Telecoms are funding virtual reality and IoT startups as they look to expand offerings and provide connectivity for next-gen products.
The telecommunications industry is growing increasingly dynamic as a host of technologies, including IoT devices, connected cars, big data, and AR/VR, begin to redefine what connectivity and media consumption mean. To keep up, big telecoms are investing in startups, stepping up their M&A activity, and expanding their offerings. For example, Verizon recently bought Yahoo!, AOL, and connected fleet startup Telogis, while Comcast announced it’s launching a wireless service next year.
We used CB Insights’ Business Social Graph, which shows how investors and target companies are interrelated, in order to analyze where some of the top players in mobile, broadband internet, and cable are striking deals.
Specifically, we analyzed the investment activity of the following 20 telecom corporations and corporate venture arms (including corporates that provided cable TV service or telecommunications infrastructure), which were the 20 most active dealmakers since 2014:
- Axiata Digital Innovation Fund
- Comcast Ventures
- Deutsche Telekom Strategic Investments
- KDDI Open Innovation Fund
- Liberty Global Ventures
- Nippon Venture Capital
- Nokia Growth Partners
- Orange Digital Ventures
- SingTel Innov8
- SoftBank Group & Softbank Ventures Korea
- Swisscom Ventures
- Telefonica Ventures
- Telstra Ventures (logo reads as T Ventures)
- TELUS Ventures
- Time Warner Investments
- Verizon & Verizon Ventures
Click on the graph to enlarge.
Some interesting takeaways from analyzing the graph above:
- Investments span e-commerce, connectivity & networks, virtual reality, IoT platforms, financial software, voice interfaces, microprocessors, and big data platforms.
- Since 2014, the most-active large telecoms tracked in our graphic have made 35 investments in IoT companies (15 of which to industrial IoT startups), and 32 investments into fintech. These were the top two categories for large telecom investments into private companies.
- After IoT and fintech, the next most popular category was digital health, which saw 20 investments since 2014.
- Next, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) saw 14 deals, 8 of which were made by Comcast Ventures.
- There were also 11 investments to auto tech companies.
- Docusign and NextVR were the only companies that saw a three-way overlap among the selected telecom investors, each having three separate backers from the list above.
- Active private market investors like Nokia Growth Fund and Verizon had no overlap with the other most-active telecoms.
- Since 2014, Comcast Ventures has been the most active dealmaker among major telecoms, with over 90 deals. Many of Comcast’s investments are aligned with their core business, with recent deals in cybersecurity (Bay Dynamics, BitSight Technologies), news video streaming (Cheddar), and virtual reality (Kite & Lightning, NextVR). Some bets appear to have far less strategic value, like recent deals in fintech space (credit marketplace Camino Financial), digital health (concierge service Accolade), high-end travel luggage (Away), and key copying kiosks (KeyMe). While these may seem diverse and risky compared to the typical corporate venture arm, Comcast is likely positioning itself to be the connectivity provider for these next-generation IoT products and software-enabled systems in healthcare and finance.
- The next most-active telecoms were Nokia Growth Partners and Softbank Group, with around 40 deals each.
- Digital contracts developer Docusign saw investment from three different telecoms: Deutsche Telekom Strategic Investments, Comcast Ventures, and Australia-based telecom Telstra Ventures.
- Live events-focused VR platform NextVR also saw 3-way overlap from TimeWarner Investments, Comcast Ventures, and Orange Digital Ventures.
- Network-focused big data startup CENX saw investments from both Verizon Ventures and Ericsson.
- Guavu, a big data platform targeting communications providers, saw backing from Liberty Global Ventures and Singtel Innov8.
- Telefonica Ventures and Liberty Global Ventures both invested in voice interface maker Expect Labs.
- IoT and M2M platform Actility was backed by Orange Digital Ventures and Swisscom Ventures.
- Radio technology developer Kumu Networks received a co-investment from Deutsche Telekom Strategic Investments and Verizon Ventures.
- Quantenna Communications, a semiconductor maker for Wi-Fi systems, saw investments from Swisscom, Telefonica, and telecom Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (not shown in the graphic).
- Connected lock and doorbell system August Home was backed by Comcast Ventures and KDDI Open Innovation Fund.
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