Five accelerator programs open for applications

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Five accelerator programs open for applications
Muru-D's Ben Sand.

Are you looking to take your tech-focused startup to the next level? If so, here's a range of accelerator programs across Australia that are looking for applicants right now.

Are you looking to give your innovative technology-focused business a boost? Perhaps you need some help getting an idea off the ground, need some extra support, are looking for some business coaching, or are gearing up to hunt for investment?

If so, it might be worthwhile applying to participate in an accelerator program.

Unlike incubator programs, accelerators run for a clearly defined period – usually between three to six months – and provide entrepreneurs with a range of services including mentoring, office space and resources to give companies a rapid step-change boost.

Many – but not all – are designed to get startups to the point where they’re investor ready.

Here’s a guide to five accelerator programs across Australia that serve a range of industry verticals and are open for applications right now:

1. Telstra Muru-D Sydney

One of the most prominent Australian tech startup accelerators is Telstra’s Muru-D program, which recently opened applications for its fourth Sydney-based cohort.

“The big advantage of Muru-D is that we’ve got a big reach through Telstra’s backing, so we can reach out to a lot of people,” Muru-D Sydney entrepreneur-in-residence Ben Sand told BIT.

“We’ve got the expertise of our mentor network, including one-on-one coaching from myself as someone who started out in Australia and went on to found a company of scale in the US.

“The cash on offer is up to $60,000 from Muru-D itself, up to $75,000 from the Bardama Fund and another $15,000 from our mentors, so that’s a total of up to $150,000 available.”

According to Sand, along with leveraging Telstra’s global corporate reach, there are a number of other benefits that set the six-month accelerator program apart.

“Muru-D has a high level of support than other programs. You have five full-time equivalent people supporting 10 startups, which is a much, much higher level of support than most programs get. As a result, we can deal with a much higher level of diversity in people,” he said.

“We can bring in people at quite an early stage all the way up to people who have already raised a few million dollars and help them as well. So it’s quite a tailored program and it offers quite a high level of support.”

Sand notes his personal background as a co-founder of Silicon Valley-based augmented reality company Meta means he’s particularly well placed to assist with anyone developing a new computer vision technology.

Muru-D is keen to attract startups that are working on the “really big stuff” rather than “simple, safe layers of automation”.

“We’re inviting the big-picture thinkers and people with a drive to make a big difference in the world. Beyond that broad area of computer vision it’s all about the vision of the founders, and that’s what we’re looking for this time around,” Sand said.

“We want space technologies, we want new types of power, we want really interesting new technologies that could make a big difference, and we’re willing to put in the extra effort to get through the extra levels of difficulty to make those companies work out.”

Applications for the intake close on November 4, and Sand is very firm that due to the number of applications expected there will be no extensions given for late applications.

Once submissions close, the top 50 applicants will be interviewed with the best 25 will be invited to a bootcamp weekend running from December 3 to 5.

“From there we’ll make our selection offer, the 10 companies we select will have around a month and a half to get themselves in order, and then the program begins at the end of January,” Sand said.

“It runs for six months, and during that time the startups will be intensively coached; they’ll be matched with mentors; they’ll have chances to access our networks for funding, customers and staff; they’ll be a trip to America in the middle where they’ll get exposure to our contacts over there.

“Mick [Liubinskas], who previously ran the Sydney program is now in the US as our alumni portfolio manager to give us even more presence over there.

“At the end of the program is the presentation night and demo night where the startups will get to pitch to investors, press and the community.”

Sand has a number of tips for entrepreneurs looking to apply, including to make sure your whole team appears in any videos you submit, as well as to be “fresh and personable”. He adds that getting your submission in early will give judges more time to consider your application.

“The most important thing for me is that I want to see the real you, I want to see what’s keeping you up at night, because if you’re going to work extremely hard on something for many, many years, we want to see that you have the drive and care enough about the problem to actually solve it,” he said.

“A lot of people want to give a fairly formal and stiff presentation, and almost have to put on a suit to talk to some investors. Please don’t talk to us like that. Talk to us like you’re at a dinner table, be passionate, be natural, because that’s what’s going to get us excited.”

Click here to find out more about Muru-D and apply for the program.

2. BlueChilli SheStarts

The female-focused SheStarts program is looking to find, fund and accelerate 10 new tech startups led by women, with a broader goal of “changing the face of the startup economy”.

“With SheStarts, what we want to do is invest in female-led businesses that are really tapping into disruptive opportunity and tackling big challenges in the world,” SheStarts director Nicola Hazell told BIT.

“But we then want to share those stories with a web-series documentary and a big national campaign to really show women that tech and entrepreneurship, and the spaces around innovation and creative new businesses is a space where women can lead and drive our economy forward.

“We’re tackling the big issue of women are really grossly underrepresented in the tech startup space – that they make up less than five percent of funded tech startup founders.”

The accelerator program is run by BlueChilli, which will provide the incubator space in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne to be made available for successful applicants.

“BlueChilli work with the 93 percent of entrepreneurs who are non-technical – the majority of the population who aren’t sitting around coding on a Saturday night, but have great ideas for using technology to leverage the opportunity for creating great companies,” Hazell said.

“BlueChilli are a startup and innovation group who offer a full-time advisory group who are themselves serial entrepreneurs or investors and have experience in building startups outside our company and work with our company to build those startups with them.

“We have a full in-house team if tech experts – back end, front end, designers and product managers who can be accessed by the startups to build their product.”

Applications for SheStarts are open until October 31. After that, there will be a two-week period where the applications will be assessed, with up to 1000 people expected to apply.

