Startups should be 'shepherded,' says Lumina chief

  • Current telecoms ecosystem disadvantages startups
  • ‘Shepherding’ rather than ‘curating’ would help
  • New industry paper highlights the challenges of startups

Telecom startups should be “shepherded” rather than “curated” to give them a better chance of injecting much needed innovation into the telecoms industry, according to Andrew Coward, CEO at Lumina Networks. 

Talking during a Telecom TV panel session, Innovation in the Telecoms Ecosystem Part 2, Coward noted that telcos have investment teams that fund startups, but that this process is known as “curation – as a startup, it makes me feel like an exhibit in the museum.” 

What is needed is “shepherding,” which Coward says he has been lucky enough to have from his telco investors, AT&T and Verizon. 

“It's not sufficient to say ‘We're going to give you capital and go have at it.’ You need the assistance that the large vendors naturally have, because they put teams of 20 or 30 people onto these accounts – minimum.”

Those account teams at the large vendors have the time, people and know-how to “get an order through the system, negotiate a contract, go through the myriad of things that need to happen for your product to actually get to deployment,” notes Coward. Startups need active help with those processes so they can navigate through the maze of dealing with a network operator, he stated.

Those views were echoed and added to by his fellow panellists, Don Clarke, Principal Consultant, Telecom Foresight Consulting, and Mark Cummings, CTO, Orchestral Networks, who discussed other challenges facing technology startups and other ways in which the relationship between telcos and small developers could be made easier. 

Clarke and Cummings are the co-authors of a new paper, Accelerating Innovation in the Telecommunications Arena, which outlines the main challenges facing the industry and suggestsa new approach to collaboration with technology suppliers which eliminates the barriers to participation by smaller more innovative players; for example by simplifying the onerous requirements for procurement, and putting in place payment systems that provide them with more certainties on revenue.”

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The aim of the paper and panel discussions is to stimulate debate and tease new ideas from the industry about new models that might help to avoid what Coward calls “innovation stagnation.” The paper’s authors are keen to receive feedback and get ideas from the industry: You can find their contact details in the paper.

TelecomTV believes this is a critical debate for the industry and will track developments closely, as well as participate in the process of sharing ideas and emerging ecosystem models.

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV

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