From a retro-futuristic driving game to a healthy shopping and eating app, more than six months of stealth startup work going on at the Washington Interactive Network (WIN) accelerator was shown off at a demo day on Thursday afternoon.
It’s been nearly two years since WIN was awarded a $1.2 million grant for what’s now called the WIN Reactor, also known as an “Interactive Media Industry Accelerator.” For the past six months, the Reactor housed four early-stage startups as part of its “Alpha Class” in offices near the Seattle waterfront.
The teams received mentoring and coaching from the Reactor mentors like Bungie’s Pete Parsons and Z2Live’s Lou Fasulo. The companies also, in some ways more than others, seemed to benefit from working in the same space for the past six months.
“It’s not just the mentors helping the companies out — the teams also help one another,” said Chip Hallett, head of studio at Reactor.
The Reactor is a unique accelerator in that it does not fund or take equity in the companies. Hallett said that may change in the future, but that it’s “very special now because it’s all community-based.”
The Reactor was structured only around gaming when it first started, but then the incubator pivoted slightly and decided to add mobile to the mix. That showed on Thursday, as two of the companies were focused on something other than games.
“We had a lot of disucssions with some of the larger players in the area and found out the place that was really blowing up was mobile,” Hallett said.
Here’s a rundown of the graduating “Alpha” class:
Refract Studios, makers of “Distance”
Three DigiPen graduates didn’t follow their classmates into the AAA game industry and instead decided to keep on making independent games.
The result of that is Refract Studios. The company raised nearly $162,000 last fall on Kickstarter for the studio’s first game called Distance, which blends the action of arcade racing with exploration of the atmospheric world. It’s essentially a mash-up of Trials Evolution + Rush 2049 + Halo + Tron, as the studio puts it.
Before their latest endeavor, Refract founders Jordan Hemenway, Kyle Holdwick and Jason Nollan also helped build Nitronic Rush, an award-winning game that’s been played more than 1.1 million times. Distance is the “spiritual successor” to Nitronic Rush.
Freak’n Genius —YAKiT!
The company just debuted YAKiT, which lets you manipulate the mouths of your family, friends, cats, dogs, celebrities and really, just about anything. To help generate buzz around last month’s app launch, the startup certainly put on their marketing hats.
Freak’n Genius is led by Kyle Kesterson, a finalist for the GeekWire Awards Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
Struts and Springs – SPREE
Many of us would like to be smarter shoppers at the grocery store, but it’s tough to know which foods are “good” and “bad” for you.
That’s where SPREE wants to help. The app, built by the team at Struts and Springs, uses knowledge from Bastyr University’s naturopathic co-founder Joe Pizzorno to help you pick the specific foods that match your lifestyle.
SPREE also lets you track your shopping habits and receive rewards, as well as share progress across social media. Carey Smith, Jon Kiehnau and Jerry Liu are behind the app.
Subutai — CLANG!
Subutai ended up raising more than $526,000 in hopes of crafting the most realistic sword fighting game on the planet with Clang. The company uses motion-controlled swords that allow players to master ancient techniques while immersed in a medieval story.
Initial investors in the project include Valve’s Gabe Newell, Jeff Bezos’ venture capital firm, and movie production company Kennedy/Marshall Company. Described as a PC arena game, Subutai plans to draw on the talents of Stephenson and other sci-fi writers to create a new game experience with an off-the-shelf controller.