Telefónica’s Wayra multimillion start-up incubator opens in Dublin

10 May 2012

In a welcome boost to Dublin’s thriving start-up scene, O2 parent Telefónica today opened its Wayra global technology accelerator hub in the city as part of a multimillion-euro investment.

Dublin joins London, Madrid and Barcelona as the first European cities to have a Wayra incubator. Globally, Wayra has been launched in 10 countries, with Dublin being the 11th city in the world to receive such an investment.

Wayra – which means ‘wind’ in Quechua, the language of the Andes, is designed to nurture the best technology talent and ideas in the world.

Designed with the intention of capturing early stage digital projects that could have the side effect of providing Telefónica with new talent and products to transform itself, the Wayra incubator movement began in Latin-American countries like Brazil and Peru, and so far more than 9,000 projects have been received so far from start-ups.

The model, which involves creating new start-up zones, including workspace at O2 head offices, will see Telefónica take a 10pc stake in each start-up and provide it with financing of around €50,000. Each phase will see a number of start-ups given these facilities for six months.

The Dublin Wayra academy will be located at O2’s headquarters on the quays and will be kitted out with the latest facilities and interior design aimed at fostering start-up culture.

Calling all budding Irish entrepreneurs

The first 10 successful technology start-ups – which will receive funding and enter the Wayra academy – will be selected during a special Wayra Week in early September.

Interested entrepreneurs can submit their ideas online.

The closing date for submission of ideas or projects is 24 June 2012. Experts within Wayra, Telefónica, O2 and the wider Irish innovation community will evaluate each submission and choose a shortlist. Shortlisted entrepreneurs will be invited to take part in Wayra Week.

During Wayra Week, the shortlisted entrepreneurs will be invited to pitch their ideas to an independent panel of judges comprising representatives of Wayra, Telefónica and O2, independent venture capitalists and technology experts. The 10 best projects will then be invited to move into the new Wayra Academy in late September.

Examples of the range of start-up activities focused on by Wayra with a view to driving apps and services to 300m global customers include cloud, e-health, social media, e-commerce, social innovation, machine-to-machine, financial services and security.

A Silicon Valley in every European city

In February, reported on Wayra’s European expansion plans during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Wayra’s Gonzalo Martin-Villa at the time explained the vision is to create a Silicon Valley in every country. “Projects need to have a Silicon Valley in local places, it’s important that countries can keep the talent they have and increase local opportunities.

“For Telefónica, we need to realise that not all innovation comes from inside the company and to be innovative we need to capture and understand business models and new technologies and languages and how they relate to each other.

“This is important because these are the products and services that Telefónica will be selling to clients in a couple of years.”

Speaking today in Dublin, Martin-Villa praised the city as a cutting-edge location for start-ups. “Ireland has one of the most developed entrepreneurial eco-systems in Europe and is at the forefront of many technology trends. Our growing international network of entrepreneurs, spanning 10 countries and two continents, will benefit from Ireland being part of this, and we believe that Irish entrepreneurs will also benefit from being part of this global community.”

O2 Ireland CEO Tony Hanway said he believes Wayra will flourish in Ireland because of the strong focus on the technology sector.

“Wayra is also an excellent fit with the Irish Government’s ongoing initiatives to support the creation of sustainable high-end jobs and become a leading global technology hub, and we will be delighted to link with the existing programmes, Government or otherwise, to help further the ambitions of Ireland’s technology entrepreneurs,” Hanway said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years