Global advertising agency Publicis Groupe and mobile giant France Télécom-Orange have pledged to invest €150m in digital start-up projects across Europe.

The fund will provide seed capital and early-stage investment of up to €1m for fledgling companies, and later-stage financing for more established companies in France and Europe of up to €15m per project.

This comes just weeks after Matthew Key, former chairman and CEO of Telefónica O2 Europe, told delegates at Wired 2011 that the company’s newly created digital unit would consider investing in a project if it was considered to be mutually beneficial: “We might fund an idea if we can both do well out of it. We are looking for investment opportunities.”

Times have moved far beyond price being the key differentiator for those choosing to stay with, or move operator. Now, it’s all about value-added services, something we’ve seen the rollout of over the past few years.

Both this fund, and the creation of Telefónica Digital show that at least some within the mobile space are now actively looking outside of their own walls for new sources of talent and innovation. 

Orange and O2 seem to be setting the pace in this sense, with Orange announcing the roll out of its QuickTap NFC payment service with Barclays back in May, and Key now also stating that his company is also focusing on this area.

O2 also announced the creation of a ‘business intelligence’ team yesterday that will centralise all of its data and inform marketing and NPD. This is likely to be a reaction to the launch of location-based ‘deals’ app Priority Moments, since the opportunity it creates to use customer behaviour to better inform cross-channel communication.

In terms of Publicis’ role in this; you could switch out its name for that of Omnicom or WPP quite easily, there’s nothing particularly unique about its inclusion. It’s just a smart move to align the network alongside blossoming new digital businesses, and shines even more of a light on the potential for growth within the online marketing, advertising and media industries across Europe.