& cplSiteName &
SlideshowSprint Accelerator: Changing Carrier DNA
Sarah Thomas
2/14/2014
50%
50%

KANSAS CITY -- Sprint's new Accelerator in Kansas City, Missouri, is not your typical telco endeavor.

For one thing, the idea for it was formed in March of last year and approved by Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) higher-ups in May. A partner was secured in August. Ground was broken in October, and it opened its doors on New Year's Eve. That's not telco time. It's startup time, says Kevin McGinnis, VP of Sprint's Pinsight Media+ by day and head of the Accelerator by nights and weekends.

That's exactly the mindset Sprint wants to promote in its new Accelerator. That's also why the lab was opened in downtown Kansas City, away from Sprint's suburban headquarters, in the much hipper Crossroads art district. Light Reading checked out the new digs this week, before the doors officially open in March. Click on the image below to see inside.

 

Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator
Next month, Sprint will officially open the doors of its 15,000-square-foot facility to the first class of 10 startups chosen to reimagine healthcare.
Next month, Sprint will officially open the doors of its 15,000-square-foot facility to the first class of 10 startups chosen to reimagine healthcare.

Like most of the wireless operators, Sprint has actually had a developer program in place for 12 years and has been working on exposing its application programming interfaces (APIs) for nearly as long. But the Accelerator is Sprint's first large-scale move to put its money where its mouth is. The wireless operator is doing things differently than its larger competitors, too.

McGinnis says that, unlike Verizon Wireless , which treats its Innovation Labs like internal R&D facilities, or AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), which he says is more open, but on an invite-only basis, Sprint wants to be truly open -- to any startup and any idea, whether enterprise or consumer. (See AT&T Opens New Innovation Labs and Photos: Inside Verizon's Developer Playground.)

Healthcare in focus
The carrier is actually narrowing it down much more than that. The Sprint Accelerator was built in partnership with TechStars, an entrepreneurial organization that provides mentorship and VC funding to startups across the country and in London. It runs its own accelerator programs, as well as partners with companies including Disney, Barclays, Sprint, and others for accelerators with a unique focus, like cloud, connected devices, or education. Its collaboration with Sprint is homing in on healthcare, a vertical in which Kansas City is well entrenched as the home to companies such as Cerner and KU Medical Center.

During the open application period that ended on January 6, startups across the globe pitched their health-care related apps, services, and products. Sprint plans to pick 10 finalists to move to KC for 90 days and execute their visions with the support of Sprint, TechStars, and their many local partners. In return, TechStars gets a six percent stake in their company, and Sprint will offer a convertible note to fund the company.

The goal for Sprint is to bring innovative new services to its healthcare practice, which McGinnis said currently under-indexes, compared to AT&T and Verizon. It also wants to find new partners ultimately or, he admitted, find attractive companies to acquire, seeing that new Sprint owner and SoftBank Corp. CEO Masayoshi Son has a predilection for M&A. (See AT&T Opens Up on Health and Report: SoftBank Preps $19B Bid for T-Mobile.)

"At the Accelerator, if we don't end up doing business with [the startups], Sprint won't be upset," McGinnis said, adding that it's more likely than not that Sprint will work with the startups in some capacity.

Sprint's other hope is to convince these innovative new companies to stay in Kansas City once their 90 days are up, thus building the entrepreneurial community in the city. (However, whether Sprint's headquarters stay in KC is another story entirely -- see Sprint: Heading to California?)

An even loftier goal at which McGinnis is aiming is to change the culture at Sprint by exposing it to risk-taking and operating without a safety net. Indeed, this is the message that Son has pushed on his new employees, even yelling at top-level executives when he's seen things he doesn't like. (See SoftBank's Son Keeps Sprint on Short Leash.)

The carrier certainly does have its hands full in trying to build out its patchwork Spark network, to complete Network Vision, to keep customers from straying, and to weigh a merger with T-Mobile US Inc. Despite these formidable challenges, the Sprint Accelerator is its biggest indication that it's not giving up on innovation in the meantime.

"We want to expand this nationally, but we are focused on natural, organic growth," McGinnis said. "We want to show how you operate as an entrepreneur. We want to change the DNA at Sprint."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

(15)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
mhhf1ve
50%
50%
mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/27/2014 | 6:34:43 PM
Imagine the uproar...
If AT&T invested in startups like this, there would be an uproar over how wireless net neutrality is dead -- and that AT&T would be able to pick and choose which mobile startups would succeed based on its "sponsored data" programs.

