Aussie startups venture to US

By / 21st of October, 2014
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A group of promising young South Australian startups are flying to the United States this Saturday to be hosted by tech giants Google and Twitter.

The four entrepreneurs are making stops in San Francisco, Austin, Philadelphia and New York City to scope out the startup scene and get some outside eyes on their ideas: an app to quit smoking, a group-payment service and a new, social way to review just about anything.

They are all graduates out of the New Venture Institute (NVI) at Flinders University in Adelaide, an incubator that draw the lines between university, businesses, organisations and entrepreneurs.

Many of the connections they'll be making are thanks to NVI Director, Matthew Salier.

"This is about helping these guys get a sense of this amazingly dynamic startup environment. Each of these locations are where it happens in a large market - 400 million people and a huge amount of startup activity," Salier said.

We're helping raise their eye line, raise their perception of what their products and startups can do.

The trip will take them to the Google Campus and Twitter's Runway Accelerator in San Francisco, and the International Accelerator, Austin Technology Incubator, and IC2 Institute in Austin.

"We're helping raise their eye line, raise their perception of what their products and startups can do. We want them to come back saying, 'we shouldn't just be thinking about a market as big as Adelaide or Australia - we should be thinking about markets as big as America and Asia.'"

They'll also be tapping in to some of America's foremost entrepreneurial minds.

Bijoy Goswami, founder of the Bootstrap Network and author of The Human Fabric will be hosting the crew for a special dinner, and they'll be meeting with Jindou Lee, an Adelaide-born entrepreneur who moved his Happy Inspector business to San Francisco.

"People like Bijoy have invested in companies that are now billion dollar companies - so it's providing them with networks and connections that they can bring back here and leverage for either capital or capacity," Salier explains.

Samson Selladurai of Kick.it, a mobile app for quitting smoking that draws data from a Bluetooth enabled cigarette lighter, says he and fellow co-founder James Stewart are looking forward to forging new relationships in the health tech sector.

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"For Kick.it, this means potential partnerships and potential tie ups. We'll be learning a lot from the Austin Tech Incubator, as well as the health related companies that we have planned to meet in Philadelphia - which is known as a hub for health care and medical practices," Selladurai said.

Their software-hardware combination helps smokers track when, where and who they smoke with. It recommends the best method of treatment based on that behaviour.

"At this stage we are not looking for more investment, but for potential partnerships in the long term - and also learning from them about how the international entrepreneurship market works."

For Penny Curtis, the trip offers a chance to push her group pay website, partipay, to the cutting edge of digital tech.

"It's about finding a path to the cusp of innovation of IT for me, to identify future trends, to help me redefine where the product will go in the future," Penny said.

Partipay is a payment portal - a user can make a page for a one-off event, such as chipping in money to send a friend skydiving on their 21st birthday, automatically sending reminders to people yet to pay.

It also works for ongoing fees, like a school sports team that needs to pay for uniforms or equipment hire over the year. Everything is tracked and recorded.

"I'm looking for people and websites facing similar challenges - cyber security, new innovations and directions of social media, charging payments, storage of online data - everything to do with operational management."

MailChimp, a multimillion-dollar email marketing business, is hosting Penny Curtis for a special look around their operations in Atlanta.

"We're just about enjoying and celebrating technology and finding out new ways to connect with people and network and develop. On a personal note I'm also interested to understand the entrepreneurial space, how individuals live and manage their life. To learn more about business development, and learning about the culture."

Luke Larsen is another founder seeking knowledge on the trip. For Larsen, it offers an opportunity to grab an outsider's feedback on his social reviewing service, Reviewr.

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"It'll help to get some perspective. You can be in such a little box working on these things. It'll be good to see what other people think - that will be invaluable, bringing it back here," Larsen said.

Reviewr lets users keep up to date with the opinions of the people they're close to, with feedback on products, services and experiences. It's all grouped in to scalable topics that can quantify real public opinion on any topic, on any scale.

Larsen might even do some reviewing while he's there.

"I have done some searching for concerts I might be interested in. The food and music appeal to me greatly," he said.

Matthew Salier says that the trip will give the scrappy young startups an experience they could never otherwise have.

"The people we're connecting them to are doing amazing things at the moment. When you think about Google, about Twitter, these are the companies that have redefined what startups are able to do. For these guys to spend a bit of time with them is pretty interesting," Salier said.

Kick.it

The New Venture Institute

More about NVI on The Lead: Entrepreneurs pitch for prizes at New Venture Institute eNVIe awards

Key contacts

Orren Prunckum Marketing Manager New Venture Institute
61 8 8201 7744 orren@nviflinders.com.au