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Telenorʼs startup ‘talent showʼ on the launch pad

Telenor Magyarország is ready is about to launch the first corporate accelerator program in Hungary under which selected startups will gain access to invaluable networks and substantial financial resources in order to make the most out of their innovations.

Zoltán Takács, vice president of innovation.

Telenor Accelerate is another chance for members of the Hungarian startup ecosystem to step into the limelight and participate in Hungaryʼs first corporate accelerator program. As Zoltán Takács, vice president of innovation says, the five applicants admitted to the three-month-mentorship program can look forward to having access to a global network of clients that they would have no chance to build on their own. “We will rely on experience gathered under our similar corporate startup program launched four years ago in Thailand, where Telenor has major operations. With 160 million customers, our Asian presence is very strong anyway and growing extremely quickly,” he says.

The founders behind all kinds of inventions in the prototype phase were able to sign up until September 5, as Telenor feels this is the phase where it can add most value to the mentored entities. “The selected projects should go beyond the scope of activities of the Telenor empire; we are open to digital startups, where internet and digitization is a major part,” Takács adds. Apart from having the above-mentioned business network access, candidates will be showered with funds and infrastructure will also be provided, partly in-house, partly in Kaptár, one of Budapestʼs favorite co-working spaces. The scheme also has backing from Samsung, which made a range of mobile devices available to the young entrepreneurs.

Veronika Pistyur, one of the leading figures of the local ecosystem will be engaged as a mentor and sheʼs thrilled to meet her newest protégés. But she also sees that sometimes startup teams need a basic down-to-earth approach in order to succeed. “Lack of assessment of market conditions and common sense often form an obstacle. Ultimately, however, failure or success should come down to how focused the team can remain, how well it can work together,” she says.

Balázs Várkonyi, founder of Hungarian web commerce heavyweight, Express Digital and businessman of the year in 2007, is ready to fulfill his mentorship tasks as well. Should any project concern e-commerce, it will surely land with him. “Working conditions should be inspiring and financial freedom during the acceleration period must mean a lot too. Finally, teams can focus only on making their ideas work and getting something out them,” Várkonyi says.

Takács compares the program to a talent selection show where lots of relevant and practical information is shared with the participants within a short period, which gives them a powerful, intensive experience. Since Telenor is pouring funds worth HUF 150,000 into the initiative, it expects something in return, and will acquire a EUR 30,000 stake in every selected startup, equivalent to 10% of their valuation, a normal amount by European standards.

“There is a lot more in it for us, though,” Takács adds. “Net Promoter Score that shows to what extent Telenor would be recommended by participating startups is key and our company hopes to be inspired further in terms of corporate culture and innovative thinking.”