Editor’s note: This article was written for Wayra Germany, but it looks like a great program.
The gift and the curse for Nordic and Baltic startups targeting the massive telecom industry is how advanced the local market is. Sure, you can hire a world-class team and build off the best practices, but our operators are content with their position.
So looking outside the Nordics you’ll notice the rapidly growing Spanish and Latin American market, which is hungry for innovation, and is even 2-3 years behind us. But how are you going to get there without speaking Spanish or having any connections?
That’s where Wayra, the accelerator by Spanish telecom powerhouse Telefonica comes into play. They’re now sourcing startups to join their six-month program in Munich that will not only plug you in with Germany’s leading digital telecom to get your startup on the ground, but is serious about providing the resources and tools to make sure that you’re successful.
And they’re not just looking for early-stage startups. Garan Goodman, the Managing Director of Wayra’s Munich accelerator, and probably one of the easiest people to talk to, describes their mindset as opportunistic. “We’ve proved we know what we do with seed-stage companies, but our last couple of investments have been in larger companies. We’re not fixed on one thing,” he says.
All startups looking to join an accelerator should be aware of the value they provide, but the program itself feels like a six month MBA in entrepreneurship compared to quick six week programs.
Through 13 accelerators across the globe, Wayra has supported around 550 startups over the last four years and have refined their processes and relationships with the operator business. Each week there’s a unit of instruction and teaching, such as HR or Accounting, or “Growth hacking”. According to Garan they spend €2,000 – 3,000 a day on consultants the local market but also flying in gurus from Shoreditch, Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv and wherever they can find the best knowledge tailored to their startups. The program, put together by deputy director Christine Sturm, has drawn from what works at other accelerators and MBA programs and they’re constantly improving what works year by year.
Wayra is serious about pushing these startups into the local Telco which can be seen by their mentor structure for their selected companies. First, you have access to a senior Vice President from Telefonica as a mentor to make sure you don’t hit any bureaucratic hurdles when plugging into Telefonica. Second you have a VC mentor appointed who can push you in the right funding directions. And finally they appoint a technical mentor to give support where you need it.
With the structure they give you the proper knowledge and access of markets to let your startup take off. “I’ve asked Telefonica what are you planning? What do you need over the next 2 years?” says Garan. “They say, ‘You tell me.’ They believe we are the cutting edge.”
Here are a few of the past startups in the Munich program to get an idea of the wide scope of startups the telecom industry is looking for: Meet’n’lern, a online education marketplace connecting students and tutors, has plugged into Telefonica’s digital education program. Volo, a smart delivery app, announced this April that they’ve gotten a very friendly acquisition by Rocket Internet. And Regional Markt, a startup that connects local farmers directly to consumers (and the Wayra teams – Garan says he’s never eaten so good). Neokami is trialing with the O2 big data team and Parkpocket will launch through the Connected Car app.
Center of Munich
Another draw to the program is that you’re in arguably the center of the startup scene in Munich – rivaled by UnternehmerTUM, who opened the biggest IoT lab in the world, who you’ll also bump into. But with sleek offices and event space in the center of the city, nearly every night there’s a startup happening in their event space.
The benefit of this is the hype it provides for their selected startups – there’s a history of talent from the University walking for an event and joining the Wayra startups. And Goodman points out that the other week a couple of VCs walked in just to have a look. “When VC’s start walking in, you know you have something,” he says.
It’s a tough program to get into – they’re serious about their selection process. But to get access to these markets, knowledge, and follow on funding it makes sense to subscribe to Wayra Germany’s newsletter today or connect on Facebook, and fill in your application today.
“If you’re in this environment you’re in a unique situation. You’re going from your mothers garage to an awesome office surrounded by VCs and a program thats moving you further along. It really costs you nothing – 7-10 percent equity at the beginning. Even if you’re a couple years old it’s still very little. The risk really is ours”