Got a start-up idea? Comcast would like to hear about it

Comcast Social Media Lounge at SXSW 2017-16012018-0001
Ebony Lee, center, senior vice president of for strategic development for Comcast Cable, discusses the company accelerator program with Danielle Cohn, Comcast's executive director of entrepreneurial engagement, and Laura Kennedy Techstars vice president, during last year’s South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas.

Comcast Corp. is looking for few good start-ups.

The cable giant is formally launching an “accelerator” program to boost start-ups in Philadelphia by accepting applications for the first round of its Techstars program, part of what Comcast calls its Lift Labs. The program will be based in Comcast’s $1.2 billion product-development and engineering high-rise, under construction near its headquarters.

Comcast expects to include 10 individuals — or small teams — as participants. The free program is open to those in the Philadelphia region, as well as those from other places, as long as they are willing to relocate here.

Applicants should be developing businesses with any of these themes: connected life, entertainment everywhere, next-generation marketing, smart cities, and digital wellness. Comcast is accepting applications through April 8. The program will run from July 16 to Oct. 11.

 “The plan is to have them in the new building, and they will be based on the fourth floor,” said Ebony Lee, Comcast senior vice president for strategic development.

Accepting people into the program may lead to companies’ choosing to stay here and build their businesses, Lee said. Comcast also could learn from these start-up founders, she added.

Comcast spoke to more than 1,000 start-ups and entrepreneurs in modeling the accelerator, which basically attempts to make it easier for entrepreneurs to transform a raw idea into a product or service. Other big corporations with accelerators include AT&T, Sprint, Disney, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, and Budweiser, according to online publication TechCo.

John Grady, president of the nonprofit Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., said the program could “contribute a ton of value” to a start-up through relationships with Comcast and NBCUniversal executives, along with the resources and experience of program organizers and exposure to the business community.

Rick Nucci, co-founder and chief executive of the Philadelphia tech company Guru and chairman of the nonprofit Philly Startup Leaders, said  accelerators have proved to help start-ups achieve their goals faster. He said the program could attract companies to Philadelphia that otherwise would not come here.

Techstars is a Colorado-based group that runs programs to help start-ups. It is partnering with Comcast as it seeks to boost start-up and technology companies in Center City to complement its big investment in the new tech center. One concern for Comcast is whether it will have enough technologists and software coders as it concentrates product development in Philadelphia.

Participants in the Techstars program will rub elbows with Comcast, NBCUniversal, Telemundo and Universal executives, and network with other start-ups as they develop their ideas. The Facebook application looks relatively simple, with 13 questions, looking at the start-up’s vision, plans, funding, cash burn rate, and equity owners.

“We look forward to bringing some of the world’s brightest entrepreneurs to Philadelphia and working side by side with our partners at Techstars, while leveraging Comcast NBCUniversal’s unique set of assets to help take their businesses to the next level,” said Sam Schwartz, chief business development officer at Comcast’s cable division.