Newcastle accelerator Slingshot graduates: How they’ve grown and what’s next

Seven founders will pitch their start-ups tonight at the demo event of Newcastle accelerator program Slingshot.


This is the second intake for the program and was specifically focused on students and graduates of program partner the University of Newcastle.


Co-founder Craig Lambert told StartupSmart the dynamic of the 12-week program was notably different this time as half the founders are still at university.


“Accelerators always require the participants to change fast but these guys grew really fast. They didn’t have as much business acumen, but they did have that study ethic,” Lambert says.


One of the key goals of the program is to develop entrepreneurial culture and new jobs in the Newcastle/Hunter region, as it transitions away from a manufacturing and mining economy.


“We focused on uni students because we want to show it’s a career pathway,” Lambert says. “We’re about developing entrepreneurs who can contribute long-term, so even if the current projects don’t take off, they’ll have the skills and the approach to make another idea happen.”


Slingshot invests different amounts of equity capital in the companies depending on their potential and needs. The accelerator is backed by Artesian Ventures.


Accelerator participant Ned McNamee is a third year medical student and the co-founder of Ground Up Medicine, a crowdsourced education website for medical students.


“In medicine, there is a lot of reading the text books and absorbing what’s already known. But with a start-up, we keep having to change our core assumptions and make things up, exploring new ways to achieve the same idea, so it’s definitely been a change of pace,” McNamee told StartupSmart.


The portal is in beta testing with 200 people. It will operate on a subscription model.


There are only 17,000 medical students in Australia, but McNamee says they intend to build out the offering for other degrees such as law (45,000 students) in the coming year.


Deckee co-founder Mike McKiernan was working at a marina for four years before realising a market gap for a Trip Advisor-style service for boating.


“As with most start-ups, it took us a bit to find the core problem in the market even though I knew the industry really well,” McKiernan says. “Challenging our own assumptions has been very rewarding as we moved from our offering further.”


Deckee entered the program as a locations and contact site, but evolved to make the most of the word-of-mouth momentum of the boating industry and the site is now built around reviews and recommendations.


The seven start-ups will pitch for seed round capital this evening to a room of industry and investors. Lambert says all will need runway capital.


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