Telecom launches 'incubator'

Amidst news of massive job cuts, Telecom is sprinkling something more positive into the mix with the launch of its new business incubator called Digital Ventures.

The initiative sees the telco investing in high growth business opportunities through partnerships and investments, with successful ideas either rejoining the Telecom mothership or being spun off as separate businesses entities.

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A new team is being formed to manage Digital Ventures, headed by former chief product officer Rod Snodgrass.

Digital Ventures falls into chief executive Simon Moutter's grand strategy for a more agile and responsive Telecom with new sources of revenue, says Snodgrass.

"There's a lot of noise about cost and labour reduction. It's no secret we need to make our core business more competitive,"  he says.

"We see new lines of business and partnerships as one of the way of doing just that."

Snodgrass is careful not to throw around the word 'incubator' too lightly. 

"It's not an Icehouse as such," he says.

"We don't want to take a venture capital approach but we're definitely interested in investing and partnering with other businesses, especially when there's capability where we think we might be the natural owner."

He says Telecom is basing its particular model on what it's seen in overseas carriers, giving the example of Spanish telco giant Telefonica which runs several accelerator programmes in the countries it operates in.

Snodgrass says areas of particular interest are financial services, advertising and entertainment. Telecom's network has a treasure trove of valuable data which would interest advertisers if mined properly (and within the confines of reasonable privacy, Snodgrass is quick to add). Over the top entertainment such as IPTV and other services utilising Telecom's network are also on the list.

"The reality is this is a market is of disruption. Telcos need to play in this space," he says.

It's still early days for Digital Ventures, Snodgrass says his team of five doesn't even have its own office yet. However, he says he's open for business when it comes to finding interesting business ideas to get behind.

"I've got a pretty clear mandate from Simon [Moutter] to get on with it," says Snodgrass.

"We plan to be opportunistic when it comes to finding great ideas that have appeal and resonate with us."