The MAP16 startup accelerator draws to a close

6 months. 10 startups. High-class mentorship and growth opportunities. The 2016 MAP startup accelerator officially concluded on Thursday 27 October with one of the largest events in Melbourne’s entrepreneurship calendar, shared with the city’s finest investors and startup enthusiasts at the grand Melbourne Town Hall.


Startups are each unique, with different growth trajectories and strategic visions. Pitching with numerous styles and exploring a wide variation of sectors, Demo Day captured the unpredictable and exciting nature of the startup world. The startups that we have all grown familiar with throughout the program exhibited their extraordinary progress, each pitching for 3 minutes before a dynamic Q&A session led by Accelerator Manager Maxine Lee. Allume, Simple, Shacky, Axon, Deliciou, Onolytics, Black AI, Bajaboard, Honee and CNSDose each took to the stage, indicating the range and diversity of talent within the program, with startup target sectors ranging from solar energy to MedTech and big data.

Demo Day proved a fitting culmination to the program, as Maxine explained –

The MAP startups this year have exceeded our expectations. The founders have grown together as a cohort and we were blown away by the level of collaboration and camaraderie across the group. Each of the founders have experienced a unique journey – either through applying their learnings to achieve product-market fit, exceeding their growth targets or accelerating product development and expanding their teams.”

The infectious enthusiasm on display in each pitch, from the laughs conjured by Kjetil Hansen of Deliciou to the passion of Shacky’s Joep Pennartz, captivated the audience and demonstrated the dynamism on display every day at Lab-14.

The pitches were preceded by MAP Director Rohan Workman’s welcome address, which stressed the vision of MAP and a continued commitment to diversity throughout all of MAP’s accelerator and development pipeline. MAP seeks to help entrepreneurs of all kinds, recognising the benefits of diversity across gender, nationality, age, ethnicity and beyond. (Read our blog on the issue and how MAP is tackling it, here.)


As the year draws to a close and we welcome our 2016 founders into the MAP alumni community, we look forward to the possibilities of 2017. With a bursting calendar of events catering to all stages of the startup journey and as our startup accelerator continues to evolve, we can’t wait to have you on board.

Inspired? Check out our portfolio of 34 startups, sign up for our newsletter, or get in touch with us.

Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to see what’s in store for 2017!

MAP Co-Founder to head Innovation and Science Australia

A special message from our Director…

Dear MAP Family,

Today is a bittersweet day for us as we let you know that Dr Charlie Day, one of the co-founders of MAP and the Director of the Carlton Connect Initiative, has been headhunted to become the CEO of Innovation and Science Australia by none other than the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, the Hon. Greg Hunt MP.

Charlie’s contribution to MAP cannot be overstated – there simply would be no MAP without him.

To put Charlie’s contribution into perspective one needs to understand the pedigree of his background. A Rhodes Scholar (in jet engine design), Charlie was formerly a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group, and a member of the Investment Committee of UniSeed before he was recruited by the University of Melbourne to lead Melbourne Ventures for 6 years as its founding Director. Most recently Charlie has been leading the Carlton Connect Initiative, which is transforming the old Royal Women’s Hospital site into Australia’s premier innovation precinct. He also sits on the Board of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

Charlie on Camera.jpg
Dr Charlie Day at the MAP16 Accelerator Launch.

Charlie’s experience is complemented by his diplomacy, wisdom, leadership and eloquence. I can also personally attest to phenomenal amounts of patience… :) When you add this all up it has become increasingly clear to me over the years that there is nobody in Australia who understands the intersection of the complex worlds of Universities and entrepreneurship better than Charlie Day.

It’s pretty easy to see why Minister Hunt would want Charlie for this role – he is the perfect person for it and will do an outstanding job. It is validation of Charlie’s contribution to date and a well-placed trust that Charlie can steward Australia into a more entrepreneurial age just as he has stewarded MAP since its inception.

Charlie enjoying a tour of Airbnb as part of the MAP Silicon Valley Trade Mission, November 2015.

Charlie – congratulations from everyone at MAP and although you’re leaving the nest just remember that you’re part of the family for life!

Best wishes,

Rohan Workman
Melbourne Accelerator Program


A place for all founders to flourish


Director of MAP, Rohan Workman, welcomes the audience to MAP16 Demo Day at Melbourne Town Hall on October 27.

Removing Restrictions and Upping Diversity

Since removing the restriction of our startup founder’s affiliation to the University of Melbourne from students, staff and alumni of 5 years to students, staff and alumni of any year, we have welcomed a record number of applications and selected one of the most diverse MAP cohorts yet.

