Former Wayra team re-emerges with new business accelerator Red Planet

3 Dec 2015

Start-ups at Wayra Ireland during its heyday before it was shuttered after Telefonica sold O2 to Three. Now the team led by Karl Aherne is back to help corporates and start-ups navigate the disruption caused by digital

The team behind the Wayra accelerator in Dublin have re-emerged with a brand new business accelerator aimed at large enterprises and emerging start-ups called Red Planet.

Red Planet has been founded by Karl Aherne, former CEO of Wayra Ireland, and Katawave CEO Bernard Flynn. The start-up team includes members of what had been a very successful accelerator.

Wayra existed in Dublin for almost three years and its event space was a focal point for the start-up community for much of that time for meetups and pitching events. Participating start-ups included Trustev, Xpreso, Restored Hearing, Legalshine and Beautifuleye.

However, after its parent company Telefonica sold O2 Ireland to Hutchison Whampoa-owned Three for €850m, Wayra was shuttered.

According to Aherne, the new accelerator will have a specific focus on generating revenue for both corporates and start-ups. Corporates will identify new growth opportunities while start-ups can be built, funded and scaled in a sustainable way.

Red Planet will play on both sides of digital disruption

Aherne said that accelerators are becoming necessary for big, established companies because their traditional business models are being picked apart by thousands of technology start-ups. The old rules of engagement no longer matter.

“Corporates are heading for a perfect storm,” Aherne explained.

“Cloud technology has changed everything. Building a tech business once cost $5m – now it can be done for as little as $5,000. Mobile devices and wireless networks are giving users more choice about how, when and where they interact with products. And these users demand personalised services – not just tailored to them but also when, where and how they want it.

“The age of globalisation and consumerism is being replaced by the age of the Empowered User.”

Conversely, start-ups eager for success need to correctly identify the niches that they can target to disrupt the corporate value chain, but they have limited resources and time.

“Traditional accelerators often deliver random results with programmes that are too short, too formulaic and not focused enough on driving revenue growth,” said Aherne. “Start-ups need an unfair advantage to succeed – and where better to get it from than the corporates you’re aiming to disrupt.”

Hey start-ups! Keep your equity

North of the Liffey is quickly becoming a focal point for start-up spaces.

Red Planet Ventures will be located at Guild House on Guild Street in the IFSC, not far from where Dogpatch Labs’ start-up co-working space is going from strength to strength and where an 8,000 sq ft Vaults was opened recently to fill the void left by the closure of Wayra in terms of start-up meeting spaces.

Another interesting observation is that Red Planet doesn’t intend to take equity from start-ups that it works with, providing free workspace, interventions with mentors and domain experts, as well as access and market validation.

However, when the start-ups start to generate revenue it will take a small slice of that revenue.

Red Planet has also begun to work with multinationals eager to generate new revenues through digital platforms.

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