Is Adelaide the country’s hottest startup zone or what?
It is not clear that may be true but it does seem like it. The laidback city of 1.2 million, with a relatively higher aging population and a relatively lower share of the young minds has stolen a march over high-tech entrepreneurial hubs such as Sydney and Melbourne in the 2012 ANZ Innovyz Start accelerator program. Five of the 10 startups selected for the high-profile program, modeled on a hugely successful one in the United States, are from Adelaide.
Is there something we didn’t know about Adelaide?
“I suppose the easy answer for why we selected more companies from Adelaide is because we simply had more applications from Adelaide than from any other city in Australia,” said Dr. Jana Matthews, the program’s director and a famed CEO coach. Besides, more people in Adelaide already knew Innovyz and “lawyers and accountants tapped their best companies on the shoulder and encouraged them to apply,” she added.
Matthews, who was part of the original senior team at the U.S.-based Kauffman Foundation’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, believes a similar push from similar groups in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Sydney may have drawn more applications from those cities.
The 10 companies selected for the program, from 130 applicants, are:
• Adelaide Baby Bargains — a free online marketplace for baby and children’s goods; Adelaide
• Be Intent — Online HR solution that measures mindset, staff engagement and delivers measurable productivity improvements; Auckland, NZ
• Captioning Studio — Speech to text, video search, web-based captioning and subtitling, and tools for deaf and hearing impaired; Adelaide.
• Cipher This — Software to automate the creation and integration of puzzles into any author’s original content; Boulder, Colorado, USA
• ConfPlus — Mobile service to facilitate registering, scheduling, networking and communicating at conferences; Madison, Wisconsin, USA and Beijing and Shenyang, China
• Credit Key — A web ‘transaction brokerage’ service that reduces the amount of time between the issue and payment of invoices; Adelaide
• iStudent — Recruitment of international students with on-line search and enrollment, Sydney
• LEAPIN — Cloud-based property management system featuring ‘smartphone room check-in’ and a ‘complete web check-in’ system; Adelaide
• mysupervisoronline.com — On-line resource, support and networking site to assist honours, masters and PhD students; Brisbane
• P2P Agri — Farm business management decision software, Adelaide
Of the 10, seven are from Australia, one from New Zealand and two from the United States. Of the seven Australian firms, five are based in Adelaide.
In the final choice, Adelaide was not the only surprise, according to Matthews.
“After we picked the finalists, we looked at their demographics…(and) were surprised about the percentage who were women and the percentage who were from Adelaide, and the age spread,” she said.
“The ANZ Innovyz START program is the perfect fit for our company at its current stage of development. We have completed R&D and cleared the proof of concept stage,” said Stephen Dunn, CEO of LEAPIN, an Adelaide startup that has built a cloud-based property management system featuring smartphone and web check-ins. “What better way to begin a path of commercialisation than with the support of ANZ Innovyz START, patterned after the number one accelerator program on the planet, and its amazing array of mentors, supporters and sponsors!”
Matthews said applications were judged predominantly on three counts:
* Break-through innovations with the potential to create a large market;
* A team with the potential to commercialize the innovation and quickly grow; and
* Coachable CEOs who are good learners.
Nick Reade, ANZ’s general manager for Small Business, said the program “fits perfectly with ANZ’s commitment to encouraging and fostering more entrepreneurship, innovation and start up businesses in Australia.”
ANZ, Australia’s fourth-largest bank, is sponsoring the program, modeled on the successful format developed by TechStars, which originally started in Boulder, Colorado, and since has galvanized the startup space across the U.S. TechStars boasts a 92% success rate, unprecedented for high-risk technology ventures, and has so far pumped in $126 million into 104 startups.
The program is simple: Pick the most exciting startups, pack its founders into a room for three months and have a team of top-flight mentors provide sage advice. The accelerator program also brings in opportunities for entrepreneurs to pitch at venture capital firms and angel investors, and throws in several other perks. In return, startups part with equity stake.
The 10 successful startups will get up to $18,000 each ($6,000 for each founder), free rent and tuition, besides at least $85,000 in free perks offered by companies such as Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Rackspace and others. The program starts in Adelaide on May 28, with 45 mentors from Australia and around the world.