Wayra UnLtd opens call for applications to find the UK’s best digital social ventures for a brand new central London Academy

Research released today by Telefónica and UnLtd shows that 1 in 6 technology start-ups have a social focus*. This trend has prompted Telefónica and UnLtd to create a new technology incubator specifically for digital social ventures. The Wayra UnLtd Academy today launches its call for applications ahead of its opening this summer.

The findings represent the analysis of the global applications to Telefonica’s mainstream incubator for technology start-ups, the Wayra Academy. Over the last two years, technology entrepreneurs have shown a strong, consistent interest in doing social good – and this shows no sign of waning.

This passion for social venturing has inspired the launch of Wayra UnLtd, which recently received funding from the Government’s Social Incubator Fund, to accelerate early stage digital social ventures. In the newly built, state-of-the-art Academy in central London the new start-ups will be awarded on average £40,000 of funding, mentored and given access to some of Telefónica’s best business minds to develop and grow their venture.

The study of Wayra’s applicants also found:

  • People aged 50-64 are most likely to be socially conscious, with 37% of applicants in this age group proposing a ‘socially focused’ idea. The 18-24 age group is the second most socially conscious, with 20% of applicants from this age group socially focused.
  • Relative to their overall number, non-UK based applications had the highest rate of strongly social ideas (10%), while other locations in the UK had the highest rate of those ranked medium (17%). However, overall the locations may be seen to be broadly aligned in terms of the frequency of medium and strongly social ideas
  • Tech entrepreneurs are now favouring shared value rather than not-for-profit structure. This is likely to come as a result of social venture start-ups looking for a way to get their business off the ground and add value to society through their innovations, which requires significant investment.

Gonzalo Martín-Villa, CEO of Wayra said: “At Telefónica, we believe that digital innovation provides exciting solutions to help fix societal problems.  As entrepreneurs are such great problem solvers, their ideas will be well-placed to help address some of the most difficult social issues. We are looking for entrepreneurs with a sustainable business model based on technology and digital solutions that can have a positive impact in the community combining both business and social profitability.  We view London as a hotbed of innovation and believe that this new Academy is a great vehicle for social ventures looking for investment and support. We can’t wait to see the variety of start-ups that will apply for a stint in the Wayra UnLtd Academy.”

Emma Jones, Founder of Enterprise Nation and Co-Founder of StartUpBritain said: “The Wayra UnLtd model has provided a great opportunity for the government to invest in technology start-ups that want to help fix the problems presented by our society through this incubation programme. I am excited to see how these start-ups will grow and flourish under the guidance of Telefónica and UnLtd. They will undoubtedly contribute to the stimulation of growth across the UK.”

Cliff Prior, CEO of UnLtd said: “UnLtd is seeing more and more tech social entrepreneurs with fantastic innovations.  We are delighted to be working with Wayra, the world’s biggest and best tech incubator network to give these entrepreneurs the world’s best incubation and market connections, so they can achieve the very best social impact, which our society so sorely needs.”

Social venture technology entrepreneurs from all ages and backgrounds can from today, until mid-June, submit their ideas or projects by completing a form at http://wayra.unltd.org.uk/. Experts within Wayra, Telefónica and UnLtd will review each submission and choose a shortlist who will be invited to take part in the Wayra UnLtd Week. The shortlisted social entrepreneurs will be invited to pitch their ideas to an independent panel comprising of representatives of Wayra, Telefónica, UnLtd and independent VCs and technology experts. Up to 10 of the best projects will be invited to move into the new London Wayra UnLtd Academy and will each receive an average investment of £40,000 in exchange for an approximate 5-10% stake in their business.

More details on the programme and how to apply can be found at http://wayra.unltd.org.uk/.


*Iceberg Research, an independent research company, analysed two application rounds to Wayra UK using NVivo 10, a qualitative research programme. A random sample of 200 applications was selected from each round (400 in total), and input into NVivo 10. A detailed qualitative coding framework was used to determine level of social focus within the applications.

Case study

Zoe Peden of Insane Logic, who has received support from both Wayra and UnLtd in the past year, commented:  “As a company we still have much to achieve but the road now looks much clearer thanks to both Wayra and UnLtd. They have both provided excellent mentors that helped me to shape and grow my business and, in addition, invaluable business support including legal and financial advice that have opened doors. We are a growing tech start-up, established to tackle a massive social need and we’re proud to be associated with both entities. There is plenty of room in this market for more digitally-focussed start-ups attacking social problems and this collaboration will really help to grow more of us!”

Notes to editors:

UnLtd is the UK’s Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs.  We fund and support around 1000 social entrepreneurs per year. We put people at the heart of what we do and we reach out to find passionate, talented, resourceful people who are determined to tackle the key issues facing society.

We know communities that face problems contain the people who will create the solutions. Our approach is to offer seed funds, development support and networking opportunities in a tiered set of awards, from first steps to scaling up. UnLtd deliver the Big Venture Challenge programme, which raised early stage investment for 12 of the 25 ventures in the first year.

UnLtd is the trading name for The Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, a company limited by guarantee. Company no. 4180639. Registered Charity no. 1090393




Wayra is a Telefónica initiative whose main aim is to promote innovation and identify talent in Latin America and Europe in the fields of Internet and new Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Its global project acceleration model helps entrepreneurs develop, providing them with technological tools, qualified mentors, a cutting edge working space and the financing required to accelerate their growth.

Already present in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom, Perú, Czech Republic and Venezuela, Wayra’s calls for projects have received more than 17,000 applications from new digital businesses, making it one of the leading global platforms for identifying technological talent in the ICT world. Its academies in Bogotá, Mexico City, Buenos Aires, Lima, Madrid, Barcelona, Caracas, Sao Paulo, Santiago de Chile, Munich, London, Dublin, and soon to be opened in Prague, currently host more than 200 startups.

About the Social Incubator Fund

The Social Incubator Fund was launched in 2012 by the UK Government as an initiative to stimulate the early stage social investment marketplace.   It is delivered by Big Lottery Fund on behalf of the Office for Civil Society, providing investment across the UK into ‘social incubators’ – organisations that will offer a period of intensive support to social enterprise start-ups and give social entrepreneurs access to the resources they need to get their ventures off the ground.  The first two winners announced in February 2013 shared £2.1m of funding.

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