Deep Dives

Wayra And The Evolution Of Corporate Accelerators

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Article Summary:

Telefónica helped pioneer corporate accelerators when it decided to invest in early-stage start-ups across its European and Latin American footprint in 2011. The initiative was born from Telefónica’s desire to nurture innovation and talent in the countries where it operates and gain early access to the newest technologies and business models in markets. When it first launched, many of the countries it operated in either did not have innovation ecosystems or fledging ones, so the Spanish telecom giant built some from scratch and literally put the wind in the sails of others.  Along the way Wayra, which is bringing a group of startups to 4YFN conference in Barcelona July 28-July 1, has invested about €50 million in 800 startups. Telcos copied Telefónica’s model and companies in other sectors took note. There are now hundreds of corporate accelerators around the world. 

Recently, though, accelerators have started falling out of favor. A few have seen noteworthy successes, but many programs struggle to produce meaningful returns for either the corporate or the startups involved. As a result, 60% of corporate accelerators fail within two years, and partnerships result less than 1% of the time, according to market intelligence firm CB Insights. As Wayra celebrates its 10th birthday, executives and startups who have participated in the accelerator spoke to The Innovator about lessons learned and what’s next.

About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.