Techstars launches its first Asia-Pacific accelerator in Adelaide

Techstars Terry Gold

Techstars' Adelaide accelerator managing director Terry Gold. Source: Supplied

Global entrepreneurs network Techstars has today launched its first Asia-Pacific accelerator in Adelaide, cementing the city’s status as an emerging major startup hub.

The Adelaide startup scene has been enjoying local and international exposure in recent weeks, with South Australia awarding the tender for the world’s largest lithium-ion battery to Elon Musk’s Tesla, in the same week its government announced Blue Sky would be managing the $50 million South Australian Venture Capital Fund, with key ecosystem figures Elaine Stead and Atlanta Daniel at the helm.

The Techstars accelerator, which has already selected its first intake of founders, will be focused on startups developing defence and security related technologies.

Terry Gold, managing director of Techstars Adelaide, believes the “waves of investment” in defence happening in South Australia, paired with the city’s relatively low cost of living and smaller population made it a natural choice for the accelerator.

“When we heard that Techstars was thinking of coming to Australia, myself and about a hundred others started lobbying it for it to be in Adelaide,” Gold tells StartupSmart.

“Techstars knew it was a great area for Australia and South East Asia, we didn’t have any thing here [at the time]” he says.

Ten startups from around the globe have been selected to take part in the 13-week intensive program, with founders hailing from Australia, India, Israel, Italy, New Zealand and the US. This defence-focused cohort are working on a wide range of defence and security related technologies, including big data and analytics, sensors, unmanned aerial systems, rocket propulsion, cyber and physical security.

“From drones to data analytics, from virtual borders to rocket science — we’ve assembled a group of the most exciting technology startups working in and around defence today.” Gold says.

Gold says that while the accelerator is defence-focused, he didn’t limit the selection process to purely defence-based startups, instead looking at companies developing machine learning, big data, analytics and cyber security solutions among the applications he received from 49 different countries.

“When I went out and started talking, I was looking for companies that could be interesting to defence but might also have commercial value,” Gold says.

“Defence research has brought us computers, the internet, GPS, duct tape, and microwave ovens,” he says, noting that as the sector grows it is likely companies that are solely commercial focused will “realise they can do both and have an even bigger market”.

Corporate partners and defence-industry experts Boeing Defence Australia, Codan Defence Electronics, SAAB Australia and Thales will offer the cohort advice and support throughout the Techstars program, with each of the startups receiving a cash investment of up to US$120,000 ($152,000) in return for equity in their companies.

Gold believes Techstars will be able to assist the cohort with its existing network of over 5,000 entrepreneurs, alumni and mentors.

“To sit down with a leader from Boeing is an opportunity they wouldn’t get on their own,” he says.

Techstars is planning to continue its Australian expansion to other cities, capitalising on its position as the creator of Startup Weekend to tap into Australia’s startup scene.

“We know of entrepreneurs who came to Startup Weekend, caught the startup bug and went on to enter an accelerator,” Gold says.

“It’s our mission to really help [entrepreneurs] from startup to IPO.”

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