It’s the time of year again when the Telefónica-backed Wayra accelerator assembles the latest startups to join its Wayra UK and Wayra UnLtd programs, while current crop goes on stage in search of investment.
From a round of 56 companies that pitched on November 20, 26 have been chosen to take a place in the two programs and join the wider Wayra family.
“This event was off the charts”
Gary Vaynerchuk was so impressed with TNW Conference 2016 he paused mid-talk to applaud us.
Wayra UK is a startup accelerator owned by Telefónica that’s designed for general tech startups. Wayra UnLtd, on the other hand, is aimed at businesses looking to do some social good – and is one of 10 accelerators supported through the UK Cabinet Office’s £10 million Social Incubator Fund.
Each of the incoming teams will get up to $60,000 in funding, office space and access to Telefonica’s leadership and mentor network. In total, each can get up to 8 months acceleration time, a spokesperson told TNW. In exchange for this, most will give up a 7 – 10 percent equity in their companies. None of these teams presented on the night, they were simply introduced.
The outgoing teams have already benefited from this support, and most were pitching to investors in the audience in search of future funding. So without further ado, here are our 10 favorites, starting with the graduating teams.
As any recent driver will attest, sometimes finding the best driving instructor and lesson plan for you can be a bit of a challenge. It might be UK-focused for now, but Roadio says it wants to be the first global brand for learning to drive.
In a nutshell, the company is ultimately looking to change the way people drive and to make the learning process a bit more structured. For example, it provides instructor matching to get you started as well as progress tracking and insights. It also provides access to learning materials, allows you to set your lesson pickup location and a whole lot more.
To date, the platform has around 12,000 users and just under 2,500 instructors in the UK. Better yet, it’s free for both instructors and learners; the service is monetized by ads and through a small percentage on the transactions that take place throughout the learning journey, like booking lessons.
Roadio says that 51 million people learn to drive each year globally, so there’s clearly a potential market there if it can strike the right chord with learner drivers.
This one is a really simple pitch: Living Indie is the ‘Netflix of live concerts’. So think on-demand streaming of music concerts that you can’t make it to in person. It’s not quite the same thing as being there, but it’s better than missing out altogether.
Living Indie aims to spice up the experience a little by integrating social features into the platform too.
Gigs are currently live-streamed from the UK or Spain (with more countries to follow), and if nothing live takes your fancy then there’s a catalogue of recorded live events to browse through.
Right now there’s around 70 bands and 10,000 users on the platform. The company is looking to raise £250,000 and has already taken more than £60,000 in revenue.
Pocket Explorers is an app intended for parents (and grandparents) to use with their kids that suggests real-world nature activities they can carry out together.
At an offline event designed to test the general appetite for the idea, the team expected around 200 people to turn up. In total, more than 2,500 showed up before the end of the day.
With cutesy graphics, a rewards and profile (‘My Den’) system and plenty of activities it seems to be providing the right balance for a majority of users: 60 percent are returning users.
The app is currently free, but there are optional in-app purchases if you want additional content and more activities.
Right now the company is looking to secure £250,000 in additional funding to scale up the platform.
Paperfold is yet another company that wants to make email more beautiful, and your processing of it more efficient.
To start its journey, it’s targeting the iPad with its visual email app optimized for its larger display. Instead of presenting emails in a traditional vertical list within an app, it fills the entire display and allows you to view all your email as little actionable tiles.
The company says that changing the way email looks and feels to interact with can have a dramatic effect on the open rate, which is good news for marketers.
The service is currently invite-only, so you’ll need a bit of patience if you want to test it out. It is due to launch before the end of the year though and the company is hoping to get at least 100,000 downloads. It’ll then launch on other platforms with a goal of reaching 1.5 million users.
To date it has raised £120,000 and the company is now looking to raise £1.2 million for its seed round.
OpenDesk is a company that provides designer furniture for businesses on-demand. It says that because all its designs are made for digital fabrication, it’s cheaper than buying traditional designer furniture.
Aimed first at the UK office market, the service actually allows you to download some designs for free, but also provides an option for how much it will cost to get it made locally on your behalf. Designs are also customizable. Orders are generally turned around in 7 – 10 days, the company said.
If successful, OpenDesk plans to expand beyond offices and into consumer home furniture and other furnishings.
Now, OpenDesk is looking to raise a £1.5 million to expand into the US market.
Readbug (Wayra UK)
In a nutshell, ReadBug is Netflix for digital magazines. Still not with it? OK, the service provides all-you-can-eat access to digital magazines, on-demand. I guess it’s a little like Amazon’s Prime eBook Lending Library service, but for digital magazines.
Obviously, it’s success will depend somewhat on which publishers and titles it can secure before its launch.
Wees is wrist-mounted finger gesture controller that wants to be the answer to the problem of clunky wearable UIs and interfaces for the Internet of Things (IoT).
It works by allowing you to simply flick your fingers to control different devices and types of technology, but it’s early days and we’re yet to see Wees in action. The company is currently finalizing the first product.
UsherU (Wayra UK)
UsherU has partnered with the British Film Institute (BFI) to help sell unsold cinema tickets to local cinemas.
It works by asking users what their favorite films and cinemas are and then makes personal recommendations for movies in cinemas where business is slow. Presumably, the cinema can then choose to offer a lower ticket rate to these customers to entice them through the doors, should they wish.
Little Riot is developing a product called Pillow Talk for people in long-distance relationships. Each person wears a wristband to bed at night and a small speaker slots inside your pillow case. What for you ask? The wristband sends your heartbeat to your partner’s pillow, and vice-versa.
Quite whether you find it cute or creepy, we’ll leave to you to decide. The company is, for obvious reasons, hoping to launch before Valentine’s day next year.
Give Vision (Wayra UnLtd)
Give Vision (formally known as Vision Technologies Ltd.) is working to develop accessibility tech for the blind and visually impaired. Right now the company has a prototype Google Glass app that can recognize objects, text characters and spaces, among other things.
The company is still at the proof-of-concept stage, but it’s hard not to love a product that could help blind people navigate the world a little more easily. It’s hoping to have a product ready for market by September 2015.