Spark Bureau welcomes five new startups as it continues to grow the Sunshine Coast ecosystem

A new Sunshine Coast incubator sparking life into startups has welcomed five new ventures into its revamped program.

After launching earlier this year, non-profit hub Spark Bureau has switched its focus from building a co-working community to running an incubator for startups with an aim to help grow the local region.

The five startups selected include on-demand laundry service Lifestyle Laundry and all-in-one digital marketing tool Epicuest.

Spark Bureau co-founder and CEO Zack Johnson says the five startups selected came from 25 applicants of “reasonably high quality”.

“We focused on quality of experience,” Johnson tells StartupSmart.

“We looked at where they fit in the industry and their stage of business growth. We wanted to create a much more refined and aligned cohort.”

Spark Bureau plays host to between 15 and 20 people building startups and its new intake brings in a new level of aptitude to the table, Johnson says.

“The average age of this intake is ten years higher than our first cohort, several of our founders have had previous business experience and success,” he says.

Of the five tech companies selected, 40% have a female co-founder.

The Spark Bureau incubator program involves a month of full-time workshop, mentoring and product development, with rest of the day focused on support and connections.

“You have to be dedicated 100% all day, everyday,” Johnson says.

The decision to switch to a one-month intensive program followed by year-long support was motivated by the need to better connect Spark Bureau’s incubator participants, he says.

“We’re already seeing collaboration and cross-pollination,” Johnson says.

“The thing that’s really interesting about these guys is on the surface they have very different businesses, products and technology they’re using.

“But if you go into it a little more, there’s actually opportunity for every single one of those businesses to benefit from each other through partnerships, collaboration or learning from each other.”

At the end of the month, the cohort will have ongoing access to monthly catch-ups, workshops and support in business development, mentoring and partnership opportunities.

“They will be working on their timelines versus our timelines,” he says.

He says that Spark Bureau will assist with figuring out milestones and deliverables while also providing support with resources.

The nine participants in their first incubator coming along well, Johnson says.

“Four are aggressively moving forward,” he says.

“Some of them are closing in on significant national partnerships, have completed product launch and are reaching revenue growth already.”

With its Sunshine Coast location and strong relationships with local councils and institutions like the Chamber of Commerce, Johnson says Spark Bureau is a great place for startups wanting to experiment in a live-in lab environment.

“The City of Maroochydore is building a smart city from the ground up and we’re an innovation partner,” he says.

“There’s an opportunity to make deep and meaningful connections between entrepreneurs and startups to test new technologies.

“We’re always looking for expressions of interest for the next intake, we can look at applications as they come in and based on demand we can launch our next full-time intensive [incubator].”

In addition to its incubator, Spark Bureau regularly runs events like startup weekends and hackathons.

“It’s really providing an opportunity for a lot of stuff that was kind of already happening to coalesce and centralise,” Johnson says.

The five startups selected for the Spark Bureau incubator

  • Xandra Labs: One of the world’s first companies developing “personalities and dialogue” for brands to engage users via Facebook Messenger
  • ChilliDocs: Cloud service that automatically generates documents from templates, which can then be distributed via email, DropBox, GoogleDrive and one-touch post
  • Safe Smart Pickup: Tech platform improving traffic flow at school pick-up points
  • Epicuest: Omnichannel marketing platform for bricks and mortar businesses
  • Lifestyle Laundry: Platform to get home laundry picked-up, washed, folded and returned within 24 hours

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