The MAP16 founders tick a lot of boxes – they are global citizens (from Mexico, Norway, Holland, Italy, New Zealand and Australia), are different ages (from students to seasoned professionals), have different specialisations (from law and science to engineering and design) and, true to MAP style, these founders are building businesses in emerging sectors (from artificial intelligence and socially accessible solar energy to medical health and diagnostics).

The transfer of knowledge across this diverse group has been rapid, but we know it could be faster and that we could support future startups to have an even greater chance of success by ensuring one more element of diversity is present in the mix – gender.

Why True Diversity Matters

We are proud to have built a MAP team that ticks all the boxes – we have an international outlook (from Malaysia, Ghana, UK, China, US, Australia and New Zealand), are at different life stages, have a range of educational experiences and expertise, and are cultivating a great set of female leaders.

We believe true diversity in a startup’s founding team should encompass age, gender, education, and specialisation. We also believe that once a team with this competitive edge is set up, mentored and given the right support, they will produce a better, more sustainable business. It is our vision that these businesses will in turn help us to achieve our vision for a more prosperous Australia for all.

Evidence consistently shows companies that are led by women and embrace diversity of all kinds demonstrate improved levels of innovation, creativity, and quite simply, better bottom lines (by as much as 30% on average). Once companies like these attract investment, an incredible 63% of those with female founders perform better than those with all male teams.

Turning up the Heat on Gender Diversity

As our Director Rohan Workman highlighted at our Demo Day this year, having no women pitch that evening was upsetting. We know there’s a lot of work to do; we are up to the challenge.

We want MAP to be the place for female founders to flourish; founders of Melbourne, make yourselves known and prepare to apply for 2017.

MAP startups gain access to $20,000 in funding, office space and mentorship for 5 months, and have the opportunity to pitch to investors here in Melbourne and in Silicon Valley. MAP has a public benefit mandate that extends to the accelerator program. As such, we do not take equity in the startups in our program and we support startups of all kinds.


To date, we have supported 34 startups with 8 female founders who have gone on to employ another 29 women. These statistics can be improved, and have in the past few years – for example, the number of women in our applicant pool this year more than doubled, which is an important first step. We do not want and cannot allow any more female founders to miss out on this opportunity as your success is ours. We are excited to be in the position to build and shape the future of startups where doors are kept open and an even wider group can participate. 

Opportunities for Female Founders at MAP

How are we actively working to create this shift? We have focused our efforts on developing and preparing exceptional talent to enter the accelerator program and have been excited to see that we are quickly approaching gender parity in our development programs (56% men to 44% women).

There are many ways in which we welcome aspiring entrepreneurs and female founders into the MAP family and you’ll notice we’ve taken things up a notch this year. Take a note of the following initiatives we have developed over the past 5 years and share them with your networks:

Female Founders Meetup: The importance of founder wellbeing, October 7.

Female Founders Meetup est. 2013

Our renowned Female Founders meetup, founded with Google, is one of the largest in the world. The events are for women and men at all stages of their startup journey and are designed to inspire and inform you or introduce you to amazing female founders who are blazing the trail. Sign up here.

The Velocity Series est. 2013

The Velocity Series programs are tailored to support aspiring entrepreneurs to become well-rounded founders of early-stage startups. The Velocity Series includes three streams: Startup Velocity – for the frameworks and practical skills to get the ball rolling; Escape Velocity – to help founders with customer validation and building traction; and Social Velocity – merging the worlds of startup and social enterprise. Startup Velocity is offered multiple times per year across two consecutive evenings, whilst Escape Velocity and Social Velocity are both 6-month programs that use the lean startup methodology and mentorship to push teams past ideation to validation and traction.

Escape Velocity est. 2013

In former iterations, Escape Velocity was a light touch, 3-day program. The program has since been redesigned to support high-potential teams with a clear methodology and mentorship as they search for product market fit. Express your interest or refer a friend.

Social Velocity est. 2016

This competitive-entry program is designed for mission focused founders building startups with social or environmental impact. The experience pushes teams to better understand their social issue, sets them up with experienced mentors, connects teams with Escape Velocity, and introduces them to the social entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Express your interest or refer a friend.

Social Velocity team ‘Climates’ discuss their impact gaps canvas, September 20.

The Franklins est. 2016

This program is especially for women entrepreneurs at all stages. The skills-based program is co-designed with participants to sharpen their entrepreneurial acumen, and to connect them with supportive peers and mentors. (The Franklins are inspired by the story of Rosalind Franklin, whose pioneering scientific work went largely unrecognised in her lifetime. We want to support and celebrate our female entrepreneurs and innovators!) Express your interest or refer a friend.

Open Mic Night est. 2016

This has been a successful new addition to our talent development repertoire – branders and marketers, wheelers and dealers, coders and programmers, and everyone in between are welcome to pitch their skills and expertise to startups. Startups also have the opportunity to find their next team member at this event. Express your interest or refer a friend.

Open Office Hours est. 2016

For those of you who have a startup that is past the proof of concept stage, we are more than happy to take a meeting with you to learn more about your idea and to provide advice for applying to MAP at our Open Office Hours. Feel free to book a session here –

(If you’re not yet past proof of concept, check out the opportunities above and let us help you get there!) 

MAP x Notable Media Workshop with Amanda Gome, Building your personal brand, April 29.

Starting up and Leaning in

We are lucky to have an incredibly committed network of high-profile and up-and-coming women – and men – who are working with us to bring about real change on this front. We want to recognise them and thank them for their faith and their energy. Without them, the additional initiatives we have designed and run, would not be possible.

With 1-in-4 startups being founded by women in Australia, MAP’s activities alone will not provide the silver bullet in changing the status quo. We encourage all of you who are participating in Australia’s flourishing entrepreneurship ecosystem as founders, funders or mentors to lean in and help us achieve our vision. Tap female founders in your network on the shoulder and encourage them to join the MAP family.

If you are interested in mentoring the next generation of founders with truly diverse backgrounds, we cannot wait to work with you, please get in touch. We are working towards showcasing startups that represent a broad cross section of society and who have developed the skill-sets necessary to grow successful businesses into the future.

Sign up for our newsletter, follow us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook or get in touch with us to see what’s in store for 2017!



The Melbourne Startups Making Their Moves – Only at MAP 2016 Demo Day

You’re invited to
MAP 2016 Demo Day
Thursday 27th October 2016, 6pm
Melbourne Town Hall  

What do some of the hottest sectors in innovation have in common? How are medtech, clean energy, extreme sports and big data linked? Answer: they’re all found at the Melbourne Accelerator Program!

On Thursday 27 October, mingle with the founders driving Melbourne’s entrepreneurial scene, as you witness pitches from Allume, Honee, Axon, Deliciou, Shacky, Black AI, Bajaboard, CNSDose, Onolytics and Simple. Marking the official conclusion of the 2016 MAP program, this is your unique opportunity to delve into the world of MAP and see what this extraordinary group of founders have been working on this year.


The MAP startups this year have exceeded our expectations. The founders have grown together as a cohort and we were blown away by the level of collaboration and camaraderie across the group.  Each of the founders have experienced a unique journey – either through applying their learnings to achieve product-market fit, exceeding their growth targets or accelerating product development and expanding their teams.” – Maxine Lee, MAP Accelerator Manager.

With investors, founders, corporates, and champions of Melbourne’s wider entrepreneurial community present, the MAP 2016 Demo Day is your chance to be connected with the best and brightest minds from across Australia. Meet and support the people making Melbourne a world-class startup hub.

Be a part of something big.

Register online today. General admission and limited investor tickets available.

MAP startup Black AI wins leadership award in Tech23 competition

MAP16 startup Black AI were this week awarded the Enterprise Mobility Leadership Award at Tech23’s startup competition in Sydney.

Black AI CEO and co-founder Keaton Okkonen pitches at Tech23.

Black AI have created Ani, an artificial intelligence system that can watch and understand human behaviour. Ani automates the direct observation of people movement and flow through environments, detecting interactions and notable events, reporting on them in real time. The technology focuses on context driven insights, which in essence, provides an efficient system to capture and simplify big data. Ani is already in preliminary market tests, with Black AI securing a partnership with the University of Sydney in a study for early detection of Alzheimers and Dementia.

“This is a hugely scalable program that can be plugged in to any living space to collect the data that you actually need. It shifts our relationship with data from being reactive to proactive”, said Black AI CEO and co-founder Keaton Okkonen, who opened up the 2016 Tech 23 program with his presentation on Smarter Data.

The Black AI team in Seattle at the Imagine Cup World Final 2016.

In July this year Black AI were amongst the 35 teams selected worldwide to compete at the Microsoft Imagine Cup World Finals. Competing in the Innovation category in Seattle, to compete on the world level. From tens of thousands of competitors around the globe, representing Australia as a finalist