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Millicom and Orange launch startup incubation projects

Millicom and Orange have announced start up incubator projects

Operator groups Millicom and Orange have each announced startup incubator projects as they look to promote technological innovation in the markets they operate in.

Millicom has set up a technology incubator through its Tigo brand in Rwanda. It aims to help entrepreneurs in the country develop innovative and scalable business which the operator group will take a stake in. The purpose-built “Think” facility will be located in the nation’s capital Kigali and the group is inviting entrepreneurs to submit applications for its selection process.

The operator will offer successful applicants financing, structured training programmes, access to Tigo’s resources for product testing and trials and support in networking with external investors and customers.

“Rwanda is a great place to do business,” said Hans-Holger Albrecht, president and CEO of Millicom. “We know it has some extraordinary local talent whose skills and ingenuity we want to support. We are looking forward to driving the digital revolution with talented youth in all our Tigo operations in Africa.”

Meanwhile Orange has selected seven projects that it too will support as part of its Orange Fab France acceleration programme. The programme sees Orange provide startups with three months of mentoring and support in developing their products and business.

The operator group is also offering 15 workshops addressing themes such as design, marketing, business models and online media. The winning startups will also be able to test their products with Orange customers in France and showcase their products at Orange partner events.

Eligible startups will also receive grants of up to €15,000 in the form of convertible bonds; a type of bond that the operator group can convert into Orange shares at its discretion.

“Orange is at the heart of the digital revolution and wants to become the first operator of the digital era,” said Stéphane Richard, chairman and CEO at Orange.

“In order to succeed, we must make our company more open, and work together in co-construction with the major actors of the market but also with start-ups. We want to play the role of the accelerator in the development of startups through our program Orange Fab.”

Mobile operators have stepped up their efforts in supporting startups in 2014. In January, Orange and operator group Telefónica lent their support to a project led by the European Commission to help the region’s technology startups to grow into global internet firms. The EC said it plans to “take on Silicon Valley” with the launch of two initiatives; an acceleration programme called the Startup Europe Partnership and a think tank called the European Digital Forum.

Earlier that month Telefónica made its first investment in a startup since launching its European talent incubator Wayra in March 2012. The recipient of the six figure sum was Taskhub, an online marketplace for tasks and small jobs. The operator followed the investment by striking an agreement with Chinese incubator Virtue Inno Valley (VIV) to promote their businesses in each other’s geographic territories.


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