After testing the waters this spring with its incubator-esque MVP Lab, Mozilla is doubling down on the effort with a formal program dangling $75,000 investments in front of early-stage companies. The focus on “a better society” and the company’s open-source clout should help differentiate it from the other options out there.
Spurred on by the success of a college hackathon using a whole four Apple Watches in February, Mozilla decided to try a more structured program in the spring. The first test batch of companies is underway, having started in April an 8-week program offering $2,500 per team member and $40,000 in prizes to give away at the end. Developers in a variety of domains were invited to apply, as long as they fit the themes of empowerment, privacy, decentralization, community and so on.
It drew the interest of some 1,500 people in 520 projects, and 25 were chosen to receive the full package and stipend during the development of their MVP. The rest were invited to an “Open Lab” with access to some of Mozilla’s resources.
One example of what they were looking for is Ameelio, a startup whose members are hoping to render paid video calls in prisons obsolete with a free system, and provide free letter delivery to inmates as well.
“The mission of this incubator is to catalyze a new generation of internet products and services where the people are in control of how the internet is used to shape society,” said Bart Decrem, a Mozilla veteran (think Firefox 1.0) and one of the principals at the Builders Studio. “And where business models should be sustainable and valuable, but do not need to squeeze every last dollar (or ounce of attention) from the user.” More details here.