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Wayra UK is to expand its acceleration offering to new sectors to help more UK tech start-ups grow. New programmes will focus on transport technology and reducing poverty.

From the final quarter of this year, Wayra UK will run acceleration programmes across the UK that will help entrepreneurs developing businesses in new fields, including smart transport, and alleviating social issues, such as fuel poverty or financial hardship. In addition, after a successful first phase of its GCHQ Cyber Accelerator, Wayra UK will also substantially expand its offering to cybersecurity start-ups.

The new programmes build on Wayra UK’s proven ability to help start-ups through access to its powerful networks of investors, mentors, coaches, customers and partners - including pharma company MSD, fashion retailer ASOS and Government Central Headquarters (GCHQ), as well as O2 and parent company Telefónica.

Since its formation in 2012, Wayra UK has helped 160 start-ups raise over $150m in third-party funding. This has resulted in the companies being valued at $430m, and created approximately 800 jobs. Success stories include Squirrel, a financial wellbeing platform that helps people regain control of their finances and achieve financial peace of mind, Yoyo Wallet, which recently secured $12m in Series B funding and WeFarm which helps over 300,000 farmers across the world improve their ways of working.

The Wayra UK programmes that will start or expand operations in Q4 are:

  • The new Intelligent Mobility (IM) Accelerator, based in Milton Keynes, will support start-ups developing innovative solutions to transport challenges such as congestion, overcrowding, emissions and road safety. A partnership with the Transport Systems Catapult - and supported by Network Rail, O2 Smart Steps, and global technology consultancy Thoughtworks Ventures - the programme will help up to 12 start-ups a year develop smart solutions that help the UK take the lead in the £900bn transport technology market.
  • The new Wayra Fair By Design programme, based in Oldham, will support up to seven tech start-ups a year who are tackling the poverty premium – whereby poor people pay more for essential goods and services than those who can more easily afford them.
  • Increased support for companies at the GCHQ Cyber Accelerator. After a successful first phase of the cybersecurity programme - which is run by Wayra UK and supported by the UK’s GCHQ and NCSC security organisations – start-ups entering the accelerator in October 2017 will now benefit from a longer nine-month tenure within the programme, as well as increased financial support.
Mark Evans, CEO, O2 said: “Britain’s small business and start-up economy is thriving and mobile is at its heart - you can now start a business in minutes using the power of mobile. As a business whose success has been built on a mobile-first strategy, we know the benefits mobile connectivity can deliver for the UK and at O2 we have already benefited hugely from the innovative thinking and great business ideas that Wayra UK has connected us to.”

Of the 160 start-ups accelerated by Wayra since 2012, many have gone on to land trials or become integrated with O2, giving the business access to challenger thinking and the innovation that brings. Two notable start-ups, Rotageek, a data-driven scheduling software and Qudini, a customer experience management cloud platform that enables brands to transform their in-store experience, have been integrated into O2 - saving it an estimated £1.1m per year.

Gary Stewart, Director of Wayra UK, said: “These new programmes, which have secured the backing of key partners, show that Wayra UK is reaching a new level in supporting UK start-ups. Our support goes beyond just funding, we’re also giving them access to the scale and expertise of Telefonica, including access to coaches and mentors. In return, we benefit from innovations that help boost the economy through profits, job creation and creating cost savings, as well as providing valuable data and insights.”

Mr Evans concluded: “As we look to power the next five years of start-up success, we know that mobile is the key to unlocking successful innovation. Of all the ingredients that keep our economy and society moving, arguably top of the list is Mobile.”

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