A group of former Microsoft, Fairfax and Network Ten executives have joined forces to launch Foundry, an incubator that will co-found and invest in digital start-ups.
The Sydney-based business is spearheaded by Dale McCarthy, former chief marketing officer at Fairfax Digital.
McCarthy has founded the incubator alongside Paul Tobin, a serial entrepreneur who built Aussie Farmers Direct, and former Fairfax and NineMSN executive David Anderson.
The trio have been joined on a consultancy basis by Paul Russell, formerly head of digital media at Network Ten, and former Microsoft consumer marketing boss Lisa Hickson. Russell and Hickson are expected to eventually join Foundry full-time.
Foundry will act as a “hands on” investor in start-ups, taking on new ventures as well as smaller spin-offs of major brands.
The incubator already has a “significant minority stake” two businesses and will be looking to build a portfolio of start-ups over the coming year. It is also looking at launching its own start-ups.
Initially, Foundry will focus on three sectors for its investments – crowdsourcing, eCommerce and travel.
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McCarthy says that Foundry will have a very active involvement in the start-ups it backs.
“We will bring in expertise to grow the businesses – we won’t be passive like VCs,” she says. “We are coming on board as co-founders who will get the business up and running.”
“I’ve pulled together a high calibre team that all have the same belief in the digital industry and realise that it is evolving very quickly. Having been at Fairfax for 12 years, I realise that every company has legacy issues. There are opportunities for people like us to do it in a pure way.”
“We’ve been backed by high net worth individuals. The problem hasn’t been a shortage of capital, its investor understanding of the sector. We will be the filter for the investors.”
“The smart start-ups will realise that they can’t do everything and they need help with certain things. You can’t just sit in your garage and tinker away with no money. Very few businesses are successful doing this. It’s better to have strategic partners.”
McCarthy adds that finding the right start-ups “won’t be a problem” due to the team’s network of contacts.