& 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.
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
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.
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
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?
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
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.
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
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. 
Sarah Thomas
50%
50%
Sarah Thomas,
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   >   >>
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
From The Founder
Cisco's Conrad Clemson, recently promoted to head up the company's Service Provider Apps & Platforms developments, talks to Light Reading's Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about how he's bringing cloud video, mobile and virtualization together to empower network operators.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Interviews
Heavy Reading: The Web-Scale View

1|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Rome, Heavy Reading's former chief analyst Patrick Donegan shared insight from the recent web-scale operators report, which featured research on how web-scale operators view the market, the best web-scale companies to ...
LRTV Custom TV
Cisco's Cloud Scale Networking: Automation, Virtualization & Simplification

1|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


Cisco's Sanjeev Mervana outlines the latest innovations in networking technology at CES 2017 in Las Vegas.
LRTV Custom TV
ADVA Talks Innovation & the Future of Networking

1|17|17   |     |   (0) comments


Ray Le Maistre and Christoph Glingener, CTO of ADVA Optical Networking, discuss the current state of the industry, cooperation and collaboration, open innovation and the future of networking.
LRTV Custom TV
Cisco's Infinite Video Platform

1|17|17   |     |   (0) comments


Cisco's Infinite Video Platform allows service providers to deliver broadcast-quality video over IP networks. Infinite video supports many devices, from 4K TVs to tablets to game consoles. Join Cisco's Rajeev Raman for a brief tour and live demo.
LRTV Interviews
Masergy: Ability to Adapt Key for NFV

1|16|17   |   6:40   |   (0) comments


Speaking at Light Reading's 2020 Vision in Rome, Masergy's VP, Global Technology, Ray Watson, said agility is key to providing the mix and match NFV-based services that are driving business for the managed service provider today.
LRTV Interviews
Equinix: The Data Explosion

1|13|17   |   4:16   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision in Rome, Eric Schwartz, president of EMEA, Equinix, talked about how Equinix is helping its customers manage the influx of data today, and how it's preparing for a future filled with millions of connected IoT devices.
LRTV Interviews
Heavy Reading: The Changing Data Center Landscape

1|12|17   |   6:05   |   (1) comment


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision event in Rome, Heavy Reading's Senior Analyst Roz Roseboro talks about how virtualization is impacting data center evolution and how that evolution is affecting the relationship between service providers, data center operators and public cloud providers.
LRTV Interviews
Boingo: Prepping for Millions of Devices

1|12|17   |   5:07   |   (1) comment


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision in Rome, Boingo's CTO Derek Peterson discusses how wireless operators will address the needs of low-bandwidth and high-bandwidth apps at the same time, the need for more MHz, the impact of IoT and more.
LRTV Interviews
Comcast Shows Off Gig Gateway at CES

1|11|17   |     |   (1) comment


With its largest presence at CES in years, Comcast took the wraps off its long-awaited gigabit gateway and a new platform for managing the home WiFi network. Light Reading Senior Editor Mari Silbey sat down with EVP Chris Satchell to discuss the latest Comcast advance, and met with VP of Product Strategy and Development Andrea Peiro to walk through a demo of the ...
LRTV Interviews
Colt: End-to-End Key for 2017

1|10|17   |   6:21   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Rome, Nico Fischbach of Colt said having a multi-carrier, end-to-end service proposition is going to be key for 2017 -- and SD-WAN is instrumental in making it happen.
From the Founder
Cisco's Clemson on Mobile Cloud Video

1|9|17   |     |   (1) comment


Cisco's Conrad Clemson, recently promoted to head up the company's Service Provider Apps & Platforms developments, talks to Light Reading's Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about how he's bringing cloud video, mobile and virtualization together to empower network operators. "If you think about where we're going… whether it's a mobile application, or a video ...
LRTV Custom TV
VMware Telco NFV Solutions – Preparing for 5G & IOT

1|9|17   |     |   (0) comments


Shekar Ayyar, EVP & Corporate Strategy/General Manager of Telco for VMware, discusses VMware's Telco NFV solutions role and foundation for the Imminent Arrival of 5G & IOT.
Upcoming Live Events
May 15-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
A Women in Comms Glossary
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 1/18/2017
Ericsson: 5G Heralds 'New' New Economy
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 1/12/2017
Next Plugfest Gets G.fast Closer to Market
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 1/13/2017
TV's Paradox: No HDR Without 4K
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 1/17/2017
Cable Has One Thing Verizon Needs
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 1/17/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders chats with Sportlogiq CEO Craig Buntin about sports data analysis.
Eyal Waldman, CEO of Mellanox Technologies, speaks to Steve Saunders, CEO of Light Reading, for an exclusive interview about the 100 GB cable challenge, cybersecurity and much more.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.