Eleven Startups Catch the Next Wave at Muru-D

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You could hear the noise in the lift on the way up. Over 150 people were packed into the open area of Muru-D, Telstra’s startup accelerator, awaiting the announcement of the ten teams who would participate in the second class of the Muru-D academy. For the teams that were selected, there was excitement. For those that didn’t make it, disappointment.

The Muru-D academy is a startup accelerator program supported by Telstra. It offers entrepreneurs $40,000 and six months of business mentoring and active development in exchange for six percent equity in the fledgling business. I joined the program as a mentor for the first class so was interested to get an early look at those involved in the second intake.

Around 20 or so new teams had been corralled at the Muru-D office in Sydney’s Paddington over a weekend. They were put through their paces in a “bootcamp” – an intensive round of meetings, instruction and pitching designed to help the Muru-D judges determine those most likely to succeed. Across the weekend, the startup teams were questioned, provoked, supported and challenged. It is certainly not a process for the faint hearted.

But talking to a number of the participants, it was clear that the bootcamp process was worthwhile – even more experienced teams learned a great deal.

All-in-all there were 11 teams selected to participate in the academy process. That was one more than expected – but clearly there was value to be found. This rounds teams include:

  • FanFuel – a sponsorship marketplace where brands search, measure and secure their sponsorship deal.
  • FreightExchange – a digital marketplace for freight transporters to sell their unused capacity to businesses that need to ship goods.
  • Wattblock – quick, customised, web-based energy-saving road maps for residential and commercial strata buildings.
  • Disrupt Surfing – custom surfboards made using 3D modelling.
  • You Chews – an online catering platform, making it easy to find great food for meetings and events.
  • TripALocal – an online platform that connects travellers with local hosts for authentic local experiences.
  • Peep Digital – an intelligent, phonetic English technology platform to help children, youths and adults struggling with English pronunciation and comprehension.
  • VClass – the first ever hybrid education platform that combines the power of internet, VoIP and traditional pen and paper to create an online teaching experience like face to face.
  • Instrument Works – developers of wireless, portable sensors and instruments to build the internet of things for research.
  • CroudSourceHire – a pre-hire assessments marketplace platform that crowdsources industry experts to assist with assessment of jobs for companies.
  • SoccerBrain – making it easy for anyone to coach a team, providing tailored, interactive training sessions week-by-week for coaches and players.

The teams kick off their acceleration program in the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see where this wave takes them. And indeed, where it takes Telstra and the Muru-D team.

Disrupting Graphics: Now Design’s at Your Fingertips with Canva for iPad

Canva-ipad One of the great local startup success stories, Canva – the platform that lets us all create great graphic design in an amazingly simple way – has reached a milestone – 850,000 users. This is no mean feat – especially in a world where every startup, every mature business and hoards of consultants, freelancers and the like vie for our attention, loyalty and share of wallet. With a super-intuitive yet powerful interface, Canva have made it easy for anyone to produce quality graphic design, collateral and presentations.

And by “anyone”, I mean anyone. Including me, my brother and my mother (so yes, it passes the family test). And by “quality” I mean that the results don’t look like they were produced by me, my brother or mother. They look like they’ve been done by a designer. This is largely down to the great library of ready-to-go images, design elements, templates and fonts that come with a Canva account. But it’s also largely by the Canva co-founders keeping a close eye on their advocates, user base and fans.

Speaking with co-founder, Melanie Perkins, over a year ago, it was clear that the Canva team needed to walk a fine line between democratising design – making it available to the masses – while also maintaining the goodwill, support and efforts of the design community. After all, Melanie and co-founder, Cliff Obrecht had come from a design background themselves and were actively working with designers to build out libraries of assets that could be commercialised at scale.

In just over a year, more than 5.7 million designs have been created, Guy Kawasaki has come on-board as chief evangelist, and the team has grown beyond its cute digs in the funky Sydney suburb of Surry Hills.

But not content to rest on their laurels, Canva have now released a new a full function app for the iPad.

And for me, this takes Canva into a whole new market. It puts their powerful platform into the hands of its users. Literally. And that means small business owners. Those who work in shops, restaurants and cafes. It brings ease-of-use to a new level too – with access to your iPad’s camera and camera roll, there’s no more messy transferring of images across devices. It’s all in one place – ready to be edited, filtered and combined with illustrations and images from the Canva library.

Now, I won’t lie. Canva in the hands of a good designer will astound you. And my mum’s birthday card designs, while a big hit with the family, are unlikely to end up being featured in a Hallmark promotion. But Canva is a massive step up from the entry-level tools that still dominate small businesses the world over. So say goodbye to that old Paint program, and say hello to a new universe of creativity. Download Canva for iPad here.

It’s Gruen for Innovation – That Startup Show

What is a startup? How is it different from a small business? And what role does innovation and/or technology play in a startup?

These are some of the first topics addressed by the new “entertainment startup” web-cast show, That Startup Show. Hosted by Dan Ilic and streamed live, the show takes a leaf out of ABC’s The Gruen Transfer – a smart, funny and insightful panel drilling into focused topics interspersed with clips and live pitch sessions.

Panelists Bronwen Clune, Alan Noble and Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin, provide an industry perspective and Dan Ilic does a great job of keeping the conversation flowing. They take live tweet questions from the crowd and cover a vast range of topics in a very short time.

This first episode marks an important innovation in the development of the Australian startup ecosystem. It’s “StartupAus” beginning to tell its own stories at scale. And that can only be a good thing. Looking forward to Episode 2.