Germany’s already stacking up incubators and accelerators these days, but a new one’s about to launch that comes with serious firepower: GigaOM has learned that Spain’s Telefónica will be opening up one of its Wayra academies in Munich later this year.
One of the world’s largest mobile operators, Telefónica is particularly big in Latin America, and that’s where most of its Wayra academies are already sited. There are also two academies in Spain, and further accelerators are being set up in the U.K. and Ireland.
And now it’s Germany’s turn. But why Munich rather than hot startup town Berlin? The answer appears to lie in Munich’s longer heritage as a base for established tech firms, ranging from Siemens to Microsoft.
“Munich has an entrepreneurial ecosystem with great potential which is pretty unique and fits with what we want to achieve,” Wayra Deutschland Bernhard Kirchmair told me. “We’re not focusing purely on internet technologies. Our scope is a bit broader – it’s about being wireless.”
Wayra’s looking for startups with something to offer in fields such as the cloud, social media, m-health, e-health and security. It will select up to 10 of the applicants for each six-month accelerator program, with seed funding of up to €50,000 ($66,000) for each startup. In return, Telefónica gets a 10 percent equity stake, along with first rights on future funding and on taking the resulting product to market.
Kirchmair insisted that Telefónica will treat the startups fairly when it comes to those first rights, and will adhere to market valuations. But he also pointed out how much the company can offer its prospective fledglings.
“We’re not aware of any other seed funding program by a huge corporate,” he said. “Wayra is a gateway to 300 million customers, and we also throw in out global and local marketing, advertising and press power. We can make the Wayra startups famous in a pretty short period of time.”
Of course, Wayra also provides mentoring and help with product internationalisation, and a deal struck last week between Telefónica and Microsoft also means that the startups will get subsidised Azure access and other benefits of the BizSpark program.
Once the startups have left Wayra, Telefónica will even provide Y-Combinator-style demo days and networking for alumni, VCs and angels.
Applications are being opened later this month, and will be open between 21 May and 8 July — with a ‘Campus Party’ to be held in Berlin between 21-26 August that will serve as a pitching platform. The first program will kick off in September.
The downside for some startups — certainly those in the thriving Berlin scene — is that they’d have to at least partly relocate to Munich for six months. But will they think that’s a small price to pay for going the way of Wayra?