Aussie entrepreneur picked for Silicon Valley “Big Brother house”

A Sydney entrepreneur has been named the local ambassador for Blackbox Connect, a Silicon Valley co-working space and boarding house for start-ups, after spending two weeks there.


Michael Overell is the co-founder of Sydney-based business RecruitLoop, an online recruitment platform offering employers flexible recruitment support.


Overell recently spent a month in the San Francisco Bay Area, including two weeks at Silicon Valley mansion Blackbox Connect, described by Overell as a “big brother house for start-ups”.


Blackbox Connect was founded by Silicon Valley veteran Fadi Bishara, whose professional background is as a recruiter for fast-growth start-ups including Zynga, SixApart and Tapulous.


According to Overell, Bishara launched Blackbox in order to “inject global start-ups into the ecosystem, mindset and ‘magic’ of Silicon Valley”.


The first Blackbox Connect program was held in November last year. RecruitLoop attended the second program, held last month.


In light of his participation in the program, Overell has been named the local ambassador and referral partner for other Australian start-ups that may wish to apply.


“RecruitLoop was the first Australian start-up at Blackbox,” Overell says.


“I was asked to be the Australian ambassador for Blackbox, to build the network down here. I’ll be working with local start-ups keen to attend future programs.”


Overell says unlike Startup House – a co-working space with accommodation – Blackbox is more of an accelerator, structured as a two-week program of workshops, speakers and events.


The Blackbox Connect website says while the program agenda is “very packed”, there is plenty of time “to keep your hand on the pulse of your start-up and do what needs to be done”.


“The mornings here are for you to tend to your business, have meetings or connect with your team back home,” the website says.


“The program schedule for talks and workshops begins each day around noon and goes through the afternoon and early evenings.”


According to Overall, Blackbox Connect is “non-stop from mid morning till late [at] night”.


“The speakers and guests [included] Dave McClure, Robert Scoble, Tim Draper, Dan Martell, Janice Fraser, Bill Joos, plus other VCs, founders and companies,” he says.


Overell says most of the start-ups who participated in the program alongside him had products with solid traction in their local markets and are now considering a launch in the United States.


“Some were specifically looking for investment. Others wanted a fast injection of connections, learning and experience, which would otherwise take months of networking,” he says.


Overell says RecruitLoop is currently in the process of developing a new product to reach a broader market, and wanted feedback and connections in the US before its launch.


“At Blackbox Connect, we made great connections with potential investors, customers [and] a dozen international start-ups,” he says.


“Specifically, we got huge value from workshops on lean UX design, pitch coaching, and what VCs want.”


Overell says Blackbox Connect is open to a broad range of industries and areas, but the focus is mostly on people. He also says Blackbox is keen to take on more Australian start-ups.


“The last course was just under $US5000. That included accommodation, some meals, events, and all the speakers and workshops. Money very well spent for a start-up at the right stage,” he says.


“Applications are being channeled through a global network of ambassadors… Any interested founders should get in touch.” 


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