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The Techstars team – in their own words – on what to expect in Sydney

Sydney startups were abuzz earlier this year with the news that global accelerator Techstars would launch a local program.

Techstars TechCentral, powered by the NSW Government, welcomes its first class of companies in July, led by Kirstin Hunter and Lauren Fong.

We asked Kirstin and Lauren to talk to each other about Techstars, what it will bring to the startup ecosystem and share a little more about each other.

This is what they said:

Lauren: Kirstin, let’s start with you – you’ve worked in both companies and startups, what perspectives do you bring to the accelerator?

Kristin: That’s right – I worked in professional services for 10 years (mainly at Bain & Co) before moving to the entrepreneurial side as a co-founder at Future Super and later as an executive at Brighte. I’ve also served on the boards of Startmate and Ocean Impact Organization, so I have quite a bit of experience with accelerators even before I joined Techstars.

Having gone through the journey of building and scaling successful startups, I have first-hand experience of the challenges entrepreneurs face at every stage, from finding the right product-market fit to optimizing activities for growth.

This is incredibly valuable when combined with my experience working with large companies in my corporate days, as it means I’m pretty good at finding a path through each stage of a company’s growing pains.

KH: Lauren, your background as an investor brings something completely different to my experience – can you tell us more about how you see it benefiting the founders participating in our accelerator?

LF: As an investor with a focus on early-stage startups, I’ve been privileged to work with highly experienced investment leaders who identify and nurture companies with tremendous growth potential.

My experience in the investment landscape has given me a deep understanding of what investors are looking for in emerging companies.

I look forward to transferring my knowledge and experience to the founders of our cohort as I can provide insights on how to build scalable and sustainable startups, all things capital raising and connect them to a robust network of contacts in the ecosystem.

Over the years of being a VC investor, I think I’ve probably reviewed over 2000 pitch decks and talked to hundreds of founders, so I have a pretty good idea of ​​what sets a company apart!

LF: While Techstars is new to Sydney, there are already several established accelerators – how do you see us fitting into and contributing to this ecosystem?

KH: Startups in Australia and New Zealand are incredibly lucky to have access to some world-class accelerators. Startmate and Antler are certainly the best known, but there are also more sector-focused accelerators (such as Ocean Impact Organization or Energy Labs) and technology or industry-specific programs that support companies from incubation to commercialization. We certainly have a thriving ecosystem!

One of the most common questions I get from founders is “what makes you different from Startmate or Antler?” and my answer is always that as a founder, if you’re lucky enough to get an offer from one of these accelerators, you should be super proud! Each of these accelerators is great, but each one is also slightly different, which can affect where you want to focus your energy when applying for a job.

As for how Techstars compares, like Antler, we are a global accelerator – this means we have access to alumni founders and mentors from all over the world! Today, we have just under 3,500 alumni companies (including 20 unicorns) and over 5,000 active mentors, giving us an incredible depth and breadth of expertise that we can call upon to support our founders.

But like Startmate, we also offer a small class size for our mentor-driven accelerator – we only select 12 companies – meaning we can really tailor the experience to the companies and founders that make up that class.

Another difference is that our program is delivered face-to-face in Sydney – our expectation is that for the duration of our program the founders of the Techstars company will reside with us and our experts-in-residence in our office in Tank Stream Labs in Haymarket. This feels like something new in a post-covid world (and it may not appeal to everyone) – but there are definitely benefits to connection and learning that come from sharing the same space.

If I may mention one last thing – I think you and I also bring a new perspective to accelerator leadership – it’s rare to see two women leading an accelerator, not to mention we have such a have relevant practical experience in founding, operating and investing in successful technology companies. Talk about a dream team!

KH: Lauren, one of the most impressive things about your career so far is your focus on diversity, particularly in finding ways to empower female founders. How do you see this playing out at Techstars?

I am incredibly passionate about promoting diversity in the industry!

I have spent the last 3 years working in a role focused on supporting and investing in female Kiwi founders. I raised New Zealand’s first fund [ArcAngels Fund] that invests exclusively in female entrepreneurs. I also managed an angelic network with the same mission.

I have collectively raised $13 million for women in New Zealand. I loved every minute of that trip!

One of the things that attracted me to Techstars is its mission to democratize access to capital. Not only is this a nice thing to have for Techstars, it’s part of our investment thesis we really believe that talent is evenly distributed but access to funding is not, so outrageous returns are likely to come from investing in founders that don’t match the archetype of the typical tech founder.

So far I’ve been so proud of the way we’ve been able to integrate our commitment to diversity into the way we’ve sourced and selected for our first accelerator class.

We went from hundreds of applications to about 100 first round interviews, 40 second round interviews and then invited the top 20 to present to our screening committee. a

At every stage, we have been aware of the geographic, gender, racial, and cultural diversity of the founders we invited to participate. Not only that, our screening committee was mostly female, but also had a mix of ages, cultural backgrounds and skills. It’s that commitment to diversity every step of the way that really makes the difference.

We are currently finalizing offers for our first class of 12 companies and – spoiler alert – I am confident it will be one of the most diverse and interesting accelerator classes our local ecosystem has produced! Stay tuned!

LF: Which is actually a great part: Kirstin, can you talk about what’s coming for this accelerator class?

Great part! As you shared, we are in the late stages of finalizing offers to the 12 companies that will form Sydney’s first Techstars accelerator class.

The course officially begins on July 10, with the 13-week mentor-driven accelerator culminating in our Demo Day on October 5, where we will celebrate these founders and their progress with a room full of investors and mentors.

I’m already excited!

For more information on Techstars TechCentral accelerator or to contact the team, click here.

Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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