More evidence that major telcos have caught the startup bug. This time it’s the turn of BT, which this morning unveiled a partnership in the UK with startup workspace and community TechHub to support startups who want to create new applications and services to take advantage of Blighty’s burgeoning “superfast broadband” highway.
The BT Infinity Lab programme, which will have a physical presence at TechHub in the heart of London’s so-called Tech City, will see BT put a call out for new applications and services that can be marketed alongside its existing products targeted at millions of UK households. The winning entrepreneurs/startups will receive six months support from the telco’s Research & Innovation community in the areas of research and development, engineering, legal and marketing. During this period, BT says it will support further development and/or trial of the chosen companies’ wares. Startups accepted into the programme will also get membership at TechHub.
Noteworthy is that BT isn’t making a cash investment in the selected startups, nor is it taking any equity or intending to acquire IPR from the winning entrants. Instead, for now at least, it says it’s interested in “co-innovating with startups and selected groups of our customers”. In other words, this is nothing like the kind of ambitious startup accelerator network set up by rival Telefonica/O2.
That said, it’s still good to see another major telco like BT potentially open up its customer base to early-stage startups, especially since its relationship with the ‘Silicon Roundabout’ technology cluster hasn’t always been the best.
To that end, BT says it plans to run a number of Infinity Lab events and programmes each year. Each programme will have a different theme either based on a customer segment or technology. The first of these will be a search for new apps and services that take advantage of and showcase BT’s latest innovations in the consumer market, including 300mbps broadband and its “Home Hub 5” powered by 802.11ac Wi-Fi, providing up to Gigabit transfer speeds over a home’s local area network.
Specifically, a spokesperson for BT tells TechChrunch: “We are looking to work with start-ups who want to engage with us and our customers through market trials. To do this, the winning company will already have a working prototype/core idea, what we call “minimum viable product””.