Wayra will help startups across the UK so they don't feel 'pressured' to come to London

GCHQMinistry of DefenceGCHQ in Cheltenham.

London-based startup accelerator Wayra — operated by Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica, which runs O2 — is expanding across the UK next year, with new programmes launching in Oldham, Birmingham, and Cheltenham.

As a result of the expansion, the accelerator expects to support three times as many companies, going from 17 in 2016 to 50 in 2017.

The new programmes in Oldham, Birmingham and Cheltenham are being referred to as pre-acceleration services. They differ from Wayra’s established accelerator in London because they don’t offer direct investment (Wayra backs startups in London with funds of up to £40,000 in exchange for equity).

What the new programmes do offer, however, is mentoring, coaching, office space, and access to corporate and investor networks. There is also the possibility of bringing companies into the main programme investment once they have been through pre-acceleration

In total, 24 companies will be hosted in new facilities in Oldham and Birmingham over a six month period, while six companies will join the new GCHQ Cyber Security accelerator in Cheltenham for three months.

Gary Stewart, director of Wayra UK and Telefónica Open Future, said in a statement: “It’s become abundantly clear that not everyone feels the benefits of technology and entrepreneurship. Our goal is to democratise entrepreneurship by ensuring that people from all around the UK are able to launch their startups without being pressured to come to London.

“Our new programmes allow us to help businesses in the Midlands and Greater Manchester much more effectively, generating jobs and economic growth, while we continue to also support London’s tech ecosystem.

“In addition, our new accelerator with GCHQ will encourage the next generation of cyber security startups, with the ambition that people will start to see the UK as the cyber capital, just as it is the fintech capital.”

Wayra has invested in 150 startups since launching in 2012. It claims that those businesses have gone on to raise $110 million (£87 million) between them, with $20 million (£16 million) of that in 2016. Some 80 Wayra graduates have also partnered with Spain-based telco Telefónica, be it through a trial or a more official contract.

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