Sydney-based startups were buzzing earlier this year with: news Techstars, a global accelerator, to launch a local program.
Techstars TechCentral, which is backed by the NSW government, will welcome a first-class company in July led by Kirsten Hunter and Lauren Fong.
We asked Kurstin and Lauren to talk about Techstars, what it could bring to the startup ecosystem, and share a little more about each other.
Here’s what they said:
Lauren: Kerstin, let’s start with you – you’ve worked in startups as well as companies, what perspective do you bring to the accelerator?
Kirstin: That’s right – I moved into the entrepreneurial side as co-founder of Future Super, then spent 10 years in professional services (mainly Bain & Co) before becoming a board member at Brighte. I am also his Startmate and board member of the Ocean Impact Organization, so I have quite a bit of experience with accelerators even before joining Techstars.
Having built and scaled successful startups, I have first-hand experience of the challenges entrepreneurs face at every stage, from finding the right product market to optimizing operations for growth. .
Combined with my experience working with large companies during my time as an office worker, this is extremely valuable. Because that means I’m good at finding a way through any stage of a company’s growth pains.
KH: Lauren, your background as an investor brings a very different experience to mine. Tell us more about how you think it will benefit founders participating in our accelerator.
LF: As an early stage startup focused investor, I have been privileged to work with highly experienced investment leaders to identify and nurture businesses with significant growth potential.
My experience in the investment environment has given me a deep understanding of what investors are looking for in startups.
I can provide insight into building scalable and sustainable startups, all things fundraising, and connecting them with a strong network of contacts within the ecosystem, so I can bring my knowledge and experience to our group. We look forward to serving our founders.
Over the years as a VC investor, I’ve probably reviewed over 2,000 pitches and talked to hundreds of founders. So we have a pretty good understanding of what makes a company stand out.
LF: Techstars is new to Sydney, but already has several established accelerators. How do you see us fitting and adding to this ecosystem?
KH: Australian and New Zealand startups are very fortunate to have access to a number of world-class accelerators. Startmate and Antler are arguably the most well-known, but there are more sector-focused accelerators (such as Ocean Impact Organization and Energy Labs) and technology- or industry-specific programs that support companies from incubation to commercialization. There is also We certainly have a thriving ecosystem.
One of the most common questions I get from founders is, “What’s the difference between Startmate and Antler?” My answer has always been that as a founder, if you are lucky enough to get an offer from one of these accelerators, you should be very proud. Each of these accelerators is great, but each has slight differences that can affect where you focus your energy when applying them.
How Techstars compares is, like Antler, we are a global accelerator. This means you have access to alumni founders and mentors around the world. At current tally, we have just under 3,500 alumni companies (including 20 unicorns) and over 5,000 of his active mentors, an incredible amount of people you can ask to support founders. We offer depth and breadth of expertise.
However, like Startmate, we also offer smaller classes for mentor-led accelerators. We have selected only 12 companies. This means you can really customize the experience to suit the companies and founders in that class.
Another difference is that our program is held face-to-face in Sydney. We expect the founder of the Techstars company to stay with us and our resident experts in the office of his lab at Tankstream co-located for the duration of the program. in Haymarket. While this may seem a bit of a novelty in the post-COVID-19 world (which may not appeal to everyone), sharing the same space encourages connection and learning. There are certainly benefits.
If I could just mention one last thing, I think you and I are also bringing a new perspective to Accelerator leadership. It’s rare to see her two women leading an accelerator and needless to say we have such relevant hands-on experience in founding, running and operating. Investing in a successful technology business. Let’s talk about the Dream Team!
KH: Lauren, one of the most striking things about your career so far is your focus on finding ways to empower diversity, especially female founders. How do you see this playing out at Techstars?
I am very passionate about promoting diversity in the industry.
For the past three years, I have held a focused role in supporting and investing in Kiwi female founders.Raised New Zealand’s first fund [ArcAngels Fund] A company that invests exclusively in women entrepreneurs. I also managed an angel network with the same mission.
I raised a total of $13 million for women in New Zealand. I loved every moment of that trip!
One of the things that drew me to Techstars is their mission to democratize access to capital. This is not just good news for Techstars, it is also part of our investment theory. We truly believe that while talent is evenly distributed, access to capital is not. That’s why investing in founders who aren’t is most likely to yield huge returns. Matches the archetype of a typical tech founder.
So far, I am very proud to have sourced talent for our first Accelerator class and integrated our diversity efforts in the ways we chose.
After hundreds of applications, about 100 first round interviews and 40 second round interviews, we invited the top 20 to our selection committee.a
At each stage, we have been mindful of the geographic, gender, racial, and cultural diversity of the founders we invite to participate. Not only that, but our judging panel is made up mostly of women, with a wide range of ages, cultural backgrounds and skills. What really makes a difference is our commitment to diversity at every step.
We are actually finalizing offers for the first class of 12 companies. Spoiler alert, we believe this will be one of the most diverse and interesting accelerator classes our local ecosystem has produced. stay tuned!
LF: Which is actually a great sequel: Kirstin, can you tell us what happens next with this accelerator class?
Great segue! As you have shared, we are in the final stages of finalizing offers for his 12 companies to form the first Techstars accelerator class in Sydney.
The class officially kicks off on July 10th, and the 13-week mentor-led accelerator will culminate on October 5th with Demo Day. There, we celebrate these founders and their progress in a room full of investors and mentors.
I’m already excited!
For more information about Techstars TechCentral accelerators or to contact the team, click here.