Start-ups look out: Bridge to MassChallenge is coming to Australia

Photo (L to R): Pip Marlow, Managing Director, Microsoft Australia, The Hon. Christopher Pyne, Federal Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, and Kara Shurmantine, Senior Director Global Partnerships, MassChallenge
By Pip Marlow, Managing Director, Microsoft Australia

At Microsoft, we have a deep heritage of believing in the power of innovation and the ingenuity of start-ups to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems. There has never been a more important time for Australia to foster more of this creativity in our own backyard. We know that Australia must harness the ideas and skills of innovative thinkers if it is to maintain its position at the forefront of the global economy.

Partnering with others is also core to who we are so I’m thrilled to announce that one of the world’s top accelerators, MassChallenge, is headed downunder thanks to the support of the Federal Government and with help from us as its founding partner.

Sometimes innovation is creating something no one has ever thought of before to solve a problem and sometimes innovation can come from building on the great ideas of others. With that in mind, we are proud to build on the work that MassChallenge began in Boston in 2009 as a not-for-profit organisation with a vision to drive economic growth by supporting innovative start-up businesses. By 2015, more than 835 start-ups had been through the program. Those start-ups have raised US$1.1 billion in outside funding, turned over US$520 million and directly created 6,500 jobs and thousands more indirect jobs.

The model was a success in Boston and MassChallenge has started spreading its wings internationally. It now runs intensive four-month ‘competitions’ for start-ups – complete with cash prizes – in four other countries and is running introductory Bridge to MassChallenge programs in several more.

Now Australia is being added to this list. Australia’s Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, the Hon. Christopher Pyne, today announced that MassChallenge will run a bridge program in Australia in 2016 with a view to launching a full program in the country in 2017.

This has been made possible by the contribution of significant funding by the Government and Microsoft’s sponsorship. This is great news for Australian entrepreneurs. What’s different about MassChallenge is that it doesn’t take equity in the start-ups it supports, and its approach has proven to be an effective way to connect people and promote skills at scale across global innovation ecosystems.

The impact of MassChallenge can be seen through the amazing start-ups coming out of its programs with true purpose. Like SHRI, which works alongside communities in rural India to increase essential health infrastructure by providing access to toilets or the AutismSees team working to create tools that enhance presentation skills of those who suffer from autism so that they can better communicate and find employment.

The MassChallenge program is designed to help businesses grow by connecting them with the mentors, investors, professionals and other partners they will need to achieve their goals. Once in the program, entrepreneurs also become part of a global network of peers and other potential supporters to further supercharge their chances of success.

I’m especially proud to say that Microsoft has been instrumental in encouraging MassChallenge to expand to Australia. Not only were we the first corporate partner to the organisation in Boston, we are the founding partner for its entry into Australia.

As part of our Joined-Up Innovation initiative – which has played a direct part in fostering MassChallenge’s interest in coming to Australia – we took a group of Australian policy and business leaders to Boston to learn from the global success of that city. We also captured our findings in a report that has proved to be as much of interest to readers in the Boston area as Australia.

In addition to being delighted to be partnering with the Federal Government and MassChallenge, we are looking forward to working with the state governments, universities, investor community, other accelerator programs and other businesses that will help to drive the initiative. For Microsoft, supporting MassChallenge Australia is very much in line with the philosophy behind our Joined-Up Innovation campaign to foster better links between the elements that make up our innovation ecosystem – from entrepreneurs and researchers to investors and customers.

We look forward to working with MassChallenge as it ramps up in Australia and helps to develop the most important natural resource we have – our people. Learn more and watch out for further information on the MassChallenge site at http://masschallenge.org/programs/bridge.

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