Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa Startups today revealed it has chosen seven North American-based and Black-founded startups to enter its inaugural Black Founders Build with Alexa Accelerator.

The startups were chosen based on their ability to innovate with Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa and build a new generation of voice, artificial intelligence and ambient experiences in a variety of industries, Amazon said. Black Founders Build with Alexa is the latest initiative from Alexa Startups, which provides access to funding, incubation, acceleration and mentorship for startups building technologies that can enhance Amazon Alexa.

The seven companies chosen as the first cohort include Myavana, a hair care technology firm that uses AI to recommend ideal care products based on a person’s individual hair type. Myavana will launch an Alexa Routine that walks customers through the various steps involved in washing and styling their hair, while also taking into account personal characteristics and external factors such as the weather.

DOSS Group Inc., meanwhile, is a real estate technology firm that incorporates an Alexa-based smart assistant that aims to improve customer experiences as people buy, sell and rent homes. DOSS founder Bobby Bryant said he was motivated to do this by the rapid advances made in AI in recent years.

“Over the last decade I have been amazed by how quickly experts in academia and the industry have furthered the state-of-the-art in conversational AI,” he said. “These developments inspired me to create a domain specific intelligent assistant for the real estate industry.”

Others include PayTalk, which is developing Alexa-powered technology that aims to make transactional e-commerce easier and more secure. Its idea is to integrate Alexa into seven different payment applications, including parking, ticketing and bill payments.

Then there’s Moment.ai, which is using biometrics and physiological data to improve driver safety. Moment.ai founder Megan Gray said she’s looking to integrate Alexa Voice Service across her company’s offerings to maximize customer’s productivity while helping them keep their eyes on the road.

“After being diagnosed with epilepsy, I was told that I could not drive,” she explained. “My diagnosis made me determined to create an inclusive driving-focused AI solution for those that tend to be forgotten in our society.”

OneStopWellness Inc., Kiddie Kredit and Seam Social Labs were the other chosen startups. Over the next four months, each of them will get individualized support from the Alexa Startups solution architect and business development teams. They’ll also gain more visibility by attending networking events, panel discussions and demo showcases, with an opportunity to receive up to $100,000 in funding through the Alexa Fund.

Alexa Startups’ head of business development Liz Myers said the founders of the seven startups bring a range of experiences, passions and expertise, but share her company’s desire to invent on behalf of customers.

“It’s no secret that entrepreneurs of color are underrepresented in the tech industry, and we hope that initiatives like these will lead to more diverse perspectives, new ideas, and the development of products and services across voice, AI, and ambient computing that will better enrich the lives of all customers,” she said.

Image: Amazon

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