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Startup Catalyst aims to encourage young technical talent

Tuesday, 7 October 2014 | By Kye White

The Startup Catalyst program is attacking what its organisers see as one of the Australian startup ecosystem’s biggest problems, a lack of young technical talent.


Startup Catalyst, an initiative of River City Labs, is giving 20 young Queenslanders with coding skills the chance to travel to Silicon Valley and visit the offices of Google, Facebook, Zynga and compete in a Startup Weekend with local entrepreneurs.


Accommodation, airfares and activities will all be paid for, with applicants only needing enough money to cover meals and other small expenses, thanks to the generosity of River City Labs founder Steve Baxter and support from Griffith University, University of Queensland and the Queensland University of Technology.


A video documentary of the trip will also be produced to help spread awareness of entrepreneurship as a career path.


Project director Colin Kinner, who is also an investment manager at the Creative Enterprise Fund, says a problem both he and Steve, in his role as an active angel investor, see commonly amongst startup pitches was a lack of technical expertise.


“A lot of founders pitch their idea and finish by saying, ‘We need $100,000 to pay a developer to develop a prototype.’ And that’s unfortunate, as that’s often where the pitch falls apart,” Kinner says.


“That’s not to say that people without technical experience can’t start a successful startup, there’s plenty examples of that. It’s just a whole lot harder.”


In addition to nurturing the development of those technical founders, the program aims to encourage founders to start their entrepreneurial careers earlier.


Kinner say if the program is successful, the aim is to take it nation-wide.


“Like any good startup, this is an experiment,” he says.


“We don’t know whether or not it will achieve the outcome we want, but we’re going to give it a shot. We’ve got the good fortune to have a backer in Steve Baxter who’s willing to give it a shot.


“If we can validate our hypothesis that this will boost the number of young tech skilled startups then our ambition is to go on to make it impactful on a national level.”


The mission will leave for Silicon Valley on November 17 and return on November 26. The program is accepting applications from young people based in Queensland aged between 18 and 25, who have good IT/coding skills and are willing to share their newfound experiences with their peers.


Formal IT requirements are not required. Kinner says they just want people with the technical skills required to build a product such as a website, app or game, and build them quickly.


To apply, visit www.startupcatalyst.com.au. Applications close at 5pm on Monday, October 13.

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