BT has confirmed the existence of Brightstar, a technology incubator it launched behind closed doors in April.
Harry Berry, head of Brightstar, told vnunet.com that the firm was a corporate incubator that gave BT staff an entrepreneurial setting to develop their ideas. Brightstar has 11 companies under its wing with another that has already flown the nest.
BT, which typically has a 30 to 40 per cent stake in the startups when they receive their first round of funding, acts as a corporate father figure matching companies to a 'club' of venture capitalists (VCs) that provide management advice as well as funds.
"These are not dotcoms, where VCs back 10 knowing that eight will fail," said Berry. "They are technology companies based on very strong patents, planned to have a minimum market capitalisation of £100m after three years, and I want all of them to succeed. We're not in the business of spinning off lame ducks."
A typical example of the BT/VC mix is Truth, the first of the fledgling companies to leave its Brightstar base. A joint venture with 3i, BT supplied the chief technology officer and 3i the chief executive to join the three original members of staff.
The incubator could earn BT billions of pounds if the companies float or are sold off at a time when the telco is re-structuring its business to try and head off City-led criticism.
Berry also said that some firms may be brought back into the BT fold at a later date, having been developed by Brightstar to cut through BT's bureaucracy and speed up the research and development process.
The venture is based at Adastral Park near Ipswich, formerly known as Martlesham, and provides accommodation and back-office functions as well as funds and management advice.
Analysts estimate that the venture could be worth £2bn over the next three years. All but a handful of the patents on which the firms are launching are owned by BT, Berry said.
City investors have previously criticised the telco for failing to capitalise on its technologies.
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