The Shubert Organization is teaming up with two partners to bring Silicon Valley to Broadway.
Alongside venture capital firm Exponential Creativity Ventures and tech training company IT Mentors, the Shubert Organization is launching a startup accelerator that will provide companies with funding, training and the ability to test products in Broadway theaters or within the Shubert ecosystem. In exchange, the Broadway Tech Accelerator will take an equity stake in each company.
At the end of the 12-week accelerator, the four participating companies will pitch their startup to investors and members of the theater community with the goal of gaining follow-on investments.
As part of the accelerator, each company will have the ability to run a pilot program for their product within Shubert theaters, including those with actively running shows, or using Shubert’s ticketing system or its marketing database.
Applications for the accelerator will open on April 1, with the first cohort beginning in May.
The Shubert Organization had been working with startups for several years to solve individual challenges, such as obtaining sales predictions and data visualizations specifically for the theater industry as well as ways of enhancing the patron experience. Last year, Shubert partnered with the GalaPro app, to provide live closed captioning and audio descriptions of Broadway shows.
The accelerator is meant to add on to that process, providing investment and additional resources to the startups, such as training on how to formulate their pitch and networking opportunities, a necessity for any business trying to break into the complex theater industry, according to Kyle Wright, director of digital projects at Shubert Ticketing and a managing partner of the Broadway Tech Accelerator.
“Its sole purpose really is to help facilitate innovation in the theatrical space across every facet of the business,” Wright said.
Applicants will be vetted, in part, by Adam Huttler’s company Exponential Creativity Ventures, which invests in tech startups with a creative component. Huttler, along with Tim Kashani of IT Mentors, will also seek to bridge the divide between the startup culture and the entertainment world through the training program — though Huttler notes that having a background in the arts is an advantage for entrepreneurs in this field because it helps them better understand their consumers.
Typically, venture capitalists see Broadway as a limited market for growth, but Huttler said businesses in the space can find clients in regional theaters and performance venues across the country, as well as use cases outside of theater.
“You never know where these things will lead,” Huttler said.
The accelerator is not strictly limited to theatrical businesses, however, and is open to any type of business in the live entertainment space, at any stage of development.
Kashani, founder of IT Mentors, which provides coding and technology training for newly hired employees, is building the curriculum for the accelerator, using a typical startup methodology — with principles of developing the minimum viable product needed to test with customers and keeping expenses low — with a few tweaks for the theatrical industry.
“Our industry can look big and scary, but we are all still waking up each day solving problems as they come along,” Kashani said.
Most of the curriculum, which covers everything from building a product to customer acquisition and building a board of directors, will be online. However, participants will come to the city at the beginning, middle and end of the program, culminating in the demo day, with virtual check-ins in between.
Each startup will be matched with a volunteer mentor within the theater community, with mentors selected according to the type of company.
Though he feels that Broadway has a desire to embrace technology, Wright said that the industry needs to play a more active role in its development.
“The only way we can help technologists and entrepreneurs to innovate in a way that is complementary is by participating in the process,” Wright said.