. For the past two years I’ve been using an iPhone and have become increasingly disgusted by AT&T’s service which is horrible (and deteriorating) in the cities I frequent – most notably Boulder, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, NY, and Boston. So – I decided to give the EVO+Android a real shot and use it for a week as my permanent phone.
When I wrote my post Open Android vs. Closed iPhone right after Google I/O a few folks took shots at me for pimping a free phone that I got at a conference. Given the amount of money I regularly shell out to screw around on hardware and software (I’m one of those guys who happily buys things just to try them out) I shrugged this off but figured it was worth pre-empting since I’m sure this nonsense will come around again. So – there’s the disclaimer – I got this phone for free (although I did sit on two panels and spent a day and a half talking to people at Google I/O.)
While there has been plenty of fan boy and anti-fan boy chatter about this phone, I can only find one thing to complain about – the battery life. It’s still running Android 2.1 so I expect there will be plenty of battery tune up in Android 2.2, but out of the box the battery only lasts about six hours. I’ve tuned my settings so I can get a full day out of it, but am still carrying my USB cord to grab some juice from time to time. There a few tricks (like charge it with it turned off) that help a lot, but it feels like the iPhone 3G did when it first came out where I was always paying attention to how much charge I had left. Fortunately this will get better with software (quickly) and – since the battery is removable, I can just carry a spare around.
Ok – that’s literally the only thing I don’t like. The screen is phenomenal. All of the apps I run on my iPhone are available on Android – I even found a few new ones. The camera is killer. The email client is much better than the iPhone. Search for anything is lightening fast. Voice recognition – er – recognizes my voice. I have a phone that tethers and – if I want – I have a hotspot (bye bye MiFi.) My applications remember their state and come up instantly because they are still running in the background. The browser is fast. Google Maps + Navigation is incredible, especially for someone who can’t read a map to save his life. I can dial a phone number, look up an address, and get directions from within the calendar. The weather app knows where I am. Google Voice works great and is tightly integrated.
And – for the payoff – I can make a fucking telephone call on this thing. I can’t remember the last time I looked back after a day and thought “wow – I didn’t drop a single call today.” Now the only dropped calls I’ve had are when I’m talking to someone on an iPhone and they drop.
I’m looking forward to iPhone 4.0 coming out so I can see how it compares. My guess is that I’ll get the Android 2.2 upgrade at about the same time so I’ll have both to play around with in June and July. The real result will be to see which phone I’m using when I get back from Alaska in August. In the mean time, the HTC EVO is a winner and – as a result – the smart phone thing is going to get interesting now that Apple has some real competition and can no longer just walk all over Microsoft and Palm.
Did I mention that I can’t wait to get my hands on an Android Tablet?