Sprint can get away with this because it doesn't have the same market powers as AT&T.
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
2/19/2014 | 11:13:18 AM
re: Carrier DNA
Good points, wanlord. Once all the networks are more or less comparable, which will happen -- it'll just take more time for Sprint and T-Mobile -- innovative services become so much more important. Pricing and handset selection is too, of course, but that may begin to look alike eventually as well.
wanlord
50%
50%
wanlord,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/18/2014 | 1:40:01 PM
re: Carrier DNA
Your T-Mobile example is a good one. Carriers like VZW like to tout their "network" and while that matters right now, it won't matter forever. Eventually others catch up and while all may have pro's and con's, they all work for what most people are focused on, using apps and texting, etc and they want to do it CHEAP without complicated plans and want freedom. Kids are the heavy users and when they are getting their new devices, they are not going out and researching JD Power Reports, coverage spots, speeds, etc. I think they want what is cool and what their friends have.
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
2/17/2014 | 8:25:28 PM
re: Carrier DNA
Agreed, Brian! And, to be fair to Sprint, the Accelerator hasn't even officially opened its doors yet. It may take time to change the culture at Sprint, especially when they have so many network issues to work through, but you have to start better. Why not help startups and the community in the meantime?
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
2/17/2014 | 8:23:23 PM
re: Carrier DNA
I am biased, because I love KC, but I also think it has the right mix of things going for it to change those rankings -- Google Fiber, Sprint Accelerator, other startup incubators like BetaBlox, the Kaufman Foundation, a growing downtown... And, its huge healthcare base also makes that vertical a smart focus for Sprint's Accelerator.
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
2/17/2014 | 8:09:55 PM
re: Carrier DNA
Seems like a lot of the innovations you mentioned happened on top of the network. Of course, operators are a vital part of the value chain, but they didn't develop the smartphones or OTT apps and services. We've seen innovation in different forms, like T-Mobile's business models, but it's hard to find an example of a really good service an operator built (not acquired) on its own.

I hope that starts to change, too, though. It certainly seems like a priority amongst operators doing progams like this and working on exposing their APIs.
briandnewby
50%
50%
briandnewby,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/17/2014 | 12:41:48 PM
re: Carrier DNA
Well, if it doesn't make the top 25, then the only way to move on up the list is to do something like this, right?

In fact, with Google Fiber choosing Kansas City as its first location, I think the innovation story is being written, anyway.

But, I know the cool photos of the place are here and all, but none of that drives innovation.  Innovation comes from smart people who are, at times, risk takers.
wanlord
50%
50%
wanlord,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/17/2014 | 11:42:09 AM
re: Carrier DNA
Do you think KC is a good place to locate an innovation center? KC doesn't even make the top 25 list.

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/227829
briandnewby
50%
50%
briandnewby,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/16/2014 | 8:00:57 PM
re: Carrier DNA
I'm biased, of course, because I worked nearly 20 years for Sprint--but it's been 10 years since then and I (semi-seriously) believe much of their problems snowballed when they changed their colors from red and black to the Nextel yellow and black. 

But, I would challenge that telcos aren't innovative.  At the very least, wireless companies aren't "telcos" in the traditional sense.  And, I know that to a large degree Sprint and others are just the engine behind the products, but smartphones and tablets (and the whole Internet of Things) have been a source of tremendous innovation over those last 10 years.

If you are an innovator in a number of established industries, you want a relationship with Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon.

I think the Accelerator program is great.  I don't buy the "changing the DNA" thing because they, after all, are off-site and will have little influence to make that change within the Sprint campus.   But I do believe this is a great move to attract entrepreneurs and, I bet, a fun place to work. 
SarahReedy
50%
50%
SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
2/14/2014 | 4:54:37 PM
Re: The comfy chair?
True. No, but there were about 7 different ways to make coffee in the kitchen, which is also vital.
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
From The Founder
Light Reading sits down at CES with the head of Cisco's service provider video business, Conrad Clemson, to discuss how NFV and cloud security relate to video, the challenge of managing 4K/8K traffic, the global expansion of Netflix and virtual reality.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
LRTV Documentaries
All Change in Video

2|11|16   |   33:12   |   (1) comment


At this moderated panel at 2020 Vision in Dublin, Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader of Light Reading, sits down with Jeff Finkelstein, director of network architecture at Cox Communications, to discuss the rapidly changing video market.
LRTV Custom TV
Hosting in Ireland, Past & Present

2|10|16   |   16:07   |   (0) comments


Garry Connolly, president of Host in Ireland, presents the keynote at Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Dublin.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
What's Hot in Mobile Commerce?

