Startup Catalyst on the hunt for Queensland’s next batch of entrepreneurs


River City Labs is on the hunt for Queensland’s next crop of budding entrepreneurs in order to ship them off to Silicon Valley to learn what it takes to build a world-class startup.


Twenty young people from the Sunshine State will fly to the United States free of charge in September in order to immerse themselves in America’s startup culture.


Over the 10-day Startup Catalyst trip, participants will visit the offices of Google, Facebook, Twitter and Apple.


They will also attend networking events with various founders and student entrepreneurs, as well as meet with Australians making their mark in Silicon Valley.


The tour will finish after the 20 Aussies take part in the world’s largest startup competition as part of Startup Weekend in San Francisco.


River City Labs and Startup Catalyst founder Steve Baxter said the purpose of the 2015 trip was to get the participants to come back and “act as a kernel” in order to grow the local startup scene by sharing what they’ve learnt while overseas.


“There’s currently a gap that we have in the startup ecosystem in Brisbane and in some respects in Australia in that you have a lot of people who have ideas that are technically clueless and don’t have the drive to bridge their skills gap,” he says.


“You don’t have to have a startup, but you’ve got to have some sort of entrepreneurial enthusiasm. The idea is to take them to Silicon Valley and immerse them in an environment where what people do every day is about tech.”


Baxter also pointed out that last year there was a “depressing” lack of female candidates, and he would like to see more women apply for this year’s trip.


“In an ideal world it’d be 50-50 but we know there’s a gender gap,” he says.


“We need technically capable people… but we need to reach out to women.”


READ MORE: Startup Catalyst aims to encourage young technical talent 


Last year’s Startup Catalyst participants previously told StartupSmart that they learnt a lot from their short stint in Silicon Valley.


Brisbane resident Alex Ghiculescu said the trip taught him that Australia was on the right track and that everyone – whether you’re based in San Francisco or the Sunshine Coast – has to overcome similar issues.


“Obviously there are cultural differences but all in all, everyone still has issues hiring good talent, sometimes struggles to find product market fit, and is super keen to build a huge business,” he said.


“So it’s a great sign for Brisbane – we aren’t doing anything wrong, we just need to keep doing what we are doing to help the local sector grow to new heights.”


Startup Catalyst will run from September 28 to October 7, 2015, with the successful applicants announced in early August.


To be eligible, participants must be a Queensland resident aged from 18-25, a capable programmer and willing to share their experiences with the wider community when they return from the trip.


Applications close on Friday, July 24.


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Broede Carmody is a senior journalist at SmartCompany where he has a knack for covering legal stories and mental health issues in the workplace. Previously, Broede was the co-editor of RMIT University’s student magazine Catalyst. He has a degree in journalism from RMIT. You can follow him on Twitter at @BroedeCarmody.