SingTel Optus is beginning its hunt for a fresh round of start-ups that can help solve some of the telco’s technical challenges.
Applications to be a part of the second round of Innov8 Connect were opened this week, after a successful first round earlier this year that flushed out 14 start-ups that are now working with Singtel and its brands.
One of the 14 in that first round was Australian firm Optmantek, which created software that helps detect major incidents occurring on telecommunications networks. It is “now engaged in proof-of-concept discussions with Optus”.
The Innov8 Connect program is open to start-ups globally, and Singtel Optus has set 14 technical challenges that it wants help with resolving.
Some of these challenges target an extension of the types of capabilities already seen in mobile technology today, such as the use of voice control as an interface for interacting with devices; smart compression techniques for delivering video over mobile networks; and recommender systems for users consuming content over a Singtel-owned network.
Other challenges target further automation and use of machine learning algorithms in Singtel’s core network, or in the network operations of customers, such as those in the retail sector.
Six of the challenges are specific to Optus, while the remaining eight are mainly targeted at its parent Singtel.
Singtel Optus offers up to $73,000 to successful start-ups in its scheme to “test and validate the solutions” on the telco’s own networks.
The telco said it is taking applications for the new round of Innov8 Connect up to the end of October.
The projects it typically runs with shortlisted start-ups last around 12 weeks. Though the telco says it is “not obliged to engage with any of the start-ups at the end of the project … we hope that successful projects will spur collaboration opportunities with the Singtel Group and our partners both in Asia and the rest of the world.”
No equity is required to change hands, though Singtel makes clear that this kind of discussion could occur separately once the Innov8 Connect program runs its course.
Singtel is but one of a number of corporates that have turned to the start-up community in a bid to come up with innovative ways to solve their business problems.
IAG’s Customer Labs project earlier this year revealed the types of challenges faced by big brands in seeking to engage with and incubate start-ups.
“You can’t tell [the start-up] to go through these five stages and do these ten things and have that lead to success,” IAG’s director of strategic initiatives Andrew Stead said.
“What tends to happen is as people build out corporate innovation programs, the start-ups are very successful in being part of the program, but you get to the end of it not necessarily with a proposition that resonates with customers, or one that you can use to drive revenue and growth in [the corporate] organisation.”
Still, it is not dissuading corporates from trying.
This week, health insurer HCF sank $1 million into Curo Technologies, a Victorian start-up that uses sensors to monitor the wellbeing of elderly residents in their homes.
Curo was one of nine businesses to graduate from the 2016 HCF Catalyst programme, an annual health technology accelerator scheme “offering Australian start-ups and growing companies the opportunity to develop and accelerate their businesses, and make a lasting impact in the healthcare industry.”
“HCF is constantly on the search for innovative and disruptive ideas that can improve the wellbeing of our members,” chief strategy officer Sheena Jack said.
“Curo is a great example of this technological innovation, and HCF has a keen interest in not only the business but the greater goal of enabling people to live independently, for longer.”