Optus and SingTel Innov8 (Innov8) have joined forces to launch an Australian Seed Program to support early stage digital startups in taking their business to the next level, and provide a platform for potential expansion into Asia.
The Optus Innov8 Seed Program gives Australian startups access to seed funding, mentoring, networking and dedicated co-working spaces to support their business growth and progression to Series A funding. Backed by SingTel Innov8, the SingTel Group's corporate venture capital fund, the program will provide up to A$250,000 in funding per startup investment. Optus has also partnered with Fishburners in Sydney and York Butter Factory in Melbourne to provide the selected startups with dedicated co-working spaces to share ideas and host regular events to connect startups with industry experts and potential investors.
The program will support early stage startups with innovative or disruptive digital solutions, either in proof of concept or advanced development stage, in the areas of mobility and convergence, with a focus on health, education and media.
Austin R. Bryan, Vice President, Digital Communities and Ecosystems, SingTel and Optus, said "We have launched the Seed Program to further accelerate digital innovation in Australia, help keep talent on our shores and make it easier for startups to source local funding and support in the early development stages.
"As Australia moves into a digital economy, we believe we can add the most value to this community by providing access to funding and partnering with leading startup co-working spaces and incubators to build a support network and co-investment opportunities. We'll continue to evolve the program based on feedback and hope it will give local talent an incentive to grow their business within Australia, and serve as a stepping stone to venture capital funding."
The Seed Program is the latest initiative from SingTel Group Digital L!fe to promote innovation and support the Group's expansion into new areas in the digital space and create growth engines beyond traditional telecommunications services.
Edgar Hardless, CEO, SingTel Innov8, said "SingTel Innov8 complements the Group's digital strategy by investing in new technologies and entrepreneurial talent worldwide. There is tremendous talent in the Australian market and we expect to invest in up to eight Australian startups in the first year. With the SingTel Group's strong presence and scale of over 445 million mobile customers, we can assist startups to go regional."
To be eligible for the Optus Innov8 Seed Program, startups must be a registered company and based in Australia, established a team, developed solid business strategies, be able to demonstrate a working prototype and meet the program's key digital focus areas.
Startups can be referred for the program from July via incubators or accelerators, or apply directly via 'pitch events' to be held at Fishburners and York Butter Factory through-out the year. The first pitch event will be held in late July, with details announced closer to the time.
In addition to Fishburners and York Butter Factory, the program is supported by a range of incubators such as Pollenizer, AngelCube and Pushstart.
Peter Bradd, Director, Fishburners and ScribblePics, said "Our partnership with Optus is a win-win situation. We've been able to expand our co-working space to house more startups while opening up new opportunities for startups that are ready to progress to the seed funding round."
Stuart Richardson, co-founder of York Butter Factory and Managing Partner at Adventure Capital, said "This is a fantastic initiative to extend the support available locally to startups as they emerge from the incubation phase. It gives them a greater incentive to stay in Australia, and helps grow innovation among the digital startup community."
In addition to the Seed Program, Optus supports local entrepreneurs as the premier sponsors and judging panel of the Sydney and Melbourne Startup Weekends, and its annual Unleash Your App competition targeting university students in association with NICTA.
For more information, please visit optusinnov8seed.com.au.
Kasia Ciszak/Danny Wong
Optus Corporate Affairs
Tel: (02) 8082 7850