From startups working in healthtech to social enterprises, Sydney-based accelerator program Startmate has revealed the 12 startups taking part in its first Melbourne cohort, as the program continues to address a lack of gender diversity in its latest intake.
Run by venture capital fund Blackbird Ventures, Startmate is an accelerator program that has been operating in Sydney for six years, accepting applications from startups Australia-wide.
The program has seen the likes of UpGuard and Bugcrowd come through its doors — both of which raised millions last year in Series B funding — and Startmate says its alumni have collectively raised more than $100 million in venture funding since leaving the program.
This is the first time the Startmate accelerator has been run in Melbourne, after receiving $384,000 in funding over two years from LaunchVic to establish its operations and grow its mentor network in the city.
The 12 selected startups will be given $75,000 in initial funding in exchange for 7.5% equity, and will work in Melbourne for the first three months of the program, going on to complete the final two months of the program in San Francisco.
Among the Startmate Melbourne cohort is Nucleotrace, which embeds pharmaceuticals with synthetic DNA to prevent drug counterfeiting, and Nightingale, a social enterprise that uses urban housing to support wellbeing and foster communities.
Startmate entrepreneur-in-residence Nick Crocker says when choosing this Melbourne cohort, the Startmate team looked at the founder, and not the idea, behind a startup.
“The idea will change but the founder will have these universally necessary traits: resilience, the ability to be a great storyteller, the ability to be a constant learner,” Crocker tells StartupSmart.
“It’s that founder quality that will really shine through over a five to fifteen-year time frame,” he says.
While Startmate focused on the individual startup founders in this intake, only two of the 12 teams selected are female-founded.
Startmate’s inaugural Melbourne cohort is twice as large as its previous Sydney intake, but has a comparably low number of female founders compared with Startmate’s 2017 Sydney cohort, which had one-third gender-diverse teams.
Speaking out about the lack of diversity in this Melbourne cohort back in June, Crocker said in a candid Medium post that Startmate “didn’t put as much effort into diversity” in this cohort and “put simply, that’s not good enough.”
“If you take your foot off the pedal it will show up,” Crocker told StartupSmart at the time.
To address this lack of diversity, Crocker has been travelling on a “national roadshow” in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide, and Brisbane over the last two months. So far, he has held one-on-one meetings with 15 female founders to hear of their challenges and experiences in the startup ecosystem.
“I’ve really expanded my perception — it’s complex, there’s no single universal experience for women in tech,” Crocker says.
“I was surprised by the diversity of experiences … I definitely don’t have all the answers but I’m continuing to learn and be observant as much as possible.”
Startmate will also form a partnership with Girl Geek Academy and the League of Extraordinary Women to run a national tour of female-only startup events and meetups to drive more gender-diverse Startmate teams in future. The tour will kick off in November in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
Diversity is “the best way to set yourself up for success”
Blackbird Ventures partner Samantha Wong is a Startmate partner and past alumni of the accelerator. She has seen first-hand the changes in gender diversity between its Sydney and Melbourne cohorts, and says the program has been working towards addressing these diversity issues by implementing initiatives previously laid out in Crocker’s Medium post.
These included increasing Startmate’s rate of female mentors and putting the Startmate cohort, mentors and facilitators through unconscious bias training.
Wong says the accelerator has the goal of a 50/50 female-male gender diversity split in its mentor base, and is currently “hovering at 20%” female representation among its mentors.
Startmate is a mentor-driven accelerator, with each of its 58 mentors choosing and investing $10,000 of their own money into this cohort of startups, so promoting diversity among its mentors is integral to the organisation’s future diversity goals.
Wong also says unconscious bias training has been run with its Melbourne and Sydney cohorts and mentors, and is “something we will continue to be doing as a mandatory piece of training”.
This forms part of Startmate’s broader goal of supporting early-stage startups to grow diverse, healthy and culturally inclusive companies from an early stage.
“We are strong believers that if your culture is broken at five people it’s never going to get fixed [when it grows],” Wong tells StartupSmart.
“Startups should set baseline cultural expectations when your company is just starting out; you should be thinking about this early and how you might tackle it.
“This is the best way to set yourself up for success.”
Meet the Startmate Melbourne cohort
Deliciou is looking to tackle the seasoning market with its direct-to-consumer seasonings, and the company says it has already turned over $1 million in sales.
EverProof allows users to digitise their identity documents through an identity management platform, allowing employers to aggregate those documents to monitor compliance.
Flixsense AI provides its users with instant match footage analysis to bring key events and insights to coaches and teams.
Frontier Microscopy users software to automate microscope analyses and increase laboratory efficiency.
LEDA is a learning platform that uses gamifaction to help train managers to become better leaders.
Nightingale is a marketplace that wants to place home buyers at the centre of housing development projects to create a world where contemporary housing is built to support wellbeing, liveability and community.
Nucleotrace is tackling drug counterfeiting by developing synthetic DNA as a supply chain monitoring technology.
OurSay automates the transfer of public opinion to local government and decision-makers
SmartrMail automates personal email marketing for e-commerce to help stores generate more revenue from each campaign.
Syntropy allows users build an automated artificial intelligence assistant that they can train to automate tasks.
The Big Crunch is a platform that allows for real-time data publishing and collaboration.
Nick Drewe is described by Startmate as a “unicorn”. He is a a full-stack developer and designer who is looking for a co-founder and a startup concept, and will be pitching throughout the Startmate program to find his next venture.
*This article was updated at 10am on Wednesday, October 11, 2017.