Retail, refs and femtech: Meet the latest Startmate accelerator cohort

Ovira

Ovira founder and chief Alice Williams. Source: supplied.

From femtech to eSports to tech for better umpiring, Melbourne’s Startmate has announced the latest 10 participants in its startup accelerator program.

The announcement follows Startmate securing $420,000 in funding from LaunchVic, the Victorian government’s startup agency.

Established in 2010, Startmate has acted as a springboard for successful Aussie startups such as Mentorloop, Black.ai, Bring Me Home and Josef.

This year’s 10 participants include a similarly mixed bag, tackling problems in consumer engagement for brands and superannuation, or focusing on improving workflows in retail or tech businesses.

“You have to create that help yourself”

One participant, Ovira founder and chief Alice Williams, is developing a small wearable device designed to instantly stop period pains.

The device uses electrotherapy, sending low-level pulses of electric vibration, which can block pain signals.

According to Williams, it doesn’t have any negative side effects on the body, and starts working instantly.

“You don’t build up a tolerance to her pain-blocking power either,” she tells StartupSmart.

With a varied background, including studying psychology and working in the film industry, as well as studying health science, Williams has been working on this technology for less than a year.

She came up with the product after researching alternative pain therapies to help with her own endometriosis, something she has suffered with since she was a teenager.

“I would blackout. I would vomit from the pain,” she explains.

“When you’re that young, you don’t really realise how bad that is. You just kind of think that’s normal, as crazy as that sounds.”

When she came across the idea of electrotherapy as a pain remedy, she thought “it sounds too good to be true”, she says.

“But after trying it, and talking to people about it, there was a sense of betrayal, in a way, that I didn’t know about it, when I had spoken to all these health professionals.”

And so, Williams set out to create the solution herself.

“When you’re younger you assume the answers are always given to you,” she says.

“As you get older, you realise you have to be that trend you want to see. If you need help, you really have to create that help yourself.”

“I had zero experience”

Williams applied for Startmate after meeting Aussie entrepreneur and Startmate mentor Ned Dwyer during his stint as entrepreneur-in-residence at Melbourne co-working space Neighbourhood.

“I had zero experience in the whole startup, entrepreneur world,” she says.

“He thought I would really flourish being around other like-minded, passionate founders.”

While initially, Williams said she didn’t think she was ready for the accelerator, she connected with some of the founders from previous cohorts, and with more of the mentors.

“They were all just super helpful, and so giving with their time and advice, so that really sold me as well.”

Now, while Williams is waiting on regulatory approvals — something she says is a little out of her hands — she hopes to be taking pre-orders by the end of the accelerator program.

And she’s not done yet. The founder is also looking into other ways to educate and empower women.

“Period pain is just the first problem we’re setting out to solve,” she says.

“Something meaningful and important”

Brett Sullivan also set out to solve a problem close to his heart — albeit, in a very different space.

His startup Flaktest is a platform helping school kids to be more engaged in education through video gaming and eSports.

Although he’s been working on the startup since 2016, founder and chief Brett Sullivan tells StartupSmart he only left his teaching job of 10 years in February, to focus on Flaktest full time.

The business combines Sullivan’s two passions of teaching and video games, he says, to make learning outcomes “hyper-relevant” to students.

“You’re actually connecting something meaningful and important with something that’s relevant to their lives, and something that they engage with day-to-day,” he explains.

Flaktest started out as a hobby, and a way for Sullivan to help his students out. But the founder soon realised the platform was working, and that it might be scalable.

By the beginning of this year, “we were in a position where we would really love to be able to provide this solution to as many kids as possible”, he says.

“The Startmate program is perfect for understanding how to accelerate growth and how to maintain quality through that acceleration as well,” he adds.

“A huge weight had lifted”

Based in Fremantle, Sullivan has moved to Melbourne for the three months of the program.

Part of what attracted him to this particular program was the access to an “incredibly large thinktank” of founders and mentors here, and the ability to learn from others.

“You’re able to identify mistakes early,” he says.

“I think that’s the most powerful thing for a startup … you don’t spend time trying to fix stuff that doesn’t work.”

Eventually, however, he has ambitions to move Flaktest to Melbourne, and then to expand to the US.

While he says Perth has good links to the Asian market, being in Melbourne makes things easier for dealing with the US market. Equally, he says it’s just a good testing market for a product like this.

“We know if the platform is able to thrive in Melbourne it will thrive everywhere,” he says.

He was also attracted by the opportunity to head to San Francisco with the cohort, and to test out the product in the US market.

Eventually, he plans to expand Flaktest into the US, and so being in contact with others who are working there is a useful asset.

“They have clear-cut knowledge of the US market, and that’s super highly valuable for us,” Sullivan says.

Finally, Sullivan notes Startmate’s focus on mental health as a pleasant surprise, and something that is “super valuable”.

Founding a business can take a toll, he says.

“When I found that out at the initiation on the first day, it was like a huge weight had lifted.”

Meet the startups in the latest Startmate cohort

Airrobe

A marketplace helping second-hand fashion retailers to shift stock online.

Brandcrush

A marketing platform helping brands to find, book and manage marketing experiences to reach a hyper-targeted audience.

ClearCalcs

A cloud-based calculations platform for engineers.

Flaktest

A tool designed to help students engage in education, through video games.

Linc

A tool allowing non-technical team members to see and interact with development work.

Ovira

A wearable device designed to stop period pains.

Reflive

Officiating technology helping all sports leagues to improve the quality of reffing, while providing automated live scores.

Syncio

An inventory-management and syncing platform for retailers.

Thought-Wired

A solution encouraging people to interact with technology differently, translating brain and body signals of intent into actions.

Verve Super

An ethical superannuation fund run by women and designed to serve women.

NOW READ: Insurance, socks and social enterprise: StartupSmart’s 10 startups to watch in 2019

NOW READ: Beyond CSR: Five interesting social enterprise startups joining Impact Academy’s 10th accelerator cohort

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