Photo credit: Telefónica
Photo credit: Telefónica

Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica has announced the launch of new entrepreneurial initiatives as part of a two-fold vision to bolster its own internal technology and support startups taking on emerging issues.  

The projects are the brainchild of Wayra, a tech-driven open innovation hub created by Telefónica a decade ago to help innovative businesses grow on a global scale.

It operates through seven centers in 10 countries across Europe and Latin America and has made investments worth €49 million in startups. 

Wayra Builder

In a press release, the Madrid-based company said one of its new schemes is called Wayra Builder, a corporate venture builder which is capitalizing on Telefónica’s home grown talent and leading-edge technology to create disruptive startups in collaboration with external investors. 

Wayra Builder plans to stay laser-focused on founders with the greatest potential to develop spin-off products that can serve customers in novel, creative ways. 

It has already launched Deeder, a cybersecurity and legal tech startup that branched out from ElevenPaths, Telefónica Tech’s cybersecurity company. Deeder allows users to sign contracts via messaging apps. 

Wayra X

Another new project, which was unveiled by Telefónica at its virtual 2020 Innovation Day, is Wayra X—a 100% digital innovation hub for startups working on solutions to a range of modern challenges related to 5G, e-health, e-learning, home automation, entertainment, mobility, and the future of work. 

The first-of-its-kind initiative will invest in startups with a product prototype on the market that can grow beyond borders and be offered to Telefónica’s customers all around the world.

While Wayra supports early-stage businesses, Wayra X is for companies that have already gained traction and achieved product-market fit. 

Wayra has so far invested over €160 million in companies across the globe. Telefónica’s Connected Open Innovation unit, which hosts Wayra, has a portfolio of over 500 startups, of which 140 are already working to provide unique solutions to Telefónica and its global network of 340 million clients.

Access to real users

Wayra X will fast-track startups’ access to real users by pre-installing their products on devices bought by Telefónica customers where they can test and validate their ideas in active markets of Movistar clients in Spain, O2 clients in the UK, or Vivo clients in Brazil. 

“The most successful companies are those who can resolve a concrete problem with individual brilliance. In other words, those capable of solving ‘X,’” says Andrés Saborido, global head of Wayra.

According to him, the project looks for companies focused on mass markets that are able to resolve problems affecting millions of people. 

“At Wayra, we know that technological progress has never been as galvanized as it is today, and we want to help those digital startups with game-changing technological solutions ride that wave,” Saborido added.

Funding opportunity

In addition to gaining exclusive access to Telefónica’s network of users, companies who join Wayra X will be offered an investment of up to €250,000. 

They will also have the opportunity to consult Telefónica’s growth team about customer needs and reach out to a diverse team of experts and mentors in areas such as sales, marketing, communications, and finance.  

Another distinctive feature of the scheme is that successful applicants will be able to integrate their product into the Living Apps platform of Movistar+ for TV and home devices. 

10 new projects

Wayra X has planned on investing in 10 new projects by the end of 2021, and two startups from Asia and Europe, namely BlaBla and Peoople, are already featured in its portfolio.

Shanghai-based BlaBla offers a “fully immersive” English learning experience in the form of short videos created by native English speakers. Peoople is an app developed in Madrid, which helps users discover the best and latest recommendations on restaurants, movies, series, and much more.

Entrepreneurs from all countries can apply here to join the Wayra X program. To qualify for consideration, their startup must have a product in the market and an active customer base.