Building the Next Foursquare? Pepsi Would Like a Few Words

Food-and-Beverage Giant Partnering With VC Firm to Nurture the Next Big Thing

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Pepsi wants to get in on the ground floor of the next FourSquare. The marketer, which has been outspoken about its commitment to social media, crowdsourcing even its biggest marketing program through the Pepsi Refresh Project, is hooking up with a venture-capital firm to do just that.

Pepsi has partnered with VC firm Highland Capital Partners and Mashable to search out the best and brightest new ideas in social media. Dubbed an "innovation-incubator program," PepsiCo10 will identify as many as 10 promising entrepreneurial groups, assign them an industry mentor, and attach them to pilot programs with various PepsiCo brands.

"Within the CPG world one of the challenges we face is how to deeply connect and engage with consumers in the new landscape," said Seth Kaufman, director-media strategy and investment at PepsiCo. "And this is an opportunity for us to invest in the future and encourage young entrepreneurs coming up with great platforms." He added that the demographic using -- and increasingly developing -- this technology is Millennials, the company's target market for major brands like Pepsi and SoBe Life Water.

"We're never going to get the place where every single emerging platform you can be on or partnering with before it starts to gain momentum," Mr. Kaufman said. "But there's an opportunity to identify the most promising ones and be in with them from early on."

Even being involved in these pilot programs, Mr. Kaufman said, has upside for Pepsi. Young consumers will associate Pepsi with up-and-coming platforms, and Pepsi marketers get to know the technology before it gains a mass following.

Pepsi is accepting submissions for the incubator program at PepsiCo10.com. The submissions fall into four categories: social media, mobile marketing, location-based and experiential marketing, or digital video or gaming. The company will evaluate proposals based on ability to affect its brands, or further the marketers "Performance with Purpose" initiative. Applicants should have technology that's already in beta, and funding between $250,000 and $10 million, or annual revenues north of $250,000.

Submissions will be accepted online until June 24, from which 20 finalists will be invited to present at a summit in late July.

Agency partners for PepsiCo10 include OMD Ignition Factorym, TracyLocke, DMG Events, and Weber Shandwick.

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