Though every successful company starts with an idea, not all great concepts survive. A recent study found that 70% of tech start-ups fail, usually within 20 months of their first round of financing.1 In a competitive marketplace, funding alone isn’t a golden ticket. To make ideas viable, entrepreneurs and small businesses need speed, agility, and, sometimes, a little help from trusted friends.
Kai XR hit a growth tipping point in mid-2020. Created to address limited school system resources, the company blends Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) to provide a 360˚ platform to help kids learn and explore beyond classroom walls.
Former teacher and Kai XR CEO Kai Frazier founded the company after her D.C. area public school stopped offering museum field trips due to budget cuts. Unwilling to give up this important enrichment activity, Frazier searched for alternate solutions but was left frustrated by available ed tech products—most required reliable Wi-Fi and expensive devices, which many of her students didn’t have or couldn’t afford.
After exhausting her options, Frazier created Kai XR to deliver kid-friendly, teacher-approved virtual field trips and immersive experiences through a device-agnostic platform.
Putting promising concepts to the test
To grow and succeed, Kai XR needed customers on the platform. That urgency increased with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s when Frazier began considering a start-up accelerator. Accelerators, which are typically funded by companies to support start-up growth and innovation, can help entrepreneurial businesses gain customer traction and reach key funding milestones.2
With platform testing and digital accessibility as dual goals, Kai XR applied for the T-Mobile® Accelerator Spring 2021 Immersive Technology Program focused on building the next big thing in immersive 5G technology—from holographic communications to 3D storytelling. The company was accepted, and the program is now underway.
Early in the process, Kai XR has already reported accelerator benefits. “When you’re working with a classroom of kids and what they have at home, it’s a grab bag. We needed to test the platform using whatever devices they have,” says Frazier. “At our core, we’re a streaming service…so 5G is a great test case to see if we can deliver superior clarity on the content that we serve.”
Kai XR is preparing to launch a two-month pilot program which will allow them to test their platform on a range of devices and levels of connectivity, from Wi-Fi and hotspots to 5G. Once the pilot is complete, Frazier will then have the valuable performance and diagnostic data she needs to develop the next iteration of Kai XR.
Mentoring start-ups through times of growth
The T-Mobile Accelerator program serves as a hub for brilliant ideas, innovation, and action. Focused on collaborative experiences for growth, it delivers year-round programming and activities, including entrepreneurial and tech community engagements, expert speakers, and mentorship sessions. Since its inception, the Accelerator has worked with 67 start-up companies that have raised an aggregate of nearly $80 million post-program. Additionally, 82% of alumni companies are still in business today.3
Homebase, a smart building solution with apartment access control and internet infrastructure for apartment owners, is an alum of the 2020 Accelerator program. CEO and founder Blake Miller describes the experience as a business and product development boost for his team.
“The program was great [for] a growing start-up,” says Miller. When COVID-19 hit, the structure made a big difference for the Homebase executive team, keeping them aligned with the help of mentors and workshops. The company used program resources to strengthen their pitch, clarify their brand story, and refine their go-to-market strategy.
With Gen Z entering the rental market and 75% considering apartment living, Homebase provides the hubless smart infrastructure and connectivity the generation has come to expect.4 Through their accelerator experience, Homebase explored product offering enhancements such as enabling 5G inside of apartment buildings more efficiently. Moving forward, they plan to broaden their scope of offerings with bundled T-Mobile products and services for owners and residents.
Fueling small business innovation with 5G
T-Mobile Accelerator Manager Tina Peterson is eager to find innovative companies for future programs. “I love connecting with entrepreneurs and small businesses,” says Peterson. “Companies out there are developing amazing new 5G products and services quickly, and they require a 5G network with capacity and broad reach—that’s where T-Mobile can help emerging technologies test and enhance their offerings.”
For selected start-ups and their leaders, the annual three-month virtual program offers:
- Mentorship and hands-on support from T-Mobile experts
- Access to a 5G network and low-latency computing infrastructure
- Assistance defining and refining their start-up story along with message amplification through T-Mobile channels
- Access to T-Mobile corporate resources, including 5G testing facilities
- Investor and Demo days for pitch and venture capital exposure
The Accelerator is one of many T-Mobile initiatives dedicated to fostering innovation through access to America’s largest, fastest, and now most reliable 5G network according to umlaut. The company recently expanded the award-winning T-Mobile Accelerator in collaboration with Georgia Tech and Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners. It also operates the T-Mobile Ventures investment fund and is a co-founder of the 5G Open Innovation Lab.
For more information on how T-Mobile® for Business partners with small businesses to address their connectivity needs, contact us at 877-511-6719.