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Silicon Valley giants lend weight to 50 for the Future program

Monday, 31 October 2011 | By Oliver Milman

An ambitious new program called 50 for the Future is to match promising early-stage start-ups with 50 of the leading Australians in Silicon Valley, who will act as mentors to the next generation of budding entrepreneurs.


The program, developed by Australian expatriate network Advance and the Federal Government’s department of innovation, industry, science and research, is aimed at highlighting Australian innovation and boosting the chances of start-ups looking to do business overseas.


According to organisers, the scheme will be “highly interactive”, with a series of events kicking off in November.


Open to entrepreneurs, investors and academics, the events aim to provide practical guidance to start-ups, with “immersive roundtables and workshops to help improve their chances of success”.


The mentor scheme will draw upon Advance’s membership base, which numbers 20,000 people across 80 countries.


Matt Barrie, CEO of Freelancer.com, Mike Cannon-Brooks, co-founder of Atlassian, Ryan Junee, founder of Inporia and Mick Liubinskas, co-founder of Pollenizer, will be among the experts on hand.


Investment firms such as Silicon Valley giant Sequoia Capital will also be involved in the program.


50 for the Future is part of a three-year partnership between Advance and the Federal Government to increase the number of start-ups that manage to crack Silicon Valley.


Launch events will be held in Sydney and Melbourne on November 15 and 17, with selected start-ups then undertaking eight weekly mentor sessions with US-based mentors. There will be a 50 for the Future Summit in Silicon Valley in May next year.


“Australians are incredibly innovative, but as investors we tend to be risk-averse and many of our early-stage technology companies can’t access the funding or expertise required to make their businesses commercially viable,” says Advance CEO, Serafina Maiorano.


“Advance Innovation will bring together 50 for the Future to create a bridge between innovators and entrepreneurs in Australia and Silicon Valley, fostering an active exchange of ideas, practical experience, and ultimately investment.”


Larry Marshall, managing director of Southern Cross Venture Partners, adds: “Aussies have been coming to Silicon Valley for at least 30 years. In the 90s there were less than five Australian companies competing for VC dollars in the Valley, now there are more than 65.”


“It is no longer sufficient to have the best idea, you need to crystallise your value proposition, sell it and know how to pivot.”


For more information on the program, click here.