FROM THE BLOG

Jamie’s Barcelona Diary

Here are Jamie’s articles from the time that he spent running the Wayra UK social media accounts in Barcelona. The first is a hypothetical piece about 4YFN, written four years from now and the subsequent two are present day write-ups. We hope that you enjoy!

Monday 26th February 2022

The Wayra UK team and I have touched down in Barcelona for this years 4YFN conference, where the latest technologies and start-ups will be displayed. I thought I would take a moment to look back over my notes from 4YFN four years ago in 2018 and see how far we have come.

Sprawling over the Placa De Espana and drawing in crowds of 20,000 people over the four days, myself, Sama and Anthea were flying the flag for Wayra UK. The Wayra stand was the the first thing to meet the eye at the main entrance, where we were warmly welcomed by old and new faces from Wayra global. The stand had four areas for our start-ups to set up shop and proudly demonstrate their companies. Josh, of Airtime Rewards, was the first to take to the podium. Now with hundreds more retailers on their roster, the software allows consumers to earn money off their phone bill when shopping at certain establishments. The ease at which this concept can be explained to a busy 4YFN attendee, and the promise of a healthier wallet, meant that Josh’s charisma went down a storm with those that he spoke to. No wonder, then, that today their company is not at 4YFN physically, but is working in their pockets to save money for almost all attendees on their O2 device plans.

I left Josh to it and headed to the GSMA Powering Innovation Summit, where I met and interviewed Jon France. Jon is the InfoSec Director at GSMA and gave our then 21,200 Twitter followers his top three cyber security tips for small businesses. In 2018, our accelerator with GCHQ was halfway through its second cohort and I exploited our links to this at the summit. I am excited to get some fresh takes on the state of cyber security in the UK and generate content for our now 40,000 Twitter followers.

I am looking forward too, to meeting Louise again, who does the social media for 4YFN. In 2018 we had just met and she kindly promoted Wayra UK from their main channel which drew crowds to our stall over the four days.

One of the most interesting moments at the Cyber Security Summit was the “How Data and Cyber Security Can Make or Beak a New Business?” panel with Charles Brookson OBE. Charles led the development of the SS7 Security Algorithm on mobile phones. You can talk to your friends, colleagues and family without anyone else listening in, because of people like this man! In the last four years this technology has advanced rapidly, but his work still remains the pillar on which modern telecommunications stand. And today, too, from Cheltenham to Barcelona, we are still utilising start-ups to place the UK as a leader in world-class cyber security.

One of the most important demographics to protect when using the Internet is young people. The team from SafeToNet were at 4YFN in 2018, debuting their latest advances to their software which stops harmful content from reaching devices used by children. Amongst many features, SafeToNet can disable the camera on a child’s device if they are in a dangerous sexting conversation. The crowd listened intently to SafeToNet CEO Richard Pursey who explained their great work safeguarding children in his three minute pitch.

In 2018, Telefónica Open Future_ Director Miguel Arias had just taken the position a few months prior to 4YFN. Settling swiftly in to his new position as the global head for our innovation division Miguel was in conversation with TV presenter Sara Canals on day two of the conference. Then, and still today, Miguel is embodying the name of the chat at the Nestle stage, which was ‘Challenging the Standard Rules’. It was fantastic to see a packed auditorium for all things Wayra, there truly was not a spare seat! I hope to see the same attendance in the next coming days.

The GSMA General Counsels and CFOs Innovation Reception improves each year. This evening we are invited to attend the event, set at the Bell Recó stately home. I recall the 2018 event at the stunning Law Society of Barcelona. It was an incredible networking event where I followed up with panelists I had met that day. My colleague, Sama and I hopped to the Samipata VC party afterwards and that was the first time that I met the Wayra Spain team. This week will be a great opportunity to see them all again for the fourth year running.

My schooling experience was often quite regimented and careers advice was limited to one teacher going through a pre-determined options sheet in a small office. At YoMo, the Youth Mobile conference, 10-16 year olds are treated to feast of future opportunities. The interactive exhibits are engaging, original and modern. In 2018 I managed to get a Press Pass. I went for 4YFN and ended ups in the future 8 years from now at YoMo! The floor was alive with a thirst for knowledge buzz and I hope I get to attend this year to interview the event Director Jeremy Buckle again, and find out how he is fuelling the next generation of tech stars.

Telefonica sure knows how to throw a party! I hope to follow up with many of the senior people from Telefonica that I first met in 2018. I have seen some of their LinkedIn posts saying that they are attending so I will make sure that the team and I make it to the Telefonica party this year. There is always a great attendance, with tasty canapés, drinks and European dance music fuelling the atmosphere. Hopefully it will be set at the Wayra Spain offices again, which has a great roof terrace. I’ll ask Sama later when I see him.

Mobile World Congress 2022 is set to be even bigger than before. I remember feeling in awe of the gargantuan event when I first attended in 2018. Sprawled over 9 huge halls, which are packed with huge corporate stands, it is a force to be reckoned with. I saw a robot painting a Chinese symbol in 2018, an AI experience that could well have been real life in 2019 and the new Google augmented reality glasses in 2020. Although I did not attend in 2021, I’m hopeful to see the Tesla hover-car in 2022!

