Corporate investors shied away from big funding rounds for telecoms startups, with the value of deals down to $2.42bn in 2021 from $5.14bn the year before.

Increased 5G investment would come as a welcome boost for the telecoms sector as corporate investors were cautious about investing in telecoms startups last year. The value of telecoms-related startup deals involving a corporate backer dropped more than 50% last year from $5.14bn in 2020 to $2.42bn for 2021. The number of deals was down only 10% — from 21 to 19 deals, but investors were clearly focused on the small-ticket end of the market. The biggest deal was the $300m series F fundraise by Plume, a US-based online communication software developer. The SoftBank-led round valued the company at $2.6bn. Founded in 2015, Plume has developed an artificial intelligence-driven platform that helps internet service providers improve their customers’ home wifi connection speed while optimising cybersecurity, access and parental controls and internet-of-things security. In the full telecoms report: 5G starts to pull telecoms sector out of investment doldrums (free to read)Web3 is a ‘game changer’ for telecoms says Telefónica Ventures (free to read) Singtel on the hunt for new 5G tech with extra $100m (free to read)For subscribers: What is strategic investing for a telecoms company in 2022?Investments in telecoms startups halved in value last yearTelecoms incumbents part of $50bn worth of exits in 2021A resurgence in telecoms funds?Fundraising by university telecoms spinouts picks upSoftBank creates ripple of job moves in telecoms sector US-based communication satellite builder Kymeta received the next-biggest round, a $84m raise led by private investor Bill Gates and backed by Hanwha Systems, the aerospace technology division of conglomerate Hanwha, and unnamed others. Kymeta is developing flat-panel satellite antennas designed satellite-based mobile and broadband use. The numbers in 2020 had been inflated by the gargantuan $4.5bn investment of Alphabet in Jio Platforms, the digital services spinoff of diversified India-based conglomerate Reliance Industries. The year had also seen a number of large deals, such as the $120m series D round raised by France-based customer support software provider Aircall, which was backed by Deutsche Telekom. Qualcomm, the semiconductor company, was the most active investor into telecoms startups, backing companies like enterprise networking tech developer Celona and mobile customer data provider Embee Mobile. Qualcomm also paid a reported $350m to acquire portfolio company Cellwize, an Israel-based company that has developed a mobile network automation and orchestration platform designed to help mobile network operators accelerate their network deployment. That deal provided a payout for telecoms operators Deutsche Telekom and Verizon, which had been investors in Cellwize, and those two carriers have lost…

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Kaloyan Andonov

Kaloyan Andonov is head of analytics at Global Corporate Venturing.