Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom open their chequebooks for tech start-ups

Spain's Telefonica is setting up a network of funds to invest €300m in IT start-ups, while the VC arm of Germany's Deutsche Telekom is stepping up the pace of its investments.
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

Two of Europe's biggest telcos are stepping up their investment efforts.

Telefonica, parent of mobile operator O2, has kicked off a network of technology venture capital (VC) funds worth €300m, it said on Tuesday.

Telefonica is contributing €68m to a new venture capital fund. Image credit: Telefonica

According to Telefonica, the fund network — known as Amérigo — is aiming to seek out "new businesses that are innovating in the digital space" and invest mainly outside the usual tech hotspots of Silicon Valley and London.

Telefonica itself is one of the main backers of Amérigo, and it has pledged €68m of the €300m, over five years.

Inititally, the network will focus on Colombia, Chile, Brazil and Telefonica's home market of Spain — countries where Telefonica has already garnered support from VC funds and government.

In future, Telefonica expects investments to made in Europe, Asia and Latin America — areas that don't typically attract VC funding.

The company hasn't been shy of getting involved with start-ups in the past: it has set up its own accelerator, Wayra, and is a partner in the German start-up festival Campus Party.


Meanwhile, Germany's encumbent telco Deutsche Telekom is rejigging strategy its own VC arm, T-Venture.

According to Bloomberg, T-Venture is aiming to speed up the rate at which it makes investments, increasing its current rate of 20 a year.

The company has now been enabled to buy majority stakes in start-ups, a change from its previous policy, Bloomberg said.

Set up in 1997, T-Venture manages seven separate funds with investments chiefly in the US, Germany and the UK. Among the start-ups in T-Venture's portfolio is on-vehicle broadband company Nomad Digital, femtocell firm Ubiquisys, and VoIP business Swyx.

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