SPARK Deakin started an accelerator program as part of our offerings in 2015 with our first proper program run in 2016. Our vision has always been to create a thriving future built by Deakin entrepreneurs and innovators and the accelerator was one of the many ways we went about achieving this.
Over the years the ecosystem in Victoria and more broadly Australia, has grown and matured.
Our observations and reflections over the 5 years are as follows:
- When we started, very few pre-accelerators, accelerators and incubators existed. Since then many brilliant accelerators have launched in Victoria including but not limited to Skalata, Startmate, Galileo Ventures Accelerator and Cyrise. We’ve been proud to see four of our SPARK Deakin startup companies go onto these programs and receive significant funding ($200 000 – $1m)
- The majority of successful applications for our accelerator came from teams with one or more Deakin alumni, and only a few from current students. This is likely because of the full-time commitment required by the intensive program.
- Most applications were very early-stage companies at an idea stage that needed practical education and coaching to turn their ideas into companies.
- The accelerator program was designed to support 10 startup companies per year, in it’s current form it cannot scale to serve a larger pool of our 60 000+ students. We need programs that scale to support 1000’s of students, not just 100’s.
- Our funding is currently limited – and further limited due to the implications of COVID, so we must focus on programs that have significant reach AND impact.
- We want to play a bigger role in matching Deakin students / graduates with startups for employability. We know that those who work at startups are more likely to go ahead and found their own company. Ambitious students that are hungry for growth and a challenge gain so much by working in innovative startups. We need more programs that help students prepare for these jobs of the future while building their entrepreneurial skills.
- There is a huge diversity issue in the startup space – particularly when it comes to gender and ethnic diversity. We want to be part of the solution in cultivating this community and preparing them for success. Given our diverse student population, it’s our responsibility to make sure our startup programs fund and support those who reflect the diversity of our community.
Based on the above, we will continue to serve our vision of creating a thriving future built by Deakin entrepreneurs and innovators through our new Deakin Startup Competition (including our existing programs – Startup Ideation (WIL program), regular events and workshops, mentorship, guest lectures connecting the startup ecosystem into Deakin University and our Startup Venture Crawl. We will also focus more on connecting our students to the startup industry /ecosystem.
We’ve always made sure our programs remain practical and fun. From having stand-up comedians as MC’s to Demo Day afterparties to live startup chat sessions – we’ll continue to take this spirit into the Deakin Startup Competition. The competition includes a student stream and an alumni/staff stream. The prize pool combines equity-free seed funding (cash), in-kind prizes from our partners (Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Xero, Airwallex & more), and practical workshops / coaching to turn ideas into companies valued at $25 000 (and growing). It is open to those at all levels in the startup journey and with broader eligibility criteria than our accelerator.
The Competition is now open for expressions of interest with registrations opening on 12 July 2021 and closing on 22 August 2021.
We look forward to engaging with many more Deakin students, alumni, staff and the ever-growing startup ecosystem in Australia.
Entrepreneurship Program Manager