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Vodafone's U.S. incubation center bets on startups

Vodafone has set stakes in the Silicon Valley, hoping that the Bay Area's fertile tech soil will bear startup fruit.

What's a mega British wireless telco like Vodafone, with no brand presence in the U.S., doing opening a research and development center in the heart of Silicon Valley? Quite simply following the talent.

Vodafone lifted the lid today on its R&D center, which it will use as an incubation center for helping local startups quickly develop, test, and bring products to market; particularly solutions that give Vodafone a leg up on its competitors back in the UK and elsewhere.

The operator's trans-Atlantic presence may not be as odd as it seems, says Vodafone's Fay Arjomandi, the head of R&D for the U.S. and China, citing that Silicon Valley is still an important crucible for project funding and development. "Even startups are coming from Europe," she told CNET.

Like the other many innovation and R&D centers that have cropped up of late (like Verizon's new San Francisco outpost,) Vodafone's contemporary floor in a hulking-but-quiet quiet office building in pretty, manicured Redwood Shores, Ca. provides office space, monthly events like hackathons, and mobile experts to help startups bring their products to fruition in as few as six months.

While not every idea will make it to any of Vodafone's cumulative 384 million global subscribers, Vodafone is helped in its endeavors by its equity parntership with Verizon Wireless--Vodafone owns almost half--and its deep connections with Verizon's two innovations centers, three more R&D centers in London, and a forthcoming prototyping center in China.

We took a turn around the brand-new space on this opening day. Check out the digs, the replica of Verizon's network, and the center's practical conference room reservation readouts.