Optus and Singapore telco parent SingTel have launched a seed funding program that will back up to eight Australian start-ups with a potential $250,000 each.
The initiative, called the Optus Innov8 Seed Program, will provide chosen tech start-ups with cash, mentoring, networking and co-working spaces.
Optus refused to put a dollar figure on the overall fund that will back the program, nor an idea of the standard equity stake sought in each business. However, the scheme is geared to offering successful start-ups a pathway to the Asian market, via SingTel’s involvement.
The partnership will include a number of Australian incubators, which will host pitch days and other support to start-up hopefuls.
Fishburners in Sydney and York Butter Factory in Melbourne have been selected to host regular events to connect start-ups with industry experts and potential investors.
Other accelerators are also involved, with Pollenizer, AngelCube and Pushstart all backing the scheme.
It’s expected that two pitching events will take place this year, with winners gaining funding and potentially access to SingTel’s marketplace, which includes 445 million mobile customers.
Austin Bryan, vice president, digital communities and ecosystems, SingTel and Optus, says: “We have launched the Seed Program to further accelerate digital innovation in Australia, help keep talent on our shores and make it easier for start-ups to source local funding and support in the early development stages.”
“As Australia moves into a digital economy, we believe we can add the most value to this community by providing access to funding and partnering with leading start-up co-working spaces and incubators to build a support network and co-investment opportunities.”
“We’ll continue to evolve the program based on feedback and hope it will give local talent an incentive to grow their business within Australia, and serve as a stepping stone to venture capital funding.”
“There’s not enough activity like this in Australia. There’s heaps of talent here but a lot of it leaks offshore unnecessarily. We want to be an authentic participant in helping this situation.”
Edgar Hardless, CEO, SingTel Innov8, says that the business was looking to add to its start-up investments, which includes Australian venture Dealised.
“There’s good talent here and we are keen to add something to the ecosystem that is currently missing,” he says. “We want to add real value. But we aren’t a charity and we won’t throw our money around – start-ups have to demonstrate their worth.”