2|10|16   |   12:18   |   (1) comment


Claire Maslen, financial services relationship manager at the GSMA, talks about the development of the digital commerce sector and the types of relationships that mobile operators are developing to further their m-commerce strategies.
LRTV Documentaries
EANTC Tests Nokia IP Routing & Mobile Gateway VNFs for Real World Deployment

2|9|16   |   5:08   |   (1) comment


Nokia obtained validation of its virtualized router and virtualized mobile gateway capabilities through rigorous testing performed by EANTC. The results set a new industry benchmark for outstanding performance, scalability, resiliency and manageability. Nokia VNFs are ready for telco cloud deployment, so that service providers can accelerate mobile, business and ...
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Level 3's Jack Waters

2|8|16   |   26:15   |   (1) comment


Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders sits down with Level 3 Communications' CTO Jack Waters to discuss hot topics like virtualization, 4K and the future of telecom...
LRTV Custom TV
The Composable Telco

2|8|16   |   24:46   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Principal Analyst Caroline Chappell presents the keynote at Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Dublin.
LRTV Custom TV
Join Us at the Digital Operations Transformation Summit

2|4|16   |   03:52   |   (0) comments


The Digital Operations Transformation Summit on February 21, 2016 at the Crowne Plaza Barcelona Fira Centre will bring together 50 senior executives to engage in a unique debate on the opportunities and challenges presented by the transformative evolving digital landscape. RSVP now at events@lightreading.com.
LRTV Custom TV
Making the Test: ADVA Ensemble Connector vs. Open vSwitch

2|4|16   |   01:28   |   (0) comments


Light Reading, in partnership with EANTC, recently tested ADVA's Ensemble Connector, which replaces open vSwitch and offers carrier-grade capability and interoperability. The test results strengthen ADVA's credibility as a provider in the virtualization space.
LRTV Custom TV
Bridging the Gap Between PoCs & Deployment in NFV

2|4|16   |   31:50   |   (0) comments


Charlie Ashton of Wind River presents the keynote at Light Reading's 2020 Vision executive summit in Dublin.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Mike Aquino

2|3|16   |   17:34   |   (0) comments


The former CEO of Overture Networks, Mike Aquino, discusses why truly open virtualization solutions provide service providers with the greatest choice.
Shades of Ray
MWC: Buckle Up for 5G & the IIoT

2|2|16   |   02:28   |   (0) comments


This year's Mobile World Congress looks set to be a 5G land grab and a chance to get down and dirty with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – but what will the 5G discussions actually be about?
LRTV Custom TV
Case Study: Building China's Next-Gen TV Networks

2|2|16   |   5:01   |   (0) comments


With over 2 billion viewers worldwide, Shenzhen Media Group is one of China's largest content producers. By partnering with Huawei and Sobey, SZMG was able to modernize media operations with the Converged News Center, a production studio that is a model for next-generation workflows.
Upcoming Live Events
March 10, 2016, The Cable Center, Denver, CO
April 5, 2016, The Ritz Carlton, Charlotte, NC
May 23, 2016, Austin, TX
May 24-25, 2016, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
AT&T Lights Fire Under 5G, Plans 2016 Trials
Iain Morris, News Editor, 2/12/2016
Yahoo & Verizon Sitting in a Tree...
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 2/8/2016
Vodafone: Flexible Work Policies Boost Profits
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 2/8/2016
It's Time to Integrate OTT Video
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 2/8/2016
Andreessen Facepalms on Facebook Free Basics
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 2/10/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders sits down with Level 3 Communications' CTO Jack Waters to discuss hot topics like virtualization, 4K and the future of telecom...
The former CEO of Overture Networks, Mike Aquino, discusses why truly open virtualization solutions provide service providers with the greatest choice.
Live Digital Audio

Broadband speeds are ramping up across Europe as the continent, at its own pace, follows North America towards a gigabit society. But there are many steps to take on the road to gigabit broadband availability and a number of technology options that can meet the various requirements of Europe’s high-speed fixed broadband network operators. During this radio show we will look at some of the catalysts for broadband network investments and examine the menu of technology options on offer, including vectoring and G.fast for copper plant evolution and the various deployment possibilities for FTTH/B.