Vodafone. It’s a brand that most folks here in the states would, at first pass, almost certainly chalk up as “that one European company that puts their name on a bunch of
football soccer jerseys” — that is, if they recognized it at all.
And yet, Vodafone is essentially the biggest wireless carrier in the world. They’re the top carrier by revenues, and second to only China Mobile by subscribers. Oh, and they own 45% of Verizon. In other words, they’re kind of a big deal — and now they’re lookin’ to get in on some of that Silicon Valley action.
This evening, Vodafone is opening the doors to the Vodafone Xone (the sign store ran out of Z’s, so they just rolled with it.) Xone is a brand new research and development center in Redwood City which will serve as, amongst other things, a means of assessing potential investments for their Vodafone Ventures group.
But wait, there’s more! Vodafone’s new shop will also:
- Serve as an incubator with office space for up to 25 companies at a time
- Act as an event space, with Vodafone mentioning things like hackathons and conferences as options.
- Allow developers to test their products on Vodafone’s 2G/3G/LTE networks in a lab rather than.. you know, flying to Europe. They’ve actually built a backbone to connect back to Vodafone’s European network, so things should be as true-to-life as it gets (minus the tea, sausages, and any other British stereotypes I can’t think of at the moment.)
It’ll probably be a few weeks before Vodafone really settles in and starts diggin’ around for startups to usher in, but folks interested on getting their foot in the door early can find more info here. Do note, though, that (at least from my early conversations with them) it sounds like Vodafone is primarily interested in investing in companies with a product they’re ready to expand globally, rather than Angel/Early-seed stage startups.