Spanish giant Telefonica is looking for innovative Israeli high-tech start-ups

Spanish telecommunications giant Telefonica is currently looking through its innovation division, Wayra X., for start-up Israeli companies to use disruptive technologies in areas such as digital health, education, smart homes and mobility.

These sectors may seem far removed from a large telecommunications company, one of the largest in Europe and among the top 10 in the world, with around 350 million. customers, but Luisa Rubio, director of Wayra X, said Israel times interviewed by videoconference from Madrid that the unit was set up to “look beyond Telefonica’s core business” and open up to innovations in other areas and countries.

According to her, the Israeli technology ecosystem was one of the first to turn to Wayra X for its “strong entrepreneurial spirit” and “application of technology to solve specific problems.”

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Investment Center, established in 2020. At the end of 2006, Wayra invested in an Israeli start-up for the first time in its first year of operation as part of Telefonica’s innovation division to support early-stage digital-focused start-ups. Wayra X was attended by 2 million. USD in a pre-investment in Upword, a Tel Aviv company that developed an AI-based reading summary and productivity tool. This investment is one of the few start-ups that Wayra X has supported for less than two years.

Although Wayra operated as an accelerator program, it worked with more than 800 new companies in 30 countries and has earned about $ 300 million since its inception. mass markets ”in areas such as 5G, e. health, e. learning, smart homes, entertainment, mobility and the future of work ‘.

With seven centers in 10 countries, including Brazil, Germany, the UK, Mexico and Spain, Wayra X is designed for entrepreneurs and businesses looking to tackle complex challenges and improve people’s lives by integrating cutting-edge technology into their daily lives. .

Telefonica Wayra X Investment Center in Madrid. (Credit: consent)

Rubio argued that in B2C markets, “Innovation and technology are not always obvious; For example, there are many marketplaces with interfaces, but there is no real technology. ”

Wayra X wants to “have a real impact on end customers,” she said.

Upword Rubio said: “It is true that this is a different area of ​​investment, but education is Telefonica’s very goal and a key area for us in the intelligence phase.”

Formerly known as Erudite, Upword was founded in 2020. as an artificial intelligence – based platform for creating short summaries or long text summaries to improve reading and productivity. The platform is currently in private beta, but potential users can already join the waiting list and access the free company extension in Google Chrome.

Upword says its tool can summarize texts up to 80%, but offers much more.

Roof Barak, founder and CEO of Upword, said Israel times that while the company is “developing the world’s best fusion tool” as its flagship product, its long-term goal is to “create a new generation of personal knowledge technologies.”

To do this, the company uses “the most advanced technology in the field of NLP [traitement du langage naturel] and machine learning, which helps people capture, learn, read, use and manage their knowledge in their daily lives, ”said Barak, adding that it helps to optimize“ what we do with our personal knowledge ”.

The main problem that Upword solves is that
“information overload, [différents] content formats and new ways of using content and knowledge, ”he explained. “These are key issues for knowledge workers who are students, lawyers, doctors, analysts, journalists, marketing professionals and many more,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. »

Barak also pointed to elements of Upword’s collaboration between AI and people, where the tool “saves a lot of time and effort in extracting key content and creating outlines” in text and tests before user intervention.

Users can “add their own comments and paraphrase or paraphrase what the AI ​​has extracted, and it eventually turns into something new. Therefore, it is the collaboration of artificial intelligence notes and summaries with the user’s work to create a new summary or a new essay that is likely to be published, shared and collaborated with other people, ”he said.

The work is then indexed and stored in the user library on the platform for future access and use. Barak added that the idea is to positively impact “people’s productivity with their own knowledge, helping them to grow, acquire and use knowledge.”

Rubio said the Upword is more than just a teaching tool for students, it’s for everyone. We like that it has added value and is a tool for everyday use. ”

Telefonica’s customers are “waiting for surprises and new solutions that they don’t even know they have,” she explained.

“We don’t always forget that we are a telecommunications company, but we also want to offer our customers other things, such as games, entertainment, health and education,” Rubio added.

Such solutions can be deployed for the benefit of customers and / or used internally by more than 110,000 Telefonica employees worldwide. Wayra X is also helping the businesses it supports do business directly with Telefonica, Rubio said.

Telefonica is headquartered in Madrid, Spain, in 2022. January 1 (JJFarquitectos via iStock, Getty Images)

The head of Wayra X recently completed a four-day trip to Israel, where he met with technology entrepreneurs and players in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as the center seeks to deepen relations with Israel and stay in touch with those brand new businesses.

Rubio said he is working closely with Start-Up Nation Central, a non-profit organization that connects businesses, governments and global ecosystems with Israel, and with Azrieli College of Engineering in Jerusalem (JCE) as an innovation contest for Israeli students. fly to Madrid next month for the South Summit 2022, an innovation conference for entrepreneurs and investors.

The aim of this cooperation is to identify new ideas and companies in which to invest.

“We’re currently looking to discover new areas for new divisions, such as metaverse,” Rubio said of a world of interconnected virtual communities where people can meet, work and play using a variety of devices, such as virtual reality. headphones, augmented reality glasses and smartphone apps. A number of Israeli companies are already operating in this area.

“Israel is one of the most competitive ecosystems in the world, it is on the same level as the United States … but smaller, more accessible and the most interesting for start-ups,” said Rubio.

In order to receive the highest quality deals, she acknowledges that Wayra X and Telefonica will have to “move fast and not behave like traditional companies”.

“Ecosystem speed [israélien] “It’s amazing,” she said with a laugh, adding that she’d heard about the deals being made in 72 hours.

“We have to adapt our way of working,” Rubio said. She concluded that Wayra X wants to add two or three new Israeli companies to its investment portfolio by the end of the year.

Hubert Gildon

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