T-Mobile’s layer cake 5G network is in place — now it needs killer apps to drive widespread interest and adoption, particularly by businesses. So today the carrier is announcing T-Mobile Ventures, an investment fund built to spur development of “transformative 5G products and services” across four key areas: edge computing, security, industrial IoT, and the future of work.
As a new component of T-Mobile’s $40 billion investment in 5G, the fund is a multi-year, multi-million-dollar collaboration with corporate VC firm Touchdown Ventures and augments the carrier’s involvement with incubators such as the 5G Open Innovation Lab and T-Mobile Accelerator. Beyond millions of dollars in financial backing, T-Mobile Ventures is offering portfolio companies with visions of “the next big thing in 5G” access to T-Mobile’s network and engineering expertise, as well as scaled infrastructure to bring their innovations to the mass market.
In essence, T-Mobile Ventures is an acknowledgment that it’s not enough for a 5G carrier to add new radios and network core infrastructure hardware. Winning enterprise and small business customers will require additional capabilities, such as edge computing to dramatically improve server latency, superior security against network threats, and rapid processing of data aggregated from mass arrays of industrial internet of things sensors. Additionally, due to the pandemic, the fund is also backing work-from-home projects that aim to provide next-generation collaborative tools for distributed workforces.
According to senior VP Jason Young, the fund aims to extend 5G network capabilities and will initially focus on broad enabling technologies rather than specific applications like 5G mixed reality. “It’s less about picking a winner in a space like that,” Young told VentureBeat, “and more about ‘How do we enable multiple companies to be successful developing and building on the 5G platform we have?'”
Young notes that while T-Mobile Ventures was in stealth mode before today, it has already made investments in several portfolio companies it’s not yet ready to name. He said it also has enough cash on hand for both initial and follow-on rounds. Initially, the fund is focusing on $2 million to $5 million investments (though it’s authorized to go higher or lower) in companies with minimum viable products, including those with business models T-Mobile could help scale. Early and growth-stage companies interested in the fund can learn more from the Ventures section of T-Mobile’s website.