Disney Startups Pitch Exercise in Bid for TV Viewers of Tomorrow

(Bloomberg) -- Joanna McFarland knows how to tailor her pitch to her audience.

The chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based HopSkipDrive -- a kind of Uber for kids -- told attendees at Walt Disney Co.’s annual showcase of young companies in its business accelerator program on Wednesday that getting children to football practice is a huge challenge for parents. If the kids make it to practice, she explained, they’re more likely follow the sport and watch it on networks like Disney’s ESPN.

“Chances are better they’ll develop a lifelong love of the game,” McFarland said.

Disney’s accelerator program, now in its fifth year, has always been about finding young businesses that can help the company’s greater empire. Past graduates include LittleBits, creator of a “Star Wars” droid-making kit that was a top seller on Amazon.com Inc. last year.

This year’s crop of companies, which Disney invests in as well as mentors, leans heavily on businesses that may influence the future of media and entertainment viewing -- although the connection wasn’t always immediately obvious.

Jessica O. Matthews, the founder of Uncharted Power, said her company’s plans for distributed, self-generated electricity in developing countries will ultimately help people all over the world watch more videos. Among her products, a soccer-ball that generates kinetic energy when kicked that can be used to power devices later.

“I’m talking about taking the technology available today to power the media and entertainment of tomorrow,” she said.

Other companies in the accelerator program included Aaptiv, which has an app that plays workout routines for customers, and Caffeine, which lets users chat and buy onscreen emojis while watching sports and other programming.

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