The program, called Brooklyn Beta SummerCamp, has some big names behind it, including Fred Wilson, Tim O’Reilly, and Betaworks (CEO John Borthwick pictured), with sponsorship from Etsy, EngineYard, and MailChimp.
“The process of building software is getting cheaper and cheaper,” said Borthwick, who pointed us to a letter he wrote to shareholders on the topic, (embedded below.) “The production buzzwords of our era — ‘betas,’ ‘agile development,’ and ‘pivots’ — are all an outgrowth of micro-development, which makes it less expensive to build more. As the cost of building and operating software-based businesses decreases, increasing value will accrue to design.”
Brooklyn Beta’s SummerCamp is recruiting a class of designer-developer teams that can build new companies from the ground up with that focus.
Each startup will get $25,000 in exchange for 6 percent equity. The teams will also have access to a group of mentors who will help them build their business. Advisors like Joe Gebbia from Airbnb and Charles Adler from Kickstarter highlight designers who worked alongside developers as co-founders at a startup. Other advisors include Liz Danzico, who created the department of Interaction Design at SVA; Ben Pieratt, the co-founder of Svpply; Michael Galpert, co-founder of Aviary; Randy Hunt, creative director at Etsy; and Wilson Miner, head of design at Rdio.
“I have been a fan of the Brooklyn Beta community for several years,” said Wilson. “It represents a design-centric view of building software and companies, and its base in Brooklyn speaks to the emergence of that borough as a leader in this movement.”
While the program will be based in Brooklyn, the incubator is unique in that it doesn’t insist startups move from their hometowns to participate. “We find that a lot of designers are older and more risk-averse than developers,” said Cameron Koczon, one of the founders of Brooklyn Beta. “So we wanted to create a program they could participate in without having to leave their families behind.”
Koczon hopes Brooklyn Beta will do for designers what Y-Combinator did for hackers. “The reality is, developers get paid better than designers, and they are more likely to create startups. How do you change that? It used to be you could pitch a company with just a business idea. Now you can’t get investors without producing a strong CTO or development team. Our goal is to make sure that people put the same emphasis on having a great designer as part of the founding team.”
Applications for the first class are due on May 31, 2012. Interested startups can apply here.
“In a world of plentiful options for hardware and software, a product that is just good enough will not suffice,” said Brothwick in his letter to shareholders. “Technical barriers to entry are so low and the number of providers is so high that users expect more than just functionality. They are drawn to and demand excellent product design.
“Design drives the optimization of experiences for specific devices/mediums/interactions. Different types of media (web app, SMS, email, PC, tablet, phone) demand targeted design experiences, not generic reprints. End-to-end, human centered design is a discipline, a process, and a function that this new world demands.”