Five tech start-ups selected to participate in a three-month incubator program have returned from a trip to Silicon Valley, where all five companies were introduced to potential customers and investors.
In November last year, Australian seed fund and incubator Startmate invited applications for its inaugural program, including a two-week trip to the United States.
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Startmate selected five tech start-ups from a pool of 200, providing each one with $25,000 in return for a 5% stake in their businesses.
For the duration of the program, each start-up also enjoyed free office space, free web hosting, free legal advice, and discounts on finance work.
The program commenced in January and will finish in early April, culminating in demonstration days in Sydney and Melbourne, after which the start-ups will review their offers from both local and US investors.
Startmate chief hindsight officer Alan Jones says an important part of the eligibility criteria required the start-ups to relocate to the US if necessary.
He says the causal nature of the trip meant the various start-up founders were often “staying on the couches of some of our best friends”.
“We were sprinkled across the [San Francisco] Bay area and we only had a certain amount of lead time with some events,” Jones says.
“The rest of it was fairly impromptu – parties, seminars, events and so on. We did a hell of a lot of networking.”
Jones says the goal of the trip was not to “school” the start-ups but to help them get their products to market by introducing them to potential customers and investors.
“All five are ready to commercialise [their offerings]. Three are actively seeking funds and two are seeking early stage customers,” he says.
According to Jones, the investment mood in Silicon Valley is particularly buoyant at the moment, which means buzz words resonate well due to the volume of competition and opportunities in the marketplace.
Jones says while all five start-ups received “arousing” reception, location-based mobile gaming platform IRL Gaming proved to be a standout with regard to pitching.
Describing the founders’ pitching ability as “awesome”, Jones says the company uses a web-based application tool called Prezi to deliver a highly animated presentation, which attracts “a lot of laughs”.
Jones says start-ups should envisage themselves pitching to the end customer rather than potential investors in order to stand out.
He also believes that Australians are often perceived by American audiences to be particularly “straight-talking, honest and friendly”, which represents a “huge cultural advantage” in Silicon Valley.
Jones says Startmate is looking forward to opening applications for the second round of the program but couldn’t confirm exactly when that would be.