TECH
01/06/2012 11:47 BST | Updated 01/08/2012 06:12 BST

UK-Based Tech Accelerator Wayra Accepts 16 New Start-Ups Into London Academy

Sixteen UK start-up companies have been selected from 1,000 entrants by the global tech accelerator Wayra to turn their ideas into reality.

Exactly 1,031 ideas were submitted to Wayra, working with O2 and parent company Telefonica, and were whittled down over an intensive application process in London to 31 finalists.

After a final three-day pitch process in front of nine expert judges the winning business ideas were finally accepted into the academy - which is based just off Tottenham Court Road, in the same building as the Huffington Post UK.

The winners receive up to 50,000 euros in investment, while Wayra takes a 10% stake in each business. The UK is Wayra's ninth country, and the London academy is its tenth site.

The UK winners stretch across every area of online innovation, social networking and business.

From a social network to store and timeline your memories, to a tool aiming to replace passwords with pictures, the London hub looks set to become yet another centre of invention in the already growing start-up community.

For the minds behind the accelerator, the real work starts now.

In the academy's drool-inducing open-plan offices - which are filled with giant lamps, blackboard-style wall dividers, vintage leather easy chairs and occasionally a chalk drawing of a dinosaur - Simon Devonshire, European director of Wayra, told the Huffington Post that ideas alone are not enough to succeed in tech.

"You have to have the talent," he said. "An idea itself is not enough."

"I've created six businesses and they are all borne out of the chemistry of the individuals and how they work together."

Gonzalo Martín-Villa, global Wayra director, said that finding good teams was just as difficult as good ideas.

"These are early stage projects... What we don't want are good projects with bad teams," he said. "That is our experience in Latin America, Madrid and Barcelona. It's about finding ideas which develop products and services."

"If the team was put together just for this, that's not good," he added. "If they were old friends or knew each other at university, that's a good signifier."

It is often assumed that the people behind online start-ups tend to be very young, often straight out of university. Not so, Devonshire said. In fact the average age of the applicants to the UK Wayra programme was 32.

But another stereotype - that most start-up entrepreneurs and engineers tend to be men - was unfortunately a little more accurate.

Overall more than 70% of people involved in the Wayra start-ups are male - though that does include Latin America, where the numbers are less equal than in Europe.

"I have a passionate belief that women often make passionate entrepreneurs than man," Devonshire said. "Because of their focus."

"We would love to see more women in Wayra," agreed Martín-Villa.

With start-ups there is always an element of uncertainty - you can have as many interviews and pitches as you like, but ultimately there is no way to tell who is really going to succeed. But Wayra says its businesses already receive more outside investment than internal money - and that it only expects the success of its companies to grow.

"It's all about the pivot," Devonshire said. "Very rarely are great businesses born brilliant at birth, it's nearly always the transition."

Martín-Villa said that Wayra's true role might be yet to be determined.

"Sometimes what we're seeing is the businesses that come into Wayra are different from the ones that come out - and that is great. Because - as we say in Spanish - we put them into the washing machine. That's what we do here."

"We rethink everything."

The winners in full were:

  • Hiyalife Ltd: A new social network to log, store and timeline your memories.
  • CloudBlocks: An 'app store' with tools for businesses to manage servers.
  • Chatterbox Analytics: A tool to help businesses identify and manage online brand advocates and to discover engagement
  • TaskHub: An online community hub and social marketplace to advertise your errands and odd jobs to neighbourhood service providers.
  • MakeLight Interactive: Turns people, via their mobiles, into pixels by creating a giant screen across the crowd at live events.
  • TrueView: A real-time dating app to update information and interact with other users without profiles becoming stagnant.
  • Minicabit.co.uk: A pre-pay, pre-book minicab platform.
  • Insane Logic (MyChoicePad): The MyChoicePad is an app set to reduce the cost of classroom technology by brining language aids to smart technology.
  • Night Zookeeper: An educational game for families and schools, combining drawing and traditional play in a zoo building game.
  • Pollarize.me: A polling application that allows people to survey their friends across their social networks.
  • PixelPin: Pictures replace passwords with this secure pin model for mobile and web services.
  • Six3 Ltd: A platform to make it quicker, easier and cheaper for people to send and share video messages.
  • Blue Butterfly Digital Ltd: An app that allows you to instantly connect to wi-fi networks without fiddly registration processes.
  • 2ndSight: An innovative Smartphone platform that enables blind people to effectively use mobile touch screen technology.
  • Epicurely: A social network to connect people who love food with each other allowing users to build their own online chef persona and gain recognition for their cooking talents.
  • Touchline Solutions: Using smart phone technology to combat the problem of queuing.

The panel judges included venture capitalist and founder of Smarta.com Sha Wasmund, and the CEO of Enternships.com and co-founder of StartUp Britain, Raj Dey