PayPal has been making a big deal about its platform strategy, where developers can build cool applications around its payments platform. Today at the DEMO conference in Palm Desert (co-produced by VentureBeat), PayPal Vice President of Platform and Emerging Technology Osama Bedier announced that he wants to provide more than just technology to startups, through the PayPal X Startup Accelerator Program.

Like Microsoft’s BizSpark accelerator program (which includes free Microsoft software), there’s an emphasis on helping companies make the right connections. PayPal says it will introduce startups to venture capitalists, to a business relationship manager who will connect startups with potential partners, and to executives in residence (EIRs) who should be able to provide advice. Startups in the accelerator might also work from the PayPal X Startup Accelerator Pavilion at the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, Calif.

While on-stage, Bedier also announced the winners of PayPal’s developer challenge, where a team of expert judges — eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, PayPal president Scott Thompson, Andreessen Horowitz’s Marc Andreessen, and Sequoia Capital’s Roelof Botha — chose the best applications developed using PayPal’s payments platform. Rentalic, a marketplace where people can rent out anything they own, won $50,000 in cash and $50,000 in waived processing fees. Appbackr, where developers can sell their iPhone apps to wholesale buyers, who can then resell them, won $25,000 in cash and $25,000 in waived fees.

Instead of offering the companies a giant check, Bedier paid them using PayPal’s new iPhone app.

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