Light Reading
The Telefónica Digital man is spreading his bets in his search for innovative startup partners

Why Gonzalo Martin-Villa Is Kissing Frogs

Ray Le Maistre
8/15/2012
50%
50%

Gonzalo Martin-Villa is on a mission to find the most innovative technology startups that his company, Telefónica Digital, can work with. And to do that, he needs to engage with an awful lot of entrepreneurs.

"As you English say, we need to kiss a lot of frogs to find the prince," he joked during a recent day of media presentations in London.

It won't be long before Martin-Villa has chapped lips: Wayra, the division of Telefónica Digital that he runs, invested in more than 140 startups in its first 14 months (to June 2012) and aims to invest in up to 250 startups each year now that it has an international presence.

So why is a small part of Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), the Spanish operator with more than 310 million customers in Latin America and Europe, behaving like an angel investor in a hurry?

Wayra to go!
Telefónica Digital was born in September 2011 with a mission to operate and behave unlike a traditional telecom operator: Its mission is to be a digital applications and technology specialist, focusing on new-generation services and technologies such as cloud, M2M, advertising, security and other emerging services sectors. (See Telefónica's Looking Trendy and Telefonica Holds Key to Digital Model.)

Finding and fostering innovation is a key part of its remit, so it created a startup incubator process that begins with a "Campus Party" to identify exciting startups, followed by nurturing by Telefónica staff in academies, combined with seed funding of up to €50,000/US$61,707 (for a small stake). Wayra can then provide access to further funding from external investors and help the startup on its way, setting it loose to grow as it brings new startups into the academies. (See Telefónica to Hatch Startups .)

Among those startups, Wayra hopes to find some that will become Telefónica Digital partners and help stoke the operator's innovation engine.

"We need to go beyond the traditional boundaries, but there is no silver bullet -- we need to be in contact with lots of innovators and innovation happens outside of telcos!" says the affable Martin-Villa. "We need to get a window on future trends and find innovative products for our customers in the near-term."

Up to June this year, Wayra had received 12,000 applications and had invested about €7 million ($8.6 million) in its 140 startup hopefuls. Martin-Villa needs to find some princes among the frogs: "Wayra is a business -- we need to generate a direct financial return. We need to be sustainable," he says, adding that more than 65 percent of Wayra-funded firms are now in "commercial mode" and some are "in the Telefónica pipeline," though it'll likely be a while yet before he'll be able to recognize any returns from his investments.

Wayra has 12 academies currently in 11 countries (where Telefónica is operational) and has invested in startups with a broad range of focus areas, including e-health applications, M2M, video services, security, cloud applications and social networking.

Among the companies it has invested in are:

  • Instant customer satisfaction ratings app developer Emtrics;
  • Identification verification app developer Positive ID;
  • Automated complaint resolution systems specialist Cognicor;
  • Healthcare interfaces application developer TedCas, described by Martin-Villa as the "Minority Report for doctors";
  • Instant Wi-Fi sign-on app developer Blue Butterfly Digital Ltd.

What's next for Martin-Villa? Well there are plenty of startups to engage with, but that doesn't mean Wayra won't look outside Telefónica's existing markets. Telefónica Digital recently announced an applications R&D partnership with Middle East powerhouse Etisalat , so it's possible this model could get outsourced to such partners. (See Telefónica Bangs Its Digital Drum.)

"And I'd love to have academies in Israel and China," adds Martin-Villa.

Never say never.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Interviews
The New Wave of IP + Optical Integration

11|21|14   |   04:29   |   (7) comments


At the Alcatel-Lucent Technology Symposium, Heavy Reading senior analyst Sterling Perrin talks about how SDN has reshaped the discussion around packet and optical integration.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Highlights at BBWF 2014

11|20|14   |   3:40   |   (1) comment


Broadband World Forum is one of the world's largest telecoms, media and technology events with over 7,800 senior executives from across the globe converging on Amsterdam every year to identify the Next Big Thing. BBWF is an exciting place to meet the entire industry under one roof and identify the latest in network innovation, service optimization and customer ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
How Will BCMS Stimulate Margin for Broadband Operators?

11|19|14   |   6:52   |   (0) comments


In BBWF 2014, Liu Shuqing emphasizes the value of FMC 2.0 based full service experience by throwing light on the BCMS solution. The underlying principle of this innovative technique is to create network robustness and driving network from connection oriented to ACE – BAND oriented infrastructure, in which applications, cloud, and user experiences will be an asset ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
SingleFAN3.0: Better Connected Experience

11|19|14   |   3:06   |   (1) comment


At the BBWF 2014, David Hu, the VP of Huawei Access Network Product Line, talked about the future of access networks – SingleFAN3.0: faster broadband, wider coverage, and smarter connection.
LRTV Interviews
Basil Alwan Interview: The Road to Cloud

11|19|14   |   09:09   |   (0) comments


Alcatel-Lucent's head of IP and Transport talks about the migration towards a web-like networking environment, the impact of the cloud, SDN and NFV, and the yet-to-be-announced FP4 chip.
LRTV Documentaries
FairPoint Makes a Fair Point About Analytics

11|19|14   |   1:56   |   (1) comment


The US-based communication service provider gets to grips with advanced analytics, tackling data and breaking down the silos within its own business.
LRTV Documentaries
Analytics Lets C Spire Get to Know Subs

11|19|14   |   3:01   |   (2) comments


It's all about the data for US operator C Spire as it uses analytics to personalize its customer service down to individual subscribers.
LRTV Interviews
Nuage Branches Out With SDN: CEO Interview

11|17|14   |   9:32   |   (0) comments


Sunil Khandekar, CEO of Alcatel-Lucent's SDN-focused unit Nuage Networks, talks about the opportunities and challenges of breaking out of the data center into wide-area networks.
Light Reedy
Telecom Analytics Grows Up

11|14|14   |   1:15   |   (4) comments


The big data analytics debate has moved on from a year ago, with some experts suggesting it's no longer a technology challenge.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Compass

11|14|14   |   3:17   |   (1) comment


At OpenStack Summit 2014, Shuo Yang, Huawei Principal Cloud Infrastructure Architect introduced Huawei Compass, the software tool for solving customers' problems on the journey of OpenStack Cloud.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Cloud Strategy in European Region

11|14|14   |   2:56   |   (1) comment


At OpenStack Summit 2014, Dr. Gotz, CTO of Huawei IT in European Region introduced Huawei's cloud strategy in European region.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Contribution on OpenStack

11|14|14   |   5:58   |   (0) comments


At OpenStack Summit 2014, Dennis Gu, Huawei Chief Architect of Cloud Computing introduced the relationship between OpenStack and cloud computing, and Huawei's contribution on OpenStack.
Upcoming Live Events
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 8-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
February 12, 2015, Atlanta, GA
April 14, 2015, New York City, NY
May 6, 2015, McCormick Convention Center, Chicago, IL
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
Irish Telecom outlines the rise of VoIP technology, including its adoption within businesses and their perception of its quality.
Hot Topics
Bell Labs Chief Slams 'Toy' Networks
Robert Clark, 11/19/2014
$38.3M: Ain't That a Kik in the SMS
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 11/20/2014
Do You Have a 2020 Vision?
Dennis Mendyk, Vice President of Research, Heavy Reading, 11/21/2014
Google, AT&T, BT Unite on Network Data Models
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 11/20/2014
The New Wave of IP + Optical Integration
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 11/21/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed