Y Combinator inspired Ignite program in Telenor

We talked to two masterminds behind the Ignite and how it affects innovation in Telenor.

The Head of the program Vegard Aas says that they launched the program in late April 2016.

-Inspiration comes from external incubators like Y Combinator and our own work with external startups like dtac Accelerator which is the most successful in Thailand.

-The goal is to inspire and foster for more innovation internally in Telenor. We can achieve this by changing our culture and encouraging more people to pursue and test their ideas.

Aas adds that they were planning first to do a small pilot program to test it. However there were many in Telenor who wanted just go ahead, launch the program, learn and adjust in the process. It turned out to be a good idea. The launch of Ignite in Telenor happened a whole week before the launch of Google`s internal incubator program. Thorough research and collaboration with startups externally were a good foundation for the Ignite in Telenor.

All 36.000 of Telenor employees can apply to the program with their ideas for new ventures. Those who win can get time off work and 10.000 USD to research and validate the idea. The first time they were hoping for at least 100 ideas, and got over 530 ideas from the whole world.

-Then we chose 30 best ones and organized a pitching contest in Bangkok. We narrowed it down to 8 teams. They spent 3 months each in our incubator and presented their projects during the Demo Day. 5 teams continued as internal startups and are developing their projects for and with Telenor.

Is it only open to employees of Telenor?

-We have made it possible for teams to attract talents from outside the company. If one person is from Telenor, you can participate in the program.

Core business areas and winning teams

Lisa Long, VP Product Management was the jury member on the first Ignite program that took place in 2016. She is going to be part of the jury this year as well.

-Some of the main criteria to join Ignite is that you have a great business idea in sectors like IOT, storage, security, marketplaces, B2B and financial or communication services. The addressable market should be more than 50 million users worldwide.

Lisa says that they are looking for winning teams.

– We would like to see a person who is a product visionary, who understands customers very well and knows what kind of problems they are having. The other person in the team should have a technical background and be able to create a brilliant solution to this problem.

How much of the product must be ready before application deadline?

-We are not looking for ready built solutions. However we would like applicants to do a basic user research and validate their idea before they send in your application. We want to know is there really a need for this solution? How big is the market and what is your target market size?

30 teams have been notified and invited to the new Ignite pitch event in Singapore in February. If it goes well some of the teams will be able to move forward and be part of the finale – Demo Day in Bangkok.

As a jury member, you saw many presentations last year. What are the most important elements in a good pitch?

-When we see a pitch at Ignite finale, we already have a lot of information about the team. So, at the pitching contest we look for an engaging presentation with focus on the problem and the solution and why your team is great.

-Make me feel engaged and emotionally involved in this problem, and explain how this can be solved.

If the presentation and the idea is great, one or few of the teams are going to be able to develop their project internally in Telenor.

Here you can read more about Ignite program in 2016 and here you can read about teams who won.