Elements of a Smart City: Connected Mobility, factory and home
3 min

Scouting for Startups – Learnings from our 1st Call for Innovation

Last Friday, 11 successful startups from Europe, Israel and North America pitched their solutions as part of our newly introduced Call for Innovation. We have launched this program because we want to identify and implement outside technology better and faster.

Nowadays we need to scout in a very focused way to be successful:

  • Start with a concrete (business) problem that has an owner and a budget behind,
  • expose this challenge to the outside world and
  • ask innovative companies for their solutions.

Swisscom has partnered for this Call for Innovation with two other telecoms: We have joined forces with TeliaCompany from Sweden and Proximus from Belgium in looking for innovation. Doing a Call for Innovation is a lot of work through strong alignment with business lines, active outreach during the application phase and close engagement with the startups. Looking at the outcome of this we believe it’s been well worth it!

Winners of our first Call 4 Innovation

The eleven finalists are startups from Europe, Israel and the US offering software that can virtualize and enhance the network functions of a telco. A specialized, yet crucial area for any network operator in the world. Because this field is so core and niche at the same time, we were very proud to have attracted quite mature startups with high relevance to what we are doing. It was already difficult to go down from 55 applications to 11 finalists. Selecting the winner was really tough, then.

These are the winners of our first Call for Innovation:

  • Swisscom has chosen Metaswitch as their winner and will start a PoC project around their new product Cloud Native Network Evolution.
  • TeliaCompany is going to collaborate with imVision and test their network anomaly detection solution.
  • Proximus committed to do a trial with Inmanta‘s end-to-end orchestrator.
The three winners: Metaswitch / Swisscom; TeliaCompany / ImVision; Proximus / Immanta

Startup Scouting for Corporates is a tough one

Scouting for Startups and new external technology is often driven by what is out there:

  • Innovation managers go to conferences, attend jury sessions and engage with universities to get exposed to new concepts and companies.
  • Then they identify potential buyers in the business lines and product areas and introduce the startups to them.
  • And then… not much happens afterwards.

It is tough and the impact on the bottom line is our main objective. Nonetheless, we look positively in the future because have learned what it takes to attract and integrate great startups:

  • Customer: Startups need to have a concrete business opportunity or chance to get an investment from a corporate. They are not here to inspire us or win our prices – they need customers.
  • Attractiveness: We are competing with other corporates for the best startups. So we better make sure that we have something attractive to offer after an initial contact with a startup. We need to be easy to work with as a corporate.
  • Focus: It is important to focus on the few promising startups and push them for a pilot. Evaluate early on where to invest the energy. Otherwise, you’ll have a lot of activity but little tangible outcome.

Next steps and topics for 2017

In 2017 we will do calls for innovation in other areas such as big data, security and in artificial intelligence. Update: the 2nd Call vor Innovation is around Business Cases leveraging Telco Data. More info and application. Stay tuned for more topics.

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