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What does Telefónica offer start-ups?

Creating an ecosystem of start-up investment opportunities

25 European Corporate Startup Stars reveals which large companies are doing the most to support new firms. These case studies highlight some specific examples of active and successful collaboration between corporates and startups.

A good example of…

Coherent leadership

European Headquarters: Spain

Geographical reach: Spain, Germany, UK, Finland.

Sectors of interest: mainly big data, IoT, content delivery, user experience and cybersecurity

Works with start-ups through:

  • Wayra, a corporate business accelerator that has a presence in 10 countries in Latin America and Europe
  • Telefónica Ventures and Amerigo Funds, two venture capital funds that have invested €55m and €260m respectively
  • Talentum, a grant programme for students
  • Think Big, a challenge prize for social projects
  • Free crowdworking spaces that support early-stage start-ups with a series of acceleration services
  • Occasional large acquisitions

Why does Telefónica work with start-ups?

Spanish telecommunications company Telefónica works with start-ups through its open innovation programme, Open Future, which has two main goals: solving business problems by addressing clients’ demands, and rejuvenating corporate culture.

Backed by the board of directors, TOF plays an important role in the company’s mission to stay competitive in the digital arena.

How does Telefónica work with start-ups?

Telefónica Open Future (TOF) helps turn innovative ideas into successful businesses. It has a portfolio of over 900 accelerated start-ups, has invested in more than 600 start-ups, and has a presence in 17 countries in Latin America, Europe and Asia. In total, Telefónica has committed more than €350m to its open innovation programme.

Working with start-ups throughout their lifecycle gives TOF a diverse pool of potential investment opportunities to tap into. TOF estimates that working with start-ups has saved the company €53m and created new revenues of €10m.

What has Telefónica done to facilitate collaboration with start-ups?

Telefónica Open Future (TOF) runs a range of initiatives to engage with start-ups. These include:

  • Talentum, a grant programme for students working with digital businesses and start-ups
  • ThinkBig, which helps promising social businesses launch projects
  • Wayra, a corporate business accelerator, which scouts innovative solutions for Telefónica’s clients and internal procedures in exchange for a minor stake.
  • Amerigo, a fund of five externally managed funds, of which Telefónica is a limited partner
  • Telefónica Ventures, an internally managed and owned fund that invests in mature start-ups looking to scale at a global level.

There is a full-time ‘promoter’ in each of Telefónica’s business units whose unique role is to scout for start-ups from TOF’s portfolio and bring them into the wider business. Fast-track procurement processes also help collaboration with start-ups, with payments being made in less than a month.

Success story: Qudini

A successful partnership to come out of Telefónica Open Future’s corporate business accelerator, Wayra, is with Qudini, which develops queue management systems for retail stores.

Qudini allows customers to join retail queues either online, by phone, via a self-service kiosk or staff device, and receive information – for example, their position in the line. It also enables sellers to capture customer data.

Qudini’s integration into Telefónica’s retail and commercial procedures has generated an estimated impact of more than €35m of revenue due to reduced walkouts in stores, which have fallen by 62%.


“[Telefónica’s accelerator] Wayra is one of the best corporate programmes in Europe”

Andy McCartney, Corporate Startup Stars judge

What can other corporates learn from Telefónica about working with start-ups?

  • An internal ‘champion’ in innovation teams can bring the skills of start-ups into the wider business and ensure that these are fully integrated for optimum results
  • Investing in a high-quality corporate accelerator programmes, with a presence in different countries (such as Wayra) attracts talent and large-scale innovations from across the world
  • Fast-track processes and procedures help engage innovative start-ups and allow them to work at the fast pace they require


What is Telefónica looking for from the start-ups it works with?

Telefónica Open Future’s mission is to scout for disruptive, innovative services and products that enable the business to have an improved and more integrated offer. Industries of interest are: big data, IoT, content delivery, user experience and cybersecurity.

Start-up talent is sourced and accelerated at all stages, from pre-seed to the growth phase.

How can start-ups get involved with Telefónica?

Start-ups and entrepreneurs who would like to engage with any of Telefónica Open Future´s initiatives can do so via its dedicated website:

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Image courtesy of SVC2UK CEO Summit 2015.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 644104.


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