I am not sure if there will be any royal presence this year. It all went a bit quiet on that front after I met and interviewed Princess Beatrice of York in 2018. She was fantastic, really bubbly and approachable. I said that I was from Wayra UK and she at once said how much she loved us! I remember that we had done a Pitch@Palace event with her father the night before, so we had a lot to talk about. Beatrice was there promoting the initiative to get more women into tech, which is a value close to our heart. Who knows… maybe this year I will meet the Queen!

YoMo Review

They say that youth is wasted on the young. What I saw at YoMo sure persuaded me otherwise.
The Youth Mobile Conference (YoMo) show floor had a buzz that only excited youth could create. Students, aged 10-16, zipped around and fully immersed themselves in the vast array of technology on display. One exhibit enabled students to become a YouTuber, which they coined as ‘Become as YoMoTuber!’. This modern occupation aspiration was grasped by both hands by the YoMo team, which subsequently grasped the attention of the students. The youth arms of Google (Google for Educacion) and Telefonica (Fundacion Telefonica) also had stands at the conference. Although I did not experience what these were like directly as I was there to do an interview, I don’t think I could have got through the surrounding crowds if I tried!

I was granted a Press Pass by Jason Deign, who dealt with all press enquiries at YoMo. It was fantastic to interview Jeremy Buckle, who knew the ins and outs of what was going on as he is the Event Director. In the two minute interview, which can be found here, Jeremy answered my questions such as as: “At Wayra UK, we live and breathe innovation and entrepreneurship. Do you see YoMo as the first step on a young persons journey to entrepreneurship and specifically the start-up world in general?”

His response perfectly describes the eagerness to learn and succeed that YoMo exuded. Citing Mobile World Congress and 4 Years From Now, Jeremy said “I see this as 8 years from now. It is the first part of that journey”. It would not surprise me if the older teenagers were disrupting the industry in 8 years. Thanks again to the team at YoMo for their help and hospitality in making my trip there a success.

MWC Review

Meet the mammoth Mobile World Congress 2018! Although I could only attend on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday, I left feeling like I had been there a lot longer.

This year, innovation and the dawn of 5G connectivity were key themes. To innovate is to disrupt a market for the better and the majority of exhibits were using 5G as the backbone to making that come to fruition. Always staying one step ahead, MWC championed 5G like a proud parent with their newborn baby. The future of that baby is also unknown, but the promise is there that it will be a bright one. MWC promised attendees much of the same, but it did feel that beneath all the razzmatazz and hoards of cutting edge stands, that we are still far from the future we were told to believe was possible.

The GSMA Women4Tech Summit did however, present a future that left the audience invigorated to make a reality and that the wheels were already turning to put it in place. At Wayra UK, we champion gender equality in tech, with 45% of our start-ups having female founders. At #GSMAW4T I heard the best ways to implement gender equality in tech and met Gene Sanders, the Global Women4Tech Manager at GSMA. I had contacted Gene for an interview prior to meeting, regarding the possibility of interviewing him. Unfortunately due to his manic schedule on his biggest day of the year, this was not possible. However, I did find quite the interviewee later on in the afternoon!

One question from the floor at the panel with Rachael Lashford (Canalys), Caroline Das-Monfrais (EY), Julie Welch (Qualcomm) and Suzi McBride (OneWeb) concerned mixing motherhood with a woman’s career. It was asked, what is some advice to a working woman who wants to advance her career, but motherhood is on the horizon? The panel were quick to acknowledge that they were all mothers who had been there and done it, and the atmosphere in the room felt inclusive and promising. Such advice that was given was:

– You need a support network in place.
– You can have it all, but you can’t have it all at the same time.
– It is very possible to do it.

It was a theme that resonated with the audience and closed the panel optimistically.

Product Lead for Social Good at Facebook, Asha Sharma, also delivered a strong keynote on how we can solve the inequality gap that exists for women. Sharma explained that we need to bring all women online, for internet connection is essential in the modern world. That we need to become heroes girls and women and build tools such as the Sheryl Sandberg founded Lean In. It was a strong call to action from Sharma and Facebook, which she noted is doing a large amount of work to get young girls into work in general and specifically into technology.

When leaving Sharma’s keynote, I noticed that Princess Beatrice was also in the networking area of the GSMA Women4Tech Summit. She kindly agreed to answer an interview question, noting her support for what we do at Wayra in this sector and our work with her father’s organisation, Pitch@Palace. I asked the Princess, why are you supporting women in tech? Her response was that “we need to support education and provide skills to young women, to ensure they have support and a clear pathway to becoming founders of companies and future leaders”. I left the summit knowing that our work at Wayra towards gender equality and the amazing work of companies like those represented on the panels were truly making a difference. In the male dominated world of technology, women must come to the fore and shape the world of tomorrow. The technology industry must be ready to envelop that change, and from what I saw and heard, it most definitely will.

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