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Startups Stories: Wayra Colombia Boosts Talent

Startups Stories: Wayra Colombia Boosts Talent

Posted by Miguel Ernesto on April 15, 2016

In our Startups Stories we now give you an approach to Wayra Colombia, an initiative fostered by Telefónica Open Future, the partner-open world startups network, which identifies talents in Latin America and Europe, in the field of new Information and Communication Technologies, and it boosts their development.

What elements were taken by Telefónica as benchmarks to create Wayra?

Telefónica knows that the future of new technologies and telecommunications is based on the good ideas and potential of entrepreneurs and nobody has to import talent, since every country has what it takes to develop such technologies. That’s why, and due to the importance of playing the leading role in terms of technological innovation and getting ahead of the market’s needs and trends to strengthen its position, Telefónica created Wayra in 2011.

Colombia’s was the first Wayra Academy ever created, and it was followed by similar institutions in Spain, Peru, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Chile, Argentina, United Kingdom and Germany. It was born in Latin America because this region is characterized by its great potential and interest in undertaking new projects, but the conditions are not quite favorable to do so and opportunities are not enough, so there was a clear need to support young talent by means of a complete initiative, with the power to provide a starting point and guide in terms of the implementation and necessary elements to make business grow fast.

Wayra is an initiative developed by Telefónica Open Future, the partner-open world startups network, which identifies talents in Latin America and Europe, in the field of new Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), and it boosts their development by providing comprehensive support, with the tools and funding they need.

How does Wayra Colombia support the startups it decides to boost?

The companies boosted by Wayra are given funding investment shaped like seed money and acceleration services for a year, which include the presence of the entrepreneurs in an innovative co-working space, as well as services of connectivity, orientation and direct assistance by Wayra’s team, mentorship in key matters linked to the business growth (such as strategic consultancy in terms of sales, marketing and communication), training with enterprising tools and business management, access to the contact network and know-how of Wayra, Open Future and Telefónica not only in Colombia, but in the rest of the world, exposure with the media and potential investors, among others. 

Which Wayra Colombia-boosted startups have had the best results?

We can mention FLUVIP as the most successful case, a platform that helps brands develop advertising campaigns on social networks by making the most of the powers of influencers. This project was fostered by Wayra Colombia in 2014-2015, it quickly grew in sales and it received investment from Colombian Velum Ventures fund. With those resources, they increased their presence in the region and got a new investment from the Cisneros Group to keep on opening markets. Nowadays, they already have operations in the United States, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina.  

On the other hand, Viajala is a meta-search engine created in 2013 and accelerated by Wayra Colombia in 2014, in which users search information in real time related to airlines, Internet travel agencies and hotels. In 2015 they closed an investment round with Altabix, which is the Corporate Venture Capital of the leading hotel chain in Mexico, Hoteles City Express. With that investment they enhanced their work group and got a million visits on a monthly basis in Latin America. So far, they have collected 530.000 USD of seed money and they are completely profitable.

1DOC3 is another important example of success with its web platform and mobile app to make anonymous questions on health matters and receive guidance by certificated doctors without any charge. They have delivered 14.3 million medical instructions to date, their mobile app has been downloaded over 17 thousand times and they get 300 thousand - 500 thousand visits a month. In January 2015 it was handpicked to join Internet.org, the initiative promoted by the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, in an effort to increase the access to Internet by people of low resources.

It’s also interesting to highlight Mensajeros Urbanos, the biggest network of express messengers in Bogota (with over 400 messengers), which helps companies and people request and receive messenger services in less than an hour, without extensive processes, by means of its web platform and mobile app, with the value added of having the possibility to monitor the position of the messengers. They also operate in Cali and Barranquilla. In December 2015 they were given a significant investment by Rapiddo, the biggest Brazilian company of express delivery, so they are opening new markets in the country and abroad.

What are Wayra Colombia’s plans for 2016?

