In what seems to be completely out of the blue news, Telenor’s Velocity startup accelerator program started today.
Telenor Velocity, an accelerator program, will focus on making available the full width and breadth of Telenor’s solutions and experiences to supercharge a startup.
While talking to ProPakistani in December, Irfan Wahab, Deputy CEO of Telenor, had said, ‘In addition to giving these startups access to our assets, such as distribution channels, retail network, Telenor Pakistan has bundled a tool-kit with payment, location and other similar APIs, that will be made available to these selected startups’.
He further added, ‘Selected startups will be able capitalize Telenor’s experience in preparing their products and leverage the reach and access of Telenor’s assets with over 220,000 retail outlets, over 1,000 exclusive service centers and franchises, variety of payment solutions and big-data analytical tools that are exclusively available with Telenor Pakistan only’.
Here’s exactly what Telenor Velocity offers for startups to help them go to market within six months:
- Access to Customers through Prosperity network APIs
- Integrated Payment Solutions
- Market Intelligence
- Go to Market & Digital Distribution
- Leveraging our Physical Distribution
- Hands on functional knowledge sessions by in-house experts
For its first cycle, without any marketing or public calls for startups to participate in it though, there are question marks over Telenor Velocity and plenty of entrepreneurs are feeling shortchanged.
According to a Telenor representative, the selection process was as follows:
- Roadshows and meetings with prospective partnering incubators and accelerators ((Plan 9, i2i, LUMS, Founders Institute)
- Meeting their graduating and alumni startups
- Taking feedback from industry and parent incubators/accelerators on these startups
- Scouted 15 startups
- Shared with them how Telenor Velocity can add value
- Received their profiles and business models
- Shortlisted 8 startups for pitching
However, was that really the best way to go about it? We admit to some confusion of our own alongside our entrepreneur friends. Already, there are questions by people on social media on how they can participate in Telenor Velocity. A bit awkward since the selections are already done. While we’re sure Telenor had their reasons for choosing this approach, there’s no doubt it has resulted in many feeling left out.
Entrepreneurship is centered around the idea that any individual can shape the future provided they have the idea, the execution and the willpower to see it through. If you start off as an exclusive club from the get go, it kind of puts a damper on things. There’s no doubt about the quality of people that must have been consulted but not all startups prefer operating out of accelerators and incubators.
Telenor Velocity was first announced at Open Islamabad. After that, there was scant information available until a Facebook update that simply stated that 8 entrepreneurs were going to pitch to kick off the program. Among the startups were:
- DealSmash, which provides deals to online buyers based on their shopping patterns
- RoadEz, which provides notifications on traffic congestion via an App and SMS
- ClubInternet, which aims to teach internet-illiterate people the uses of internet in local languages via an app
- DoctHERs, which connects female doctors to under served patients leveraging online technology
- Edjunction, which enables realtime information sharing between parents,teachers and students
- TalkHealth, which is an online healthcare solution, hosting a panel of specialized doctors
- Interacta, which enables people to give feedback on television content through smart devices
- Savaree, which is a 24 hour car booking service
The winners were announced via Twitter and include Interacta, Edjunction, doctHERS and ClubInternet.
Whichever way you look at it, this seems to be a fairly opaque program from a company that really should know better. While we applaud the effort and wish all the best to the selected startups, we are concerned about the lack of transparency and public calls for all prospective startups to participate. This is an incredible opportunity and in our humble opinion, everyone deserved an equal shot at it.