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Boston entrepreneurs to get assistance forming robotics and AI startups

The Founder Institute program will work with MassRobotics to stimulate the local scene

A drone is pictured flying inside the offices at MassRobotics, a robot-oriented facility on Channel Street in Boston.
A drone is pictured flying inside the offices at MassRobotics, a robot-oriented facility on Channel Street in Boston.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Boston is becoming an increasingly active hub of robotics and artificial intelligence companies, and that is attracting even more startups to the area.

Hoping to capitalize on the spike in activity, the Founder Institute, a startup accelerator that assists first-time founders, on Tuesday unveiled a new program focused on helping local would-be entrepreneurs in those fields.

“Boston is an amazing location to start a company on AI and robotics — the density and level of activity in these areas in this region is just off the charts,” said Ignacio Castro, managing director of the Founder Institute in Boston. He pointed to MIT’s new Schwarzman College of Computing and the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, as well as Amazon’s locally based robotics team and pioneering companies like iRobot and Boston Dynamics.

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The Founder Institute, based in California and with branches in hundreds of cities around the world, is partnering on the new Boston program with MassRobotics, a local nonprofit backing the industry, and NASA’s Ames Research Center, which develops robots to explore other planets, among its many missions.

The program is accepting applications through Sept. 12. People can apply with ideas to start companies in a variety of fields, including aerospace and space, robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, autonomous vehicles, augmented and virtual reality, voice, drones, and related technologies, the Founder Institute said.

The group expects to select 10 to 15 potential startups for the program, which will run from Sept. 21 through Jan. 26, 2022. Participants will gain exposure to software and technologies from the Ames lab, gain mentors, and be introduced to investors interested in backing robotics and AI startups.

The institute doesn’t hand out venture capital money, even the small sums known as seed funding. Its focus is on getting entrepreneurs organized, in touch with potential partners, and ready to raise money. The group describes itself as a “pre-seed accelerator,” indicating that it works with startups even before an initial round of funding.

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Robotics and AI startups have been attracting more investments from VC firms in the past few years, including $6.3 billion over the past year, according to a report in Forbes. In February, Locus Robotics in Wilmington raised $150 million in a deal that valued the company at $1 billion. And in July, Somerville’s Pickle Robot said it raised $15 million.



Aaron Pressman can be reached at aaron.pressman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @ampressman.