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Snap is launching an accelerator to try and invest in the next big media business

Snap’s executives, including CEO Evan Spiegel, will help the program’s founders.

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel
Snap CEO Evan Spiegel
Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Vanity Fair

Snap wants to find the next big media business, so it’s launching a seed accelerator to invest in startups or creators that want to build media projects for mobile devices.

The new accelerator, which Snap has named “Yellow,” will invest $150,000 into 10 different creators or startups beginning this fall. The company will take a small equity stake in exchange for the money, according to Snap VP of Content Nick Bell, though he wouldn’t specify how much each stake would be worth.

“The terms ... are in line with other similar incubators and accelerators that are created with founders in mind,” Bell said in an interview with Recode.

Y Combinator, perhaps the best-known seed-stage accelerator in the tech world, invests $120,000 for a 7 percent ownership stake in all of its accelerator companies.

Snapchat hopes its program will give birth to a new wave of mobile media project — and that the creators who build them will want to work with Snap once those projects get off the ground. (Snap will not require accelerator participants to work with the company exclusively.)

A look at Snapchat’s Discover section, with content from multiple Vertical Networks brands.
Some of Snap’s Discover content already comes from a content studio the company invested in.

The company has already done this with at least one startup: Vertical Networks, a content company with brands like Brother and shows like “Phone Swap,” which publish on Snapchat’s Discover section. Elisabeth Murdoch, the daughter of 21st Century Fox Chairman Rupert Murdoch, owns a majority stake.

Snap has lots of media partnerships that bring professional content into Snapchat’s Discover section, and CEO Evan Spiegel, born and raised in LA, has always been passionate about the media industry. But that doesn’t mean that everyone who participates in the accelerator will be making a Snapchat-style show.

“In the [inaugural] program I think we’re going to be focused on creators, but that’s pretty broad in itself,” Bell said. “That could be anything from augmented reality to interactive storytelling to somebody who’s got a great script for a serialized drama.”

One of the perks of getting into the accelerator will be access to Snapchat’s executives, including Spiegel, who will be involved in both selecting participants and advising them while they’re going through the program, though Bell says official roles and commitments for executives are still being finalized.

“We’re going to be kind of molding the shape of the program [based on participants],” Bell said, but added there will be some structure, like “regular breakfasts, lunches, dinners and drop-in kind of meetings.”

There are a few ways to look at this.

On the one hand, Snap is investing just $1.5 million into the project, at least at launch. That’s not a lot of money, and a signal that the program probably isn’t super important.

On the other hand, if Snap’s top executives are actually going to be involved, that’s a little more interesting. You could probably argue that they have more important problems to sort out than mentoring seed-stage media projects. But if Spiegel and others are going to be involved, it will make Snap’s accelerator one of the most interesting and desirable around.

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