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Steve Baxter’s Startup Catalyst is back to give 20 young Aussie entrepreneurs the trip of a lifetime to Silicon Valley


Co-working community River City Labs recently announced that applications are now open to be part of this year’s Startup Catalyst, an annual sponsored mission to Silicon Valley for 20 young budding entrepreneurs in Queensland’s tech start-up scene. This 2015 edition will take place from 28 September to 7 October 2015.

Following the huge success of the inaugural mission in 2014, Startup Catalyst is back for a second year aiming once again to give rise to Australia’s next batch of globally successful tech entrepreneurs.

Fronted by Brisbane’s very own Steve Baxter, ‘Shark’ on Australia’s Shark Tank, the ten-day mission will immerse 20 lucky Queenslanders in Silicon Valley’s rich culture of high-growth entrepreneurship.

They will visit the offices of the big boys of tech such like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Apple, attend networking events with start-up founders and student entrepreneurs and also take part in educational events to arm them with a thorough understanding of exactly what is involved in launching a globally successful tech start-up.

The participants will also get to meet with fellow Australians who are already running start-ups in the Valley. How cool is that? That’s like when you find your cousin at your new boarding school!

What is the inspiration behind Startup Catalyst?

River City Labs founder and Startup Catalyst’s Mission Leader, Steve Baxter, said the program has the potential to kick-start and grow the ideas of Queensland’s budding tech start-up entrepreneurs.

“We only have to turn to the results of last year’s mission to see what kind of new talent the Valley can bring to life,” he remarked.

On how exactly he got the idea for Startup Catalyst, Steve told Anthill, “Simply put, Australia does not have enough technically competent people willing to launch their own start-up.”

“Startup Catalyst is all about encouraging and equipping young, budding entrepreneurs with the confidence and wit needed to grow into global start-up players.”

“There is a lot to learn from the Silicon Valley – some of the world’s best success stories hail from there – so the mission is all about exposing individuals to this culture and fostering a rejuvenated entrepreneurial spirit to bring back home,” he added.

Here’s one who went for 2014 Startup Catalyst

2014 Startup Catalyst alumnus Alex Ghiculescu started Tanda with three friends in 2012 because they wanted to make it easier for a bar they liked to pay their staff.

Three years on and they have done exactly that for them, and over 10,000 other Aussies. Tanda produces time and attendance software that makes it easier for businesses with 25 to 500 staff to pay them staff under an award or EBA.

The Brisbane-based start-up makes time clocks, rostering software, and timesheeting systems that instantly interpret pay agreements to fast-track complex pay arrangements.

Alex says Startup Catalyst was such an eye-opening experience for the Tanda team.

“We took away sound, expert advice and hugely benefited from mixing with both sides of the tech spectrum – from those experts at Google and Facebook to fellow entrepreneurs sitting in the same boat as us at the start-up related events in Silicon Valley,” he said.

Alex also says he learned a lot about the history of the Silicon Valley ecosystem, the impacts of a vibrant culture on building big companies, the role that government plays, and the quality of the 20 young people from Queensland that he went with.

In fact, he wrote some more about his Startup Catalyst experience here.

As far as how they have applied the lessons from Startup Catalyst at Tanda, Alex told Anthill, “Since last November we have focused a lot more on making Tanda a really fun place to work, we’ve also been trying to differentiate our product from competitors more. We’ve done this by specifically focusing on complex awards and EBAs that are the hardest and most confusing to pay right”

Who can sign up for Startup Catalyst?

The program will accept applications from young people who meet the following criteria:

  • Aged between 18 and 25
  • Reside in Queensland
  • Have coding skills
  • Have an interest in entrepreneurship
  • Willing to share their new experiences with the wider community upon return

Those selected will be provided with return airfares from Brisbane, travel, accommodation, group meals and participation in all relevant events.

Any interested candidates from Universities, TAFEs, incubators and co-working spaces, or with their own start-up ideas are invited to apply.

Formal IT qualifications are not required, although participants will be asked to demonstrate that they have sufficient technical skills to build a usable product such as a website, app or game.