International Business Machines Corp. and Comcast Corp.’s venture arm will become the largest supporters of an investment fund for startups that help corporations use blockchain, the digital ledger that’s become a hot technology.
The startup accelerator, called MState, plans to invest $25,000 to $50,000 apiece in five or six companies over the next six months, co-founder Rob Bailey said in a phone interview. MState, with locations in New York and San Francisco, will also connect its startups with Fortune 500 clients interested in implementing their technologies, said Bailey, who was previously a partner at private equity firm Akkadian Ventures.
Comcast Ventures is providing funding, while IBM is offering up support services to MState startups.
“It’s complementing our strategy,” Janine Grasso, vice president for blockchain strategy and ecosystem development at IBM, said in a phone interview. Big Blue may also end up helping entrepreneurs who don’t make the cut for MState, she said.
Companies funded by MState will be earlier in their development than the startups typically backed by IBM and Comcast, he said. IBM was among the first large companies to embrace blockchain, deploying it internally and helping clients test and implement applications. Comcast is working to use the blockchain to improve the efficiency of video advertising.
“Think of us as an earlier-stage scout fund for other funds,” Bailey said.
MState has already invested in its first startup, Blockdaemon, which helps companies roll out blockchain applications faster by letting them deploy and manage network nodes.
“There’s a massive opportunity in Fortune 500 companies,” Bailey said. “They don’t know which companies to work with.”
Almost six in 10 large corporations are considering using blockchain, according to Juniper Research’s survey of 400 executives, managers and tech staff. The technology is being tested or implemented by companies ranging from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to Visa Inc. to streamline supply chains, speed up payments and keep records.
While it’s currently investing only in blockchain companies, MState may eventually also accelerate other technologies, such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing, Bailey said.