Hundreds of startups apply for Startmate’s accelerator program – but only 30 can join each year. Here’s how it works.

Michael Batko, CEO, Startmate
  • Australian company Startmate provides an accelerator program for startups that offers investment and mentoring opportunities.
  • CEO Michael Batko told Business Insider Australia the company is industry agnostic so startups from any industry can apply.
  • Startmate also has a women-only fellowship designed to get women into the startup world.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Startmate is giving individuals a leg up in the startup scene.

The company was created in 2011 by Niki Scevak (co-founder of venture capital firm Blackbird Ventures) together with Atlassian co-founders Scott Farquhar and Mike Cannon-Brookes, and around 15 other mentors. At the time, everyone invested $10,000 into a fund, which was used to back other company founders.

Startmate began by investing in five companies and now invests in 30 companies a year.

As part of its 12-week accelerator program, the company has cohorts of 15 companies every six months that it works with. The first group runs from January to April and the second between July and October.

These companies get a $75,000 investment and access to around 100 mentors to guide them along their way.

Startmate CEO Michael Batko joined the company nearly three years ago after working in two different startups. He explained that when finding mentors, the company focuses on the idea of the “founder mindset” – essentially, people who have walked the startup path before.

“All of our mentors are founders or ex-founders [or] somebody who’s scaled a unit in a startup themselves before,” Batko said.

“Essentially, the best mentors that we find are people who have empathy for the founders, to help them out. And so if you’ve been in those shoes before, you can actually help them out even more.”

And Startmate is industry agnostic, meaning a startup from any industry can be involved.

“We invest in any type of industry, whether that’s aerospace, hardware, software, subscription, B2B, B2B, direct to consumer – it doesn’t actually matter to us,” Batko said. “What we care about is somebody who’s got this burning desire and passion to change something in the world.”

While Startmate can take on startups at any level, it’s mainly interested in investing at an early stage.

“We love investing super early in startups,” he said. “We have investors in startups which have not even incorporated but have a Facebook group of 50,000 people who are super engaged with what they do.”

On the other end of the spectrum, it has also invested in startups with valuations of $10 or $20 million.

So far, Startmate has invested in 130 companies which are collectively worth more than $1 billion. Among companies that Startmate has backed is education platform Edrolo, fashion resale company AirRobe and drone 3D mapping company Propeller.

But it’s very competitive to get into the program.

Between 200 and 300 applications were submitted for the two cohorts last year. This year, around 400 were sent in for the first group and 600 for the latest group. It’s a factor boosted by the increase in remote work triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, with Startmate also conducting its program fully remotely as well.

“That’s been a really interesting experience for us,” Batko said. “We’ve got companies now in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Auckland and Wellington in this one cohort, which is pretty amazing.”

The pandemic has also seen Startmate double its fund size so that it can invest in startups even after the accelerator. Plus, the company has found it easier to get speakers and mentors on board.

However, there are still some downsides with working remotely, like being unable to sit next to startup founders and answer their questions in a traditional face-to-face setting.

There’s even a Fellowship program at Startmate

Startmate has a Fellowship program for women who want to work in a startup. Beginning a year-and-a-half ago with only six women, the Fellowship has since expanded, with its fourth cohort (which kicked off in September) having 100 fellows supported by 74 mentors and coaches.

Like the accelerator program, the Fellowship is also very competitive. Among this latest group, 600 people applied but only 100 people could get in.

“They all don’t have startups themselves but they want to transition their careers and work in a startup,” Batko said.

“They might have had some founding experience in the past but they all come from lots of different backgrounds whether that’s a banker, a consultant, a student or somebody working in the hospitality industry.”

Startmate is essentially creating an ecosystem where it develops the demand (startups) and provides a supply (the Fellowship).

“That’s where the fellowship comes in as well because all those companies are now growing so quickly that they need to hire so fast,” Batko said.

He added that two of the biggest problems for any startup is money and people. So the accelerator helps with the money side and once you have the money, you can spend it on hiring people.

How do you know if you need to join an accelerator program?

If you’ve ever wondered when the best time is to get into an accelerator program, Batko says it’s right now. If you can get in, of course.

He explained that it helps reduce potential problems startups could face and puts them on a “faster growth trajectory.”

“Wherever you’re going to be in a year’s time, we can get you there way further, way faster,” he said.

The accelerator program is also helpful for tapping into a community of people who can answer the questions you may have.

“If you have a marketing question or if you want to do fundraising and you don’t even know where to start, that’s what accelerators are really good for because they plug you into a huge community of awesome people who have the answers,” Batko said.

With the company continuing on its remote working setup, Batko believes it opens a lot of doors to invest in startups wherever they are. “Previously startups had to relocate to Sydney and Melbourne for our programs, but now they can literally apply from anywhere and even stay regionally as well,” he said.

There’s also further opportunity for the company with its Fellowship program.

“Right now we run it for operators who want to leave their corporate jobs predominantly,” Batko said. “But in the future, we can also do it for engineers, we can do it for students and we can expand that concept and essentially help startups hire from all different directions.”


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