Four Australian startups have been announced as participants in Silicon Valley-based accelerator 500 Startups latest program intake.
One of the four is ZootRock, a social media tool founded by former Melburnian Audrey Melnik, who’s been in the United States for the past two years.
ZootRock helps people and businesses manage their social media content by posting curated tweets and Facebook posts on their behalf, helping boost engagement and followers.
“It’s really exciting because it’s great validation,’’ Melnik said of the announcement.
“You get a dedicated point of contact and that person is your go-to person. They check in every week or twice a week and help keep you on track and keep you focused.’’
Joining ZootRock in 500 Startups accelerator program’s ninth batch are Stitch.net: a clean Tinder for adults over 50, Sportshold: a free prediction game for sports, and one yet to be announced company.
Melnik came up with the concept for ZootRock after hiring a social media consultant while working on her first startup, WotWentWrong.com.
“I was working on my other startup, which I pivoted away from towards (ZootRock),’’ she says.
“I knew I needed to have a strong presence on social media, but I didn’t have the time.
“I hired a social media consultant and I was unhappy with the results.’’
Without a social media consultant, Melnik was faced with the problem of how to maintain her social media presence.
“I basically built the utility to do that,’’ she says.
That utility is ZootRock.
“I had just put a bunch of utilities together, I took a few more months working on it and ending up getting more software built for it and I started working on ZootRock full-time in the middle of last year,’’ she says.
“What was also great, it was a lot easier for me to monetise than my startup at the time. I was able to get people to pay for it on a subscription billing basis.”
The company has recently hired an operations manager. Melnik says it has really helped her, as a solo founder, to have someone to bounce ideas off.
Although, she adds, being in Silicon Valley there’s no shortage of help on hand.
“There’s a lot of support in the valley. What’s different to Melbourne is my whole social circle is all in this world – entrepreneurs, investors, journalists – there’s so many people to lean on and ask advice from,’’ Melnik says.
“What I noticed in Melbourne is often your business network is very separate from your social network, but here’s it’s entwined.’’
As part of 500 Startups’ latest batch, ZootRock will hold a demo day, and Melnik says over the next 12 months they will be looking to raise money to build their team and scale up.