Wayra’s new global call for startups interested in being accelerated by us was launched on April 11 and will be open through May 8. We’re recently putting our smart money on the quality of companies, instead of the quantity, so we’re not focused on the number but on guaranteeing the profitability of our selection. We’re looking for companies that preferably enrich the business lines of Telefónica and have the potential to grow fast, great execution capacity, a sustainable monetization model and a team to meet the product selling and developing requirements.

Although we’ll take into account all of the startups featuring developed and validated products, ready to be marketed, with technological base, we are going to give priority to Internet Technology (IoT) solutions, based on the cloud (Cloud), network infrastructure (Network) and Big Data, since they’ll have higher chances to complement market demands, attract more investment from third parties and fit in the business development foreseen by Telefónica in the near future (solutions that can be comprised by its portfolio of products and services).

What tips would Wayra Colombia give to Latin American entrepreneurs?

They should always try to understand what the client wants or find the right client for their product. Selling is the key element to validate this: is the client is not willing to value the product and pay for it, something is just not working and it is to be changed (the product, the client or both).

Land innovation on tangible things, targeting the local industry and the moment they are living. Develop corrective actions as they go along, no matter how hard they can be. Test things step by step and don’t invest all resources in the first try.

They should totally know the business and the industry, so the work team must be solid and experienced on the matter.

It’s important to understand failure as part of a necessary process toward success. Failing in a controlled way gives the opportunity to obtain valuable insights of the market, as well as bases to find the right direction. It’s essential to persist and resist failure, but to avoid falling into obstinacy. Establish limits to know how far they can go if they don’t see the results.

If they don’t have enough resources to undertake the project, they need to find support, but they have to be 100 percent sure about the business idea. If the idea is barely coming up, they need to find business discovery phase programs, ideation or incubators, which provide work space and the consultancy they need to make it happen, but these programs are not likely to offer funding. If the idea has already become a project with a concrete business model and a minimum viable product, they have to think about looking for accelerators (like Wayra) and other funding options for companies. As for investment, when entrepreneurs go for it or they find this type of opportunity, they are to know for sure what they need the money for and what the company’s line is going to be. They must not only think about investors giving them money, but they need smart capital: an investor that connects them to the industry, mentors them, opens business opportunities and takes them to a second investment round. Both parties must feel empathy, trust, and develop teamwork, almost like a marriage.

What do you make of the present situation of startups in Colombia?

Colombian entrepreneurs have undergone a significant change over the past 4 years. They presently think big, they think about scalable business, which can quickly reach out to regional or global markets by means of technology. Nowadays, Colombian entrepreneurs take startups as a life option, instead of just a choice because they didn’t find a job. They dream about becoming business people. These entrepreneurs know more about tools and platforms that help them develop their ideas, they know how to identify what people actually need, turn those elements into a business, eliminate mediators and optimize processes. 

Even so, they face many obstacles when it comes to operating, selling their product and, what matters the most, doing so before they run out of resources. A study published in late 2015 by FuckUp Nights Failure Institute showed that the main four causes of failure among Colombian entrepreneurs are, in that order: insufficient incomes to subsist, problems to develop their plans, financial aspects and the inability to position their product in the right sales outlet. After two years of operations, only 41 percent of companies survive in Colombia.

The truth is that there is a growing number of opportunities and initiatives that support startups in Colombia and this reality encourages people to develop their projects. The ecosystem of startups and investments is growing stronger, but there is a lot do. Moreover, a lot has to be done in a bid to reduce the regulations and legal requirements that hinder the creation of companies in Colombia.

Latin America has been historically seen as a region that provides raw materials for international markets; nevertheless, that concept is changing in the world economy. How does Wayra Colombia see this transformation?

Undoubtedly, not being just an exporter of raw materials, but winning a space in the export of digital products and services is opening the doors to an interesting market. Moreover, our human resources are internationally renowned and acclaimed, in terms of technological programming and development. Despite of this fact, there is a lot to do in an effort to keep and train more talent specialized in the development of technology, since we see a deficit at local level and this is one of the main factors that can help us be a competitive and developed country.

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