YouWeb founder Peter Relan created successful startups in social games. Now his new accelerator/incubator Studio 9+ is reaching beyond games with its first class of 10 founding companies.

The San Francisco incubator will foster the startups for nine months and offer them financing so that they can build their companies into more substantial startups than is typical with incubated companies. While Studio 9+ has at least one game investment, Relan is branching out with the first class into new sectors that include wearable technology, big data, mobile-social networks, platforms-as-a-service (PaaS), peer-to-peer sharing, and children’s education.

The founders of the company come from a diverse group of firms including Gree, OpenFeint, Audi Labs, Intuit, Microsoft, Wells Fargo, Frog Design, and Oracle. The choices reflect an aggressive effort by Relan to take game entrepreneurs and get them to create startups with a broader tech focus.

Relan focused on turning developers into founding chief executive officers at his YouWeb incubator for six years, producing startups like OpenFeint, Crowdstar, and Agawi. Those companies have raised more than $60 million in funding, and OpenFeint was acquired by Gree for $104 million.


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With Studio 9+, Relan said he wants to incubate startups for a longer time than the typical three-month period that other incubators do. That’s because he found that many potential acquirers felt like three months was just too short a time to build a real, viable company.

“At the end of three months, you may have some hackers and a demo,” Relan told VentureBeat. “At the end of nine months, you could have co-founders and a company.”

The 10 teams will each receive $110,000 in initial funding and guidance through a three-phase program. Here’s a description of the teams:

  • Jason Citron, the former cofounder and CEO of the Openfeint social platform for mobile, is now focused on reimagining hardcore multiplayer online battle arena games (think League of Legends) on tablets.
  • Oracle and Intuit alumni, Uday Sandhar and Navneet Aron, are building big data visualization on tablets.
  • Microsoft veteran Suneet Shah and JoyPad founders Lou Zell and Todd Hamilton are creating OpenKit, an open-source backend service platform for mobile.
  • Jakob Wilkenson, the founder engineer at OpenFeint, is shaping a software platform for wearable computing.
  • Hung Tran and Thomas Hornbeck, who hold doctorates in computer science, are creating a marketplace for peer-to-peer services in colleges.
  • Ryan DeSanto and Austin Heap are offering a sweepstakes platform to all virtual-goods-based mobile apps.
  • Wells Fargo alumni Syed Shuttari is developing a new breed of a social-mobile professional network connecting people.
  • Audi Labs alumni and music prodigy Luis Sampedro Diaz is creating a “social world” for kids to play in and learn music together.
  • Amoz Barzilay, a former venture capitalist who has a doctorate in artificial intelligence, is designing training apps that replace books.
  • Adrian Lall, a Frog Design alumni, is building a tablet-based browser for social shopping.

“I had the privilege of working closely with Peter as a founding engineer at OpenFeint,” said Wilkenson. “While I seriously considered many options of funding and supporting my ideas, Peter and his team’s expertise was more valuable to me than anything I could find out there.”

Relan said that applications for the next Studio 9+ class will open on March 1 and that Studio 9+ has opened a new campus at Pier 26 in San Francisco.

Under its nine-month program, Relan will coach the entrepreneurs to help them become founder CEOs. Relan will first get them to create a minimum viable product, or something that works, in their first three months. In the second three months, he’ll help them discover the right market for the product and tune it. Then he’ll help them with company-building — for growing traction with users, potential hires, and investors.

Mentors include tech industry veterans Jerry Held, Michelle Sangster, Eros Resmini, Jim Mills, and Les Wright.

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