BT: Unleashing the Creativity of Start-Ups

Published on 12 Sep 2018, under Discovering Start Ups

Sandeep Raithatha, Head of Open Innovation at BT, is a judge in the CW Discovering Start-Ups final and outlines the telecommunication giant's approach to entrepreneurship in advance of the event.

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At BT, we can trace our roots back to the very first communications company, the Electric Telegraph Company, founded in 1846. For more than 170 years, technologies pioneered by BT have truly built the modern world, and in that time, we’ve never stopped innovating and it is at the heart of what we do today.

We have long realised that the biggest and brightest ideas stem from relatively small beginnings. We’ve seen how these concepts, once developed and refined, can go on to help transform the way people work or live their lives.

BT’s innovation scouting team scans for these ideas and expertise generated by third party organisations including venture capitalists, start-up companies, traditional and new-style telcos located around the globe.  In fact, we now have a presence in all the world’s innovation hot-spots including Silicon Valley, Israel, Japan, Korea, India, China and throughout Europe.

And in the heart of ‘tech-city’ in London along with our partner TechHub, we have established the BT Infinity Lab programme, providing a front door for BT’s engagement with entrepreneurs and the start-up community - across the UK and beyond.

The programme enables BT to unleash the creativity and energy of the start-up community in a structured and highly-potent fashion. It formalises our approach to identifying and amplifying the inventive ideas generated by free-thinking entrepreneurs. We then use the power of collaboration to take those bright ideas to unexpected and exciting places.

The programme run regular competitions where we invite start-ups and entrepreneurs to submit their ideas around a core business theme. Shortlisted finalists are invited to pitch to a panel of BT and industry experts. One or more winners will then have the opportunity to work with BT for six months to further develop and test their product.

BT Infinity Lab typically runs three competitions annually. One interesting case study is the Infinity Lab competition run with BT Sport in January 2016. The premise of the competition was to identify new production technologies that would benefit fans and viewers. Seenit, a London based start-up, won the competition and given the opportunity to work with the BT Infinity Lab to trial and test their product with BT Sport. Seenit’s vlogging solution allows BT Sport to turn football fans with smartphones into a film crew and pundits. Whether the fans are at the match or watching at home, they can use the Seenit App on their phone to record their point of view and send it through to the production office for broadcast. The finessing was successful and Seenit was integrated into BT Sport’s Premier League Tonight show in time for the new season.

The Infinity Lab programme represents a major segment of our innovation strategy. It’s designed to bring new and exciting capabilities into the company and has been able to find and develop some fantastic new technologies, services and apps which have helped to augment our products and services. 

If you have start-up or idea and would like to work with BT get in touch - infinitylab@bt.com.

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