RIoT, the Internet of Things group that now has more than 5,000 members, is continuing to evolve to a “content and hands-on organization” helping to develop startups and technology. Not just events.

With a $500,000 federal grant, RIoT will open its own IoT-focused accelerator to drive growth of an ecosystem, says the group’s founder.

“The basic idea is that IoT startups need a new acceleration platform,” Larry Steffan, a veteran tech executive who also oversees the Wireless Research Center of North Carolina, tells the Skinny. “A platform that will cut across multiple market segments.”

RIoT, which stands for Regional Internet of Things,” dates back to 2014 as the IoT craze spread worldwide. The original name was NC RIoT, but the group grew so fast and extended its reach beyond North Carolina it decided to drop NC.

“We no longer refer to RIoT as an acronym,” Steffan points out, “but as a brand to ensure engagement with this broad ecosystem.”

On Thursday, the US Department of Commerce said it would fund the new RIoT initiative to be called RAP (RIoT Accelerator Program) over three years. RIoT backers are kicking in over $500,000 in support.

The aim of the project is to create 96 startups, generate 200 jobs and generate more than $10 million in private investments, according to the award.

Steffan says the regional RIoT “ecosystem” continues to develop with numerous companies, ideas and technologies in the pipeline. Over time RIoT moved from show-and-tell events to the launch of what it calls RIoT labs. Now comes the accelerator/

“Our ecosystem has demonstrated that we can and have achieved this with dozens of startups,” he explains. “Opening up RIoT Labs last year was the beginning of this process.

“We wanted to move from an event-driven organization to a content and hands-on organization. Over the last couple of years, we began organizing workshops and programs in Florida, Charlotte, Charleston and last week in Cary. These workshops are posted on the RIoT website ( We want to ensure that we are engaging in a hands-on manner with thought leaders on specific topics, such as Industrial IoT, Blockchain, Department of Defense, Digital Health, and Smart Cities.”

Steffan notes that “MBA in IoT” is now an offering as well as lunch and learns.

These “filled up within minutes of being announced,” he says, reflecting the growing interest in IoT. “They were originally planned for every other month but the demand has become so great we had to find larger space and have been holding the L&L’s twice a month.”

RIoT says it is the largest such grassroots organization in the country. And a host of corporate backers have signed on as supporters. NC IDEA Foundation and The Launch Place assisted RIoT in the accelerator bid.

The accelerator decision

So why launch RAP?

“Over the past couple of years, we believe we have demonstrated an ability to address numerous markets, as well as different startup and corporate needs,” he says. “Our sponsorship growth and program support were excellent validation.

“We also felt strongly that the current incubation and acceleration programs did not fully understand IoT and the massive impact it will have on our economy.

“RAP was created to address this void. Pigeonholing IoT was the classic response with legacy organizations. RAP will be focused on distributive technology whether directly qualified as IoT or not.

“Through RAP, all new distributive startups will have connected linkage across multiple technologies, the essence of IoT.”

Staff coming, location TBD

RAP will feature professional assistance.

“RIoT will be looking for program and technical staff,” Steffan says.

Criteria for application and admission to RAP are yet to be determined other than being disruptive IoT.

“We want to support all distributive startups whether individuals or within corporations,” he adds. “We will be using our experience from RIoT labs to create criteria for participants.”

Just where the accelerator will be located is still to be determined.

“We are looking at several locations,” Steffan says.

Verification, validation

Steffan sees the grant award as more validation of RIoT’s original intent and sets the stage for a promising future.

“The objective has not changed since day one of RIoT,” Steffan explains.

“We wanted to ensure we are supporting an ecosystem locally and nationally that not only understands participation, but more importantly leading the 4th Industrial revolution.  Our plan, the vision has been validated over the years.

“The grant award is great validation our efforts, this validation will motivate us to continue to reach for the next rung.”