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PushStart aiming to give start-ups a helpful nudge

Monday, 4 April 2011 | By Oliver Milman

Mentoring and funding program PushStart has launched with the aim of boosting the Australian start-up scene in a similar way that Y Combinator and Tech Stars have in the US.


The venture, which aims to nurture promising tech start-ups, was officially unveiled at the SydStart entrepreneurial event.


Created by online entrepreneur Kim Heras, venture capitalist John Haining and technology executive Roger Kermode, PushStart is similar to Y Combinator, Tech Stars and Startmate, the Australian start-up scheme which chose its first participants in January.


PushStart kicks off with its Mentor Connect program, a free service that matches mentors with start-ups. Just days after launching, more than 60 mentors have successfully put their names forward, with more than 200 web and mobile-based start-ups expressing interest.


The mentors, who are matched to start-ups based on industry experience and location, will provide ongoing help to start-ups.


This program will be followed later this year by PushStart’s Startup Accelerator scheme, which will provide seed funding, separate mentoring and office space in Sydney for a three-month period to an intake of 10 start-ups.


Speaking to StartupSmart, Heras says that he was looking to launch an Australian version of Tech Stars, but with a twist.


“We realised when we were putting this together last year that the real value for start-ups in these programs is the mentoring aspect,” he says. “They get $15,000 or $20,000 from Y Combinator, but it is the mentoring that makes the real difference.”


“We wanted to de-couple the mentoring element from the funding element. We started with advice being the main philosophy. We want mentors who are active all year around and we will keep an eye on them.”


“We have ways of monitoring their action so that they are mentors in action and not just name. We’ve had a lot of interest from mentors who said they don’t have much time – I think maybe they are the people who want to just have their name linked to this rather than put in the time.”


Heras says that the project is looking for start-ups that are working on web or mobile-based ideas. He says that the Startup Accelerator seed funding will be similar to equivalent schemes – around $20,000 – with a stake of around 7 to 10% given up in return.


“There are accelerators in the US and Europe and they are now popping up everywhere in Asia,” he says. “In Australia, there are lots of good start-up people not working on start-ups and we want to drag them in.”


“Australia is still a few years behind in terms of this kind of thing, but it’s getting better. The difference in terms of funding and help from four years ago is amazing.”