Growth Force Hits Town

August 8, 2011, ADELAIDE AU : Adelaide will host one of America’s leading start-up accelerator programs in a coup that promises to make SA an entrepreneurial hub.

Local firm Innovyz (formerly known as SME Growth Capital) has become a member of the TechStars Network and has acquired a four-year license to offer a mentor-driven program similar to TechStars. The program in Australia will be called InnovyzStart.

TechStars in America counts phone-controlled robotics developer Orbotix and cloud-based email service SendGrid among its successes.

International expert on entrepreneurial growth and leadership guru Dr Jana Matthews will lead the three-month program at InnovyzStart. She has a doctorate from Harvard, is an international expert on entrepreneurial leadership and business growth, an author and an entrepreneur.  Over the years she has worked in South Australia with Innovate SA and the SA Venture Capital Board, as well as the ICEHOUSE in New Zealand..

“It’s about teaching entrepreneurs how to accelerate at the speed of growth, which is not growing incrementally but big leapfrog jumps,” she said.

Dr Matthews said the experience in the US indicates  that many of the start-ups that come to a city to participate in the program remain after the program is over.  They want to be close to the community that develops around the program, e.g., other CEOs in the program, local mentors, and service providers.

Only 10 companies will be accepted to the three-month Innovyz Start program, which will run in 2012.

Each founder will be given a $6,000 stipend  (up to three founders per company) from funds raised by Innovyz.  On the last day of the program they will have the opportunity to meet potential investor and make a bid for equity funding.

Mentors from companies such as Google, Microsoft, Twitter, foursquare, Warner Music and Starbucks have been involved with the four US TechStars programs which get 800 – 1,000+ applications for 10 spots. Local organisers hope to attract candidates of equal calibre to SA for the immersive course.

The TechStars Boulder program – which the company credits with helping transform the small Colorado town’s economy into America’s second “Silicon Valley” – topped a 2011 ranking of US start-up accelerators.

TechStars Boston came in 5th and TechStars Seattle made 7th place.

Candidates will be selected on the “breakthrough” merit of their proposed innovation.

Innovyz’s senior partner Stuart Douglas said InnovyzStart would act as a magnet in the region, attracting some of the best ideas from interstate and overseas.

“By having a program here, by bringing in brilliant mentors from around Australia and the world, by having someone direct the program who has created world-class programs and was recruited to the founding team of the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, we are going to attract really cool technology into Adelaide which we’ll commercialise and then export from Adelaide,” he said. “We have the opportunity to position Adelaide as a hub for innovation.”

Mr Douglas said a key aim of the program was to cut the time a start-up company requires to get to market, float or sell to a larger entity – from eight to 10 years to three years.

The company hopes to secure sponsors for InnovyzStart (some of whom may also be involved as mentors) in 2011 and deliver the program in 2012.

Dr Mathews has delivered several entrepreneurial growth programs for Innovate SA.  Chief executive, Greg Boundy, said she was a “leader in that space” and he agreed that the Innovyz Start program could be a significant boon for the local economy.

“We envisage that an expanded program with her involvement and leadership would be extremely beneficial to local businesses and entrepreneurs,” he said.

TechStars claims a 90 per cent success rate: Since 2007, 81 per cent of its graduates are still active and 10 per cent have been acquired by other companies.

Stephen Boyd, Program Manager for InnovyzStart said the company would run one program next year but planned to conduct two in 2013, and then three a year thereafter.