Telenor Accelerate to boost most promising local startups again


Following last yearʼs huge success, Telenor has for a second time invited Hungarian startups to apply for mentoring and funding under its unique corporate acceleration program, with the top three applicants to benefit from support worth a total HUF 150 million.

The Accelerate class of 2016.

Last year was the first time a corporate acceleration program had ever been launched in Hungary by Telenor. The number of applications was well beyond expectations, with 143 startups showing interest in participating. Five selected projects were given the opportunity to jump on a growth track thanks to a super-intensive mentoring program, generous funding and access to the global customer base and partner network of Telenor.

The lucky few received between HUF 5 million and HUF 10 mln of seed funding each; Musicating, Moow (now Zoi), eSports Horizon, Tickething and Zyntern have all improved their services a great deal as a result.

“Apart from the substantial professional and financial support, including infrastructure, the biggest help was the access to Telenor’s network and their knowledge of global markets,” notes Bence Töreky, founder of Tickething. “Thanks to the program, global expansion is now within reach for us.”

This year offers nothing less, with one exception: in order to improve efficiency further, only three of the 109 applicants will be selected. The idea is to increase focus, so that even more attention can be paid to the individual projects.

“I believe in the fact that the innovative power and creativity of Hungarian startups and the global expertise of Telenor can pave the way to international success for the best applicants,” Alexandra Reich, CEO of Telenor Hungary, said on the occasion of the launch of the new program. “Since our goal is to facilitate Hungary’s digital development, we are joining forces with the most exciting startups to help them bring new concepts and ideas to market and get their services to the greatest possible number of our customers and partners.”

Top mentors 

The boot camp will take place at Telenor’s headquarters in Törökbálint and at co-working office space, Kaptár. What the organizers are seeking are digital solutions, with no specific area of priority. As a basis, however, the teams are expected to have a so-called “minimum viable product” (MVP) in fields such as FinTech, mHealth (mobile health), education, e-commerce, communication, IoT (Internet of Things), entertainment, gaming, M2M, cloud, mobile application or hardware.

“In accordance with previous feedback, this year more time will be dedicated to fewer early-stage young firms,” says Zoltán Takács, Telenor’s vice president in charge of innovation. “The boot camp will also last longer: intensive workshops will be organized for five consecutive months instead of three.”

The agenda is shaped by top mentors from the Hungarian investor community: Veronika Pistyúr (Bridge Budapest), Zoltán Varga (Central Invest), Balázs Várkonyi (Extreme Digital), Balázs Vinnai (Misys Digital Channels) and Péter Oszkó (Oxo Group), who were all on board last time, are now joined by György Simó from the PortfoLion venture capital fund.

Weekly workshops will equip the startups with key competences in service design, digital marketing, growth hacking, fund raising, pitching and more.

“We worked together, sometimes even on a daily basis, and this cooperation was very inspiring,” Oszkó says, recalling his mentoring experience with Tickething in the 2016 program.

The total value of support in Telenor Accelerate is worth HUF 150 mln. Seed investment will amount to HUF 5-10 mln per project, in exchange for a minority ownership stake for Telenor. An important part of the package is the product validation opportunity with Telenor’s customer base in Hungary and worldwide, and a chance to present for leading VCs on Demo Day after the boot camp.

Additional features include the Telenor Hello Data limitless tariff for all winning team members, Microsoft BizSpark program with free access to Microsoft Azure cloud services, and Samsung S8 smartphones for all winning team members.

Interestingly, the program is not limited to teams from Hungary; other Europe-based startups may also apply if they have or are ready to set up a Hungarian legal entity, and are willing to relocate to Budapest for the time of the acceleration.

Dedication to innovation 

Telenor Hungary has earned a reputation for its dedication to innovation as it firmly believes that active cooperation between corporations and startups is mutually beneficial. Large enterprises get inspiration from dynamic early-phase projects, whilst startups can gain appropriate market traction. 

“Our first acceleration program featured fantastic startups and products last year, and I am very proud that many of them have entered the market, and are in negotiation with investors, as a result of our joint efforts,” Takács adds. “I really hope that this year we can guide similarly exciting projects while relying on experience gathered from 2016.”

“I would urge every early-phase startup that already has a specific product to apply and allocate the time for the training and mentoring, and to make use of this unique opportunity,” Töreky adds, inspired by last years’ experience.

Oszkó agrees that the program has great potential.

“In Hungary, the startup world is still in a quickly evolving phase and for this initiatives like Telenor Accelerate are very much needed,” he says.

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