Late last month Telefónica brought its Wayra accelerator to Germany; now rival operator Deutsche Telekom has followed suit with hub:raum, an incubator that it hopes can attract talent away from its competitor — not least because unlike Wayra it will be sited not in Munich but in the much trendier capital, Berlin.
Launched at the NEXT conference in Berlin on Tuesday, hub:raum is similar to Wayra (and most incubators or accelerators) in that it gives the selected startups access to mentors and lets them maintain “entrepreneurial independence.”
The money on offer here is a lot more, though: up to €300,000 ($390,000) in seed funding — for a “minority interest” — rather than Wayra’s €50,000 maximum. Of course, the flipside is that it’s tougher to get in: hub:raum will only pick 10-15 companies each year, whereas Wayra picks up to 20.
According to Telekom, one of the mentors is Jörg Rheinboldt, co-founder of Rocket’s eBay clone Alando who became MD of eBay Deutschland when the U.S. company bought its local rival.
Here’s a statement from Telekom innovation chief Thomas Kiessling, although frankly most of these words could come from Telefónica describing Wayra:
“With hub:raum, our incubator in Berlin, we wish to promote promising business ideas and establish contact with innovative talent so as to recognize innovations and growth markets and tap into new business fields early on. The incubator represents an important interface between the flexibly and highly responsive startup scene and the corporate world.”
What’s the difference?
Min-Kin Mak is one of the core team heading up hub:raum. He explained a key difference between it and Wayra, which runs scheduled six-month programs.
Telekom has one more trick up its sleeve, although it seems to be partly a matter of coincidence: New York’s General Assembly, which offers entrepreneurs “pragmatic and multi-disciplinary education at the intersection of technology, design, and entrepreneurship”, is about to open a campus in Berlin. And it seems there will be some interplay between the two.
“We’re going to run some of the programs together – there will definitely be close contact,” Mak suggested.
So to sum up, Berlin founders could find hub:raum a more convenient proposition than Wayra because it’s in their city, and they may also find the General Assembly connection providing a bridge to the New York scene.
On the other hand, Telefónica’s bigger than Deutsche Telekom, and since both operators are offering successful startups the prize of access to their global market, Wayra may have the edge there.
We still don’t know the precise details of the equity Telekom is looking for from its fledglings, which is somewhat important. But otherwise, these look like pretty similar deals.