Ex-Fishburners chief executive Murray Hurps is tackling his latest project as program director of Westpac’s new data-focused startup accelerator FUELD, describing his appointment to the role as an “incredibly fortuitous opportunity” to combine his passion for startups with cutting-edge data innovation.
The three-month program will aim to support tech startups by giving them access to anonymised data through the Data Republic platform, encouraging data innovation to enhance a startup’s existing products and solve real-world customer problems, according to Westpac.
Hurps, who is also co-founder of Startup Muster, kicks off his role at the Sydney-based accelerator today after recently stepping down as chief executive of startup hub Fishburners. Muru-D co-founder Annie Parker was appointed as interim chief at Fishburners in July after Hurps decided to move on to find his “next challenge”.
He has found that challenge heading up the FUELD accelerator, which he says is “a wonderful way to personally involve myself in cutting edge approaches to data”.
“It’s an incredibly fortuitous opportunity. I’ve always had a love of using data to create wonderful things; that’s evident in co-founding Startup Muster,” Hurps tells StartupSmart.
“Over the last couple of years I’ve seen a very large number of Australian companies that have problems that could be solved with the right people and the right data.
“I think there are a huge number of decisions that are made in the absence of data, and wonderful things can happen when you provide the right approach to the right data,” he adds.
The accelerator is looking to accept an initial cohort of eight teams into the program who will receive $50,000 in funding. Whether or not equity in the startups will be exchanged is “to be determined”, according to Hurps, but intellectual property rights will remain with the startup.
These eight teams selected will have access to the “full variety” of data sets available on the Data Republic platform, of which Westpac’s venture capital fund Reinventure is an investor. The data available will include “access to Westpac’s anonymous aggregated transactional data,” according to the bank.
Reinventure will also be providing mentorship for participants in the program, and Amazon Web Services will provide the selected startups with “infrastructure and support” throughout the program, according to Westpac.
Australia’s data-driven future
Hurps says one of his personal aims as FUELD program director is to see “new startups being started that are Australian, with wonderful founders getting the support they need and creating valuable companies”.
“It’s about getting scaleable, data-focused companies off the ground, and I cant think of a better way to do that [than supporting startups through FUELD],” he says.
“These companies will be started somewhere, and I think it’s critical they get started in Australia.”
Hurps suggests data-driven startups could lead the way for innovation in the future, with an increasing trend towards data-focused offerings in Australia’s startup ecosystem.
“In my time at Fishburners and Startup Muster there’s been a notable increase in the number of companies that have focused on data-based approaches to market. As more and more data becomes available, the value in that data will become an obvious target for people looking to make the most of it,” he says.
The success of the accelerator will determine whether it will be expanded to new locations in the future and Hurps says it will “respond in future as demand suggests”.
“I would love to see this spread – there’s incredible things happening in Australia in the data and fintech areas,” he says.
While Hurps spent three years heading up Fishburners, he says his move to Stone & Chalk, a competing Sydney co-working space, has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I get along fantastically well with the team at Stone & Chalk,” Hurps says.
“At my time at Fishburners I had 516 companies [to look after]; it will be nice to roll up my sleeves and work intensively with just a few startups.”
Expressions of interest are now open for the accelerator, and Hurps says FUELD is seeking startups with a “focus on strong, data-focused competency, which may or may not include machine-learning competency”.
Application details will be announced shortly, and “over the next month there will be a lot more detail,” released regarding the accelerator, Hurps says.