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At first glance, things look easy: While corporations lack the disruptive power of start-ups, start-ups lack the network, experience and financial strength of corporations. You would think that all they must do is work together, and their problems are solved. Right?
Well, that might be true in theory. But start-up corporate cooperation can only be successful if it follows the right model. That’s why Wayra Germany changed its strategy two years ago.
Before that, Wayra functioned like most start-up accelerators. But that didn’t show the desired success, neither for the entrepreneurs nor for Telefónica, Wayra’s major sponsor. “Wayra used to first invest in start-ups and later try to integrate them into the corporation”, Christian Lindener, who took over as Wayra Germany’s CEO in 2017, remembers. “But that didn’t work out well, so we completely reversed the process.”
Today, Wayra first identifies the fields of technology that corporations like Telefónica have a need in. Then they look for start-ups that work on appropriate solutions. “That’s why we are especially interested in B2B start-ups that focus on big data, AI, network technologies, cybersecurity, HR SaaS solutions and customer service applications”, Christian explains.
Building the bridge between start-ups and corporations
Teams supported by Wayra start collaborating with Telefónica at day one. During the first 100 days, they implement a paid tech project for Telefónica as part of a venture development program. The budget provided is 25.000 euros. If that’s successful, start-ups can expect an investment from Wayra.
“We only invest in the best, and when we invest, we invest in big tickets”, Christian says. “Wayra only invests in teams that we can scale massively, across Germany to Spain, UK and the other eight Wayras in the world.”
The best start-ups within the Wayra portfolio have unparalleled access to Telefónica’s global network of over 350 million customers, with 49 million of them located in Germany. They can also make use of the corporate’s audio, video, data or AI platforms, and benefit from established connections with experts, corporates, governments and business partners in countries in which Telefónica is present.
Wayra start-ups grow 100 percent every year
The new approach is already producing great results. For the last two and a half years, 40 of the young companies supported by Wayra have not only grown 100 percent year after year, each of them also generated more than one million euros in annual sales.
One of the particularly successful start-ups from Wayra Germany’s hub in Munich is e-Bot7, a company that offers solutions to improve customer service using Artificial Intelligence. It analyses incoming messages, directs them to the right department, and provides support agents with suggestions. “They were at our coworking space in the heart of Munich for a while, but then they quickly got too big”, Christian says.
The same happened with Conntac, a company that works on a self-service solution for a common nuisance: broadband connectivity problems. With Conntac’s technology, customers are empowered to troubleshoot their connectivity problems themselves – 24/7, highly automated through an intuitive process.
Wayra collaborates with other corporations and investors
Wayra belongs to the Telefónica family but works with other companies as well. “We are now offering the program that we successfully developed for Telefónica as a service to other corporates”, Christian explains. Additionally, Wayra is joining forces with other investors to finance promising start-ups.
Wayra, a part of Telefónica, is the world’s most global, connected and technological open innovation hub. Over the last seven years, Wayra has invested more than 40 million euros and a lot of business development to scale the global start-up ecosystem. It has created 11 regional hubs and offers start-ups unique access to heads of states, corporate leaders, investors and serial entrepreneurs. Wayra celebrated over 50 meaningful exits and great examples of joint revenue generation.