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    Telefónica to fly in Isreali start-ups who invent ‘real tech for real problems’


    Start-ups like Upword make apps that cut the nonsense

    Telefonica’s innovation division, Wayra X is scouting Israeli start-ups for ideas on digital health, education, smart homes and mobility. Israeli mobile start-ups are more practical, competitive and creative than their European counterparts. In a video conference Wayra X head Luisa Rubio told The Times of Israel Israel is both creative and realistic enough to apply “real tech to real problems.”

    Wayra X factor

    Founded in late 2020 Wayra X, made its first investment in an Israeli start-up in its first year with a $1.6 million pre-seed investment into Upword, a Tel Aviv outfit that uses artificial intelligence to summarise texts and raise reading productivity. Upword created an app that cuts 80% of the effort out of wading through modern reading material. If applied. White paper, market reports and corporate presentations it could save billions in lost man hours. This exemplifies the practicality of the Israelis who by necessity have to prioritise their time.


    Wayra X’s parent organisation Wayra is an accelerator that works with over 800 start-ups in 30 countries that have generated $300 million in revenue since 2011. Wayra X was set up to move Telefonica into the mass business-to-consumer markets like 5G, e-health, e-learning, smart home, entertainment, mobility and the future of work, Rio said. With seven hubs in 10 countries, including Brazil, Germany, the UK, Mexico and Spain, Wayra X looks to back entrepreneurs and companies hoping to resolve complex challenges and improve people’s lives by inserting technology into their daily routines.

    Upword is onward

    “The innovation and technology is not always obvious,” said Rubio. With Upword, which is currently only available as a free extension on Google’s Chrome browser, long texts can be cut by 80%. This is “more than just an educational tool for students, it’s for everyone. We loved that it has added value and it’s a tool for everyday use,” said Rubio. How much work time could be cut if verbose market reports were cut to size? “We always keep in mind that we are a telco, but we also want to provide value to customers,” said Rubio.

    Stop wasting time

    Systems like Upword can be implemented for the sake of customers and/or used internally by Telefonica’s over 110,000 employees worldwide. Wayra X also helps the companies it backs to do business directly with Telefonica, said Rubio. The Wayra X head recently spent four days in Israel meeting inventors, entrepreneurs and tech stakeholders in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Wayra X is seeking to deepen its connections across the country and keep tabs on new ventures. “Israel is on the same level of competitiveness as the US but smaller,” said Rbio, “so the level of conversation and the quality of the startups is interesting.”

    Top tier deals

    To access top-tier deals, Wayra X and Telefonica will have to “act fast and not behave like a typical corporate player [because] the speed of the ecosystem [in Israel] is crazy,” said Rubio, adding that deals in Israel can closing in as little as 72 hours. Europeans are too slow and lack practicality. “We’ll have to adapt our way of working,” said Rubio. The Wayra X chief said she works closely with Start-Up Nation Central, a non-profit organisation that connects global businesses, governments, and ecosystems to Israel. Wayra X and the Azrieli College of Engineering in Jerusalem (JCE) are to fly Israeli students fly to Madrid for the South Summit 2022 on June the 8th, an innovation conference for entrepreneurs and investors.

    New ideas

    The rationale is for Wayra X is to identify new ideas to look into and ventures to invest in. “Currently, we are looking to detect new areas for new divisions, such as the metaverse,” said Rubio in reference to the world of interconnected virtual communities where people can meet, work, and play, using a range of devices like virtual reality headsets, augmented reality glasses, and smartphone apps. Israeli companies such as Epic GamesRoblox and The Glimpse Group are already exploring the Metaverse. Wayra X is now looking to add two to three Israeli start-ups to its investment portfolio by the end of the year, Rubio told The Times of Israel.