Coca-Cola closes its startup incubator

Coca-Cola is closing the startup accelerator program it launched three years ago as a way for the soft drink giant to score early access to new technologies and markets.

The accelerator, called the Founders platform, had taken eight portfolio companies under its wing, according to its website, including San Francisco-based on-demand staffing startup Wonolo. Coke will continue its relationships with those companies through its corporate mergers and acquisitions team, said spokesman Petro Kacur.

“We have decided to focus our marketing innovation resources primarily around core innovation projects within our beverage portfolio,” Kacur wrote in an email. “As a result, we will not make new investments in startups under the Founders platform.”

Corporations without a traditional technology focus have become increasingly involved in Silicon Valley — think 7-Eleven, Campbell Soup Co. and JetBlue — investing in startups with the goal of someday using their technology.

Many launch venture funds to finance those startups. But incubators and accelerators, where the corporation plays a more active role in the startup’s development, are becoming increasingly popular. Disney and Sprint have their own accelerators, and Google launched an incubator in April.

But the current popularity of accelerators also means competition for talent is growing. There are 187 such programs worldwide, according to accelerator database Seed-DB, with Mountain View-based Y Combinator being the most…

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