“From there, we’ll choose the top 20 ideas to come into a rapid validation bootcamp for two weeks at the end of November. At the bootcamp, we’ll be pressure-testing the ideas and the founders themselves to really get them ready to pitch to the judges,” Hazell said.

“At that point, we’ll have a full day of closed-door judging and a presentation event at the start of December where the top 10 will be announced, and those 10 women will each receive $100,000 each in pre-seed capital, the runway to get started, and a place in the SheStarts accelerator.”

During the program itself, the entrepreneurs will work with the BlueChilli team to build their businesses, learn how to be a great CEO, and get access to technical support to help develop their products.

“They can then launch hose companies with amazing corporate partners ready to be distributors, pilots, information sources, mentors, and then our then our advisory group of people who will support the women through the journey,” Hazell said.

Click here to find out more about SheStarts and apply for the program.

3. STC Australia’s MedTech’s Got Talent

For startups working on a hardware or software innovation with a health or medical focus, STC Australia’s MedTech’s Got Talent program is open for applications until November 11.

“We’re medtech focused. We try to be as broad as we possibly can, but if it’s not medtech – a medical device, some sort of medical technology, lab equipment or instrumentation that’s relevant to medtech, bionics, e-health, health IT or a medtech service – then it’s not eligible,” STC Australia chief operating officer Laura Faulconer told BIT.

The program is now in its third year having graduated 10 companies so far, according to Faulconer, with an 80 percent survival rate and more than $8.8 million raised by its graduates.

It is open for everything from napkin-sketch ideas to products that are ready for clinical testing and transfer to manufacture, although applicants need to be based in Victoria in order to apply.

“We don’t care what stage it’s at, as long as it’s a true early-stage startup. So they can’t have raised more than $50,000 in equity investment, and it needs to be reasonably early stage, so if they already have a product in the market then it’s not eligible,” Faulconer said.

“Currently it’s restricted to Victoria, and to be eligible they have to either be a student at a Victorian university or an alumni within the past five years – if they went to an interstate university but now live in Victoria that’s fine too.

“Basically we’re trying to target first time entrepreneurs and early-stage startups. You’re also eligible if you’re faculty or staff at a research institute or hospital, but again we’re looking for fledgling entrepreneurs.”

Launched in 2005, STC Australia is a not-for-profit entrepreneurship support initiative for advanced technologies based in the outer-eastern Melbourne suburb of Scoresby.

“We have an incubator space with around 40 companies – that’s around 220 people – and they’re all in the advanced technology space. And we also have a coworking space that was Australia’s first advanced tech coworking space,” Faulconer said.

“We also occasionally do consultancy projects with governments and companies as once-offs. But right now our flagship program is called MedTech’s Got Talent.”

Faulconer said most of the participants in MedTech’s Got Talent are first-time entrepreneurs, and nearly none of them have pitched for equity investment before.

“It’s a pretty straightforward application process. We ask a few structured questions so we can get a feel for what the opportunity is and compare apples for apples responses, and we ask them to submit an executive summary,” she said.

“Then we screen the applications through a panel and invite the top 30-ish companies to a rapid fire round. Those companies have 50 seconds to pitch to a panel of seasoned product development mentors.

“These are engineers and developers at Victoria’s leading product development companies, and these mentors choose pick two teams each to mentor and take through to the final round.

“We use that as a filter, because these people have seen dozens, hundreds or thousands of early-stage advanced technology opportunities, and they know what a good product idea looks like even if it’s in rough shape. So they know what products to take through.”

There will be a series of workshops to help them get ready for the gala dinner pitch, and at that dinner they have three minutes pitching to a panel of industry experts and early stage investors, Faulconer said.

“Those judges will choose five teams to give $20,000 each to, as well as entry to our six-week accelerator program, where we get them packaged and ready to pitch for seek investment. At the end of that six weeks, we have a closed door investor pitch activity,” she said.

“The best overall company at that closed-door investor pitch gets an additional $40,000, and all of the money we provide has no impact on equity.”

Click here to find out more about MedTech’s Got Talent and apply for the program.

4. Ilab Germinate

For staff and faculty at the University of Queensland, ilab is running its ninth Geminate accelerator program, with applications closing in mid-November.

The director of ilab, Bernie Woodcroft, told BIT program has been running twice a year since 2012, which makes it one of the most experienced accelerators in the country, and that a total of 54 companies which have graduated through the program.

“We’re working as part of the University of Queensland and it will be an accelerator focused on supporting students, researchers and alumni from the university. It will be running over the summer period,” Woodcroft said.

“It’s a no equity accelerator, which means we’re not taking an equity cut from the startups. And it will leverage ilab’s extensive network of mentors, investors and collaborators to really take these ideas.

“It’s an earlier stage accelerator that helps people iron out their ideas and help them to get traction in the marketplace… We’re really trying to make sure that outcomes for the university are very startup and industry engaged.”

Click here to find out more about Germinate and apply for the program.

5. Innovyz waste and recycling technology commercialisation

Innovyz, which was recent featured in our article on South Australia’s Tonsley precinct, has recently opened applications for its waste and recycling technology commercialisation program.

The next cohort of the intensive nine-month program will look at technologies that can reduce waste, enhance recycling or return waste products to a resource.

Focusing on “ideas that matter” the program will build process and company structure around the ideas of its participants, and assemble teams for rapid commercialisation.

It is open to individuals, startups, companies looking to do a spinout, researchers, as well as research centred both outside or inside a university.

“The next one is around industry waste and recycling. And I don’t mean waste as in rubbish, I mean waste affecting all industries including in electronics, waste in water – every industry needs to get better at waste and recycling,” Innovyz chairman Philip Vafiadis said.

Click here to find out more about Innovyz and apply for the program.

Do you know of an accelerator program that we’ve missed? Let us know.

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