Belinda Dennett – Director, Corporate Affairs, Microsoft Australia
Some of Australia’s brightest entrepreneurs are packing their bags for Boston and preparing to make their pitch to the world. This follows the recent announcement of the top 10 finalists in the first-ever Bridge to MassChallenge Australia – a prestigious start-up accelerator program brought here by Microsoft as part of our mission to spearhead local innovation.
The finalists, announced at a gala event in Sydney on November 15, are brimming with ideas that have the potential to transform people’s lives. These include an app that can help smokers quit the habit; a system designed to keep children safe online; wearable technology to cure bad backs; and even digital solutions to craft the perfect home-brewed beer.
Each of the finalists will have their chance to impress at the five-day MassChallenge Boston bootcamp this coming February. There, they will benefit from intensive training and networking opportunities, as well as personalised mentoring from tech industry experts. They will also vie for a coveted place at a MassChallenge incubation location in the US, UK, Israel, Switzerland or Mexico, and a share of more than US$3 million in cash awards
The selection of the finalists followed several rounds of competition. A total of 200 Australian start-ups applied to join the program. Of these, the top 45 were selected by a panel of 150 international judges to participate in three-day bootcamps in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.
Everyone at Microsoft is proud of our role as the first corporate partner of MassChallenge in Boston, and the first founding partner of Bridge to MassChallenge Australia. Since it started in 2010, MassChallenge has grown into one of the world’s top non-profit accelerator programs. It has supported the growth of 835 companies, raised more than US$1.4 billion in funding and created more than 50,000 jobs worldwide.
As President Mike LaRhette noted at the event in Sydney, MassChallenge originated in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, when the US state of Massachusetts was hit by massive job losses due to the closure of many manufacturing operations. The two Boston-based entrepreneurs who established the program were eager to support the next generation of value creators: people who would apply their ingenuity for an altruistic purpose rather than just seeking to enrich themselves.
For Microsoft, partnering with MassChallenge was a natural fit – and we were delighted when Australian Government Minister Christopher Pyne officially made the announcement at our South Australian offices earlier this year. We were also delighted when the South Australian, Victorian and New South Wales governments put state parochialism aside and crossed the political divide to join forces as founding partners.
Just like MassChallenge, Microsoft believes that technology has the potential to powerfully augment human capabilities. And just like government, we strive to represent everyone. For us, these are core values – something far more profound than a narrow sales proposition.
In the years to come, digital innovation will be vital as Australia seeks to diversify its economy beyond its traditional dependencies in areas such as manufacturing and mining. The Australian Government’s newly released 2016 Innovation System Report notes that businesses that innovate are best positioned to outperform their competitors in terms of sales, value-add, employment and profit growth. In a remarkable statistic, Australian businesses that are less than two years old have accounted for 1.2 million new jobs and 90% of all job creation since 2004.
All this helps explain why Microsoft is committed to nurturing Australia’s start-up ecosystem. After all, technology not only has the power to help every person and organisation achieve more – but entire nations as well.
Congratulations to Australia’s top 10 finalists and best of luck for the rest of your MassChallenge journey.