Rizwan Virk

MIT-hosted accelerator adding cryptocurrency, blockchain to eligible sectors for next class

Play Labs and the MIT Game Lab today announced applications are now open for the second batch of startups within the playful technology accelerator, which will run from June through August on MIT’s campus in Cambridge, MA.

Startups that are accepted into Play Labs will each receive an initial investment of $20,000 in either cash or Bitcoin in return for common stock. Startups that graduate from the program and meet certain criteria will be eligible for up to $80,000 in additional funding from the Play Labs Fund and its investment partners.

The application deadline is Mar. 15, after which time, finalists will be selected, and a subset of those finalists will be given offers to participate in the program. Applications are open to both MIT-affiliated startups, and startups with no MIT affiliation that wish to come to MIT for the summer to participate.

Play Labs provides mentoring, facilities, and funding for early stage startups that utilize “playful technology.” The areas of technology for this second batch of incubated startups include:

  • Digital currency/blockchain: The explosion of digital currencies like Bitcoin and the underlying technology, blockchain, have created a new virtual economy and opportunities for decentralizing many industries.
  • eSports/video game: Video games have moved into the competitive era, and esports is seen as one of the biggest opportunities for expansion.
  • VR/AR: A big focus for the first batch of incubated startups in Play Labs, now VR and AR are categories that continue to evolve and will revolutionize any industry.
  • Machine learning/AI: Artificial intelligence and machine learning software and hardware (i.e. robotics) have advanced to the point of many practical applications.

Candidate startups may apply these technology areas into any industry, including video games, esports, finance, healthcare, manufacturing, and more.

Rizwan Virk

Play Labs will be run by Bayview Labs and its executive director, Rizwan Virk, an MIT alumnus and Silicon Valley angel investor, advisor and mentor. Mr. Virk and Bayview have been early investors in Bitcoin and blockchain startups, as well as a long list of successful gaming-related tech startups including Tapjoy, Discord, Funzio, Pocket Gems, Telltale Games, and Sliver.tv.

“MIT has been the starting point for many successful startups over the years,” Mr. Virk said. “We had a successful first batch and we are excited to see what exciting technology projects MIT students, alumni and the greater community will come up for this second batch. We started the accelerator because a lot of focus for these areas has been on the West Coast, but I believe that the eco-system around MIT in Boston has great talent and startup ideas in these areas.

“When I graduated from MIT and thought of doing my first startup, I wish I had this kind of accelerator program, with support from both MIT staff and industry entrepreneurs and mentors. That’s why I designed the program in this way.”

Bayview will run Play Labs in conjunction with the Seraph Group, a seed stage venture capital investment firm founded by Tuff Yen. The teams will be supported by a group a successful mentors and partners, including Rajeev Surati, co-founder of Flash Communications (sold to Microsoft), Photo.net, and Scalable Display Technologies. Also participating is [email protected], a student organization on campus dedicated to fostering VR/AR/MR entrepreneurship at MIT.

The MIT Game Lab, a research group in MIT’s Department of Comparative Media Studies/Writing and Ludus, the MIT Center for Games, Learning, and Playful Media will host and conduct the educational program for Play Labs. Teams will be given workspace on the MIT campus for the duration of the program.

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