Optus Innov8 Seed Program sinks $700,000 into first Aussie start-ups

Venuemob and 121cast are the first Australian tech start-ups to receive funding from the Optus Innov8 Seed Program, pocketing $450,000 and $250,000 respectively for their innovations.


The Optus Innov8 Seed Program, launched in June, provides tech start-ups with cash, mentoring, networking and co-working spaces. Up to eight Australian start-ups are expected to benefit.


The first Australian start-ups to receive funding are Venuemob and 121cast, both of which launched this year.


Venuemob raised a total of $450,000 led by SingTel Innov8, while 121cast raised a total of $250,000, also led by SingTel Innov8 and co-invested by Adventure Capital.


Venuemob, based in Melbourne, was founded by David Wei, Ying Wang and James Giang. Wei and Wang’s former start-up, Crowdmass, was sold to Groupon in 2011.


With more than 300 venues in its database, Venuemob provides information and booking access to Melbourne bars, restaurants, reception centres and function rooms.


In addition to helping locals discover and book sought-after venues, Venuemob enables business owners to market their businesses and generate additional bookings.


Having taken the Melbourne social scene by storm, Venuemob is looking to spread its wings across Australia and incorporate venues from around the country.


“This investment will allow us to catalyse our expansion strategy into other cities, so that we can offer function venues in Sydney and other major cities across Australia,” Wei said in a statement.


“It also opens the door to strategic partnership opportunities with Optus and SingTel Group.”


Also based in Melbourne, 121cast is the start-up behind SoundGecko, a free service that converts text into spoken words, allowing users to listen to any news article or web page on the go.


A next-generational personal radio product, designed to help people sidestep the barrage of digital information available, is what sparked the interest of the Optus Innov8 Seed Program.


This product aims to change the way broadcast content is delivered to mobiles by offering a free and personalised radio feed made up of news, weather, social network updates, podcasts, etc.


The team behind 121cast consists of Long Zheng, Andrew Armstrong and Edward Hooper, all of whom recently returned from Silicon Valley after exhibiting at TechCrunch Disrupt.


A graduate of the Melbourne Accelerator Program, 121cast is now a resident at the York Butter Factory.


According to Zheng, the Optus Innov8 Seed Program is a “significant new opportunity” for early stage Australian start-ups.


The application process for the program will reopen in January. Start-ups across the country are invited to submit their innovation for the summer intake.


“We are excited to kick off our first investments… in 121cast and Venuemob, and look forward to seeing more exciting ideas coming out of Australia,” SingTel Innov8 chief executive Edgar Hardless said in a statement.


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