Wayra UK to triple number of digital start-ups it supports

Sixteen of the UK's best & brightest digital entrepreneurs selected by Wayra
Wayra UK, part of Telefónica Open Future_, is to support more UK digital and tech start-ups in 2017 than ever before, thanks to a substantial increase in the number of programmes it offers across the country.
For the first time, in 2017 Wayra UK will offer pre-acceleration services – including providing mentoring, coaching, office space and access to corporate and investor networks – in the Greater Manchester and the Midlands regions. In total, 24 companies will be hosted in new facilities in Oldham and Birmingham, while six companies will join the new GCHQ Cyber Security accelerator in Cheltenham.
The pre-acceleration programmes will run in addition to Wayra’s well-established tech accelerator in London, which provides investment and support services to up to 20 digital and tech start-ups, helping them to develop and grow. 
Gary Stewart, director of Wayra UK and Telefónica Open Future_ (UK), said: “It’s become abundantly clear that not everyone feels the benefits of technology and entrepreneurship. Our goal is to democratise entrepreneurship by ensuring that people from all around the UK are able to launch their start-ups without being pressured to come to London. Our new programmes allow us to help businesses in the Midlands and Greater Manchester much more effectively, generating jobs and economic growth, while we continue to also support London’s tech ecosystem. In addition, our new accelerator with GCHQ will encourage the next generation of cyber security start-ups, with the ambition that people will start to see the UK as the cyber capital, just as it is the fintech capital.” 
Wayra UK’s new facilities in Oldham and Birmingham, called Open Future_ North and Open Future_ Midlands, will each host two groups of six companies in 2017, who will receive pre-acceleration services for six months. The GCHQ Cyber Accelerator will also host six companies, but for a shorter three-month period.
The confirmation of levels of support will be made at Wayra UK’s 2016 Demo Day, at which the current cohort of Wayra UK start-ups will pitch to an audience of investors, entrepreneurs, the UK tech community and the media.
This year’s Demo Day will host special guests, including Debbie Wosskow, the serial entrepreneur and investor, and CEO and co-founder of Love Home Swap; Deputy Mayor of London for Business Rajesh Agrawal; MP for Cheltenham Alex Chalk; and CNNMoney Europe anchor Nina dos Santos.
At the Demo Day, several Wayra companies will announce recent successes and progress, including:
·      Baby2Bodyan app and online platform that provides pregnant women and new mothers with health, fitness and wellbeing advice, has grown from 50,000 subscribers to 500,000 worldwide. It is now used by 10% of pregnant women in the UK, and has an extensive user base in the US
·      Pzizz launching its new paid app 60 days ago that helps consumers sleep better, resulting in over $60,000 in revenue and 2,000 paid monthly subscribers 
·      Codecwhich uses AI to help companies understand their audiences before they plan or make content, is now working with major brands and publishers – such as Sky, Universal Music, BBC Worldwide and Unilever – across ten international markets, including Japan, the US, Germany and France
Since 2012, Wayra UK has invested in 150 start-ups, which have between them raised over $110m (including $20m in 2016 alone). Companies that have been through the Wayra programme have signed around 80 trials and contracts with Telefónica, while two Wayra graduates – RotaGeek and Qudini – have together saved O2 over £1.25m in 2016.

Debbie Wosskow, serial entrepreneur and investor and CEO and co-founder of Love Home Swap, said: “Diversity is one of the biggest challenges for the tech sector right now. In particular, the UK needs to create an environment that encourages more women to set up and grow their businesses.

“There is some exceptional female business talent in this country that often misses out on opportunity because people don’t always know where to go for finance and support. It is great to see initiatives like Wayra expand their reach to help strengthen the ecosystem in the regions and help nurture entrepreneurial talent all over the UK, as this ensures the industry continues to move forward.”