15th & 16th of May
Maribor, Slovenia
Friday, March 30, 2018

Internal hackathons, blockchain or IoT solutions – innovation activities of Telekom Slovenije are user centred!

Telekom Slovenije is currently working on three startups projects. The first one is a blockchain enterprise app, developed in collaboration with a Russian startup that they met at last year’s PODIM Conference. The second one is designing an ecosystem for the development of solutions in mobility, including testing the Narrowband-IoT technology for motorcycles. On the third project, they’re designing a new concept for a service platform and developing advanced browser algorithms. The team that’s responsible for innovation and collaboration with startups in the biggest Slovenian provider of ICT solutions is coming to PODIM once again. In a conversation with Suzana Leben, the Strategy and Regulations Director at Telekom Slovenije, you can find out why the most interesting startups for them aren’t early-stage teams looking for a seed investment but rather more mature startups that preferably already completed a Slovenian or foreign acceleration programme, but now need a strong development push and a reliable development partner that can offer them an excellent test environment, equipment, and especially access to potential users.
 
Can you first briefly summarize the results of your activities in the field of collaborating with startups in the past year?

All these activities are currently reflected in three projects. We met all three companies through the national ecosystem and events, one team directly at PODIM, the other two via the Initiative Start:up Slovenia and Venture Factory. Besides the three ongoing projects, we also tested services by two other startups.
 
What kind of solutions are they and what exactly are you developing in collaboration with them?

With the team that we met at PODIM last year, we are discussing the development of an app based on the hyperledger blockchain platform. It’s an enterprise solution that enables modern and fast voting or communication between managers and company stakeholders. With the other team, we are designing an ecosystem for the development of solutions in mobility and testing the Narrowband IoT technology for motorcycles, but we previously also discussed collaboration in an e-call system for motorcyclists. With the PricePilot team, we are discussing collaboration for the development of a service platform and browser algorithms.
 
How far along are you with the mentioned blockchain project and where did you recognize the biggest potential for the implementation of the solution?

Telekom Slovenije had already made an agreement with IBM regarding the establishment of a testing blockchain environment based on the hyperledger technology. In the first stage, we would like to offer the blockchain app to Slovenian blue-chip companies, especially those in the industries of food and transport. Otherwise the mentioned platform is where we will offer development of apps adapted to customer demands, in collaboration with partnership development companies.
 
What’s also interesting for startups that wish to collaborate with Telekom Slovenije is that you are setting up a test environment for testing IoT solutions based on the Narrowband-IoT technology …

That’s correct. We successfully completed the testing of the standardized Narrowband-IoT technology. It’s a network technology with small power, using the already existing network infrastructure. It’s intended for effective communication of massively distributed devices – up to 50,000 devices on one cell network, in branched geographic areas as well as within a city infrastructure – and ensuring the transfer of its data streams. It’s suitable for devices that create low data traffic, such as sensors, where they rely on batteries and usually have a long lifecycle. Our test environments are in Ljubljana and Maribor. Those who are interested in arranging a testing of their own IoT solutions and ordering the necessary SIM card should contact our colleagues at iot@telekom.si.
 
Which fields, besides IoT and blockchain, are interesting for you when finding development synergies with startups?

We are currently especially interested in everything connected to communicating and collaborating with our users. If we know how to suitably detect their pains, we will also know how to develop suitable solutions. Otherwise the fields that we are interested in stayed more or less the same as the ones we already highlighted at last year’s PODIM … IoT interests us in connection with smart networks, connected homes, smart cities and e-health. We are interested in the fifth generation of mobile networks and their industrial applications. And data mining and services connected to it as well as big data that enable us to improve our services or are developed as market solutions. Further, we are interested in critical public services and cybernetic safety as well as business solutions for small and medium-sized companies, improving their productivity and helping them digitalize processes.
 
What is the procedure for those startups that you get in contact with and for which you discover that they have collaboration potential?

The first assessment of startups that come into contact with us happens in the team that’s responsible for the field of innovation, but we closely collaborate with the particular field that we assess to be the most complementary to the startups’ solutions. We also find as much information as possible about the startup that interests us, from all available sources, and then we invite them for a meeting. At the meeting, we don’t expect some marketing “hyped pitching” but are instead interested in all the essential information about the solution, technology, market position, market potential, competition analysis … In short, only a well-practiced pitch isn’t enough.
 
What else is then needed?

A team that confidently covers all fields of business operations. If a solution is technically excellent, then the product could be very good, but the question is, will anyone know how to sell it? It’s key that startups, as well as us as the potential development partner, come to a comprehensive understanding of business development, and there’s still too little of this in Slovenia. We need to know how to answer the question of which fields the solution or new technology is reaching, who are the users, who are the competitors, also those for which we might not have even dreamed that this or that solution is competing with them. In Telekom Slovenije, we don’t have a fund that would give out investments, but if we recognize development and business potential, then we can ensure other resources, such as a test environment or lab, equipment, access to users … But it is not excluded that we will one day enter projects as an investor.
 
So what is your ideal startup partner? Probably a team that’s looking for a development partner, not a seed investment …

It’s ideally a startup that already obtained an investment, was in an accelerator at home or abroad, but now needs a development partner that can ensure everything that I’ve already mentioned. Currently, what’s optimal for us is contracted collaboration, grown into strategic collaboration and potentially transformed to a capital connection. I think that an organic way of collaborating with startups is one where everyone keeps their own identity, their own culture, all of their advantages … So that we can see how the collaboration is developing and how we can upgrade it, if needed.
 
In Telekom Slovenije, you are probably encouraging innovation and finding business opportunities beyond just collaboration with startups?

In our innovation encouragement programme, internal encouragement of innovativeness is very important, alongside collaboration with startups and other external partners. As such, we are trying to establish an environment inside Telekom Slovenije that works as an accelerator, where ideas that help us or our users are developed in a startup way. Last year, for example, we organized an internal hackathon. Reactions were very positive, which is why we will continue with such events this year. And they will not necessarily only be internal, depending on the challenge we might also open them to external participants. In short, the journey to more satisfied users and consequently better business results also includes changing the values and culture that we wish to spread amongst the employees. Our goal is for everyone in Telekom Slovenije to actively find new ideas and solutions in order to transfer this mindset until it permeates the company’s business.
 
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Get in touch with Telekom Slovenije representatives!

If you wish to present your innovative idea or solution to Telekom Slovenije at this year’s PODIM, send a message to Larisa Potokar (larisa.potokar@telekom.si), who is in charge of the first contact with startup teams in Telekom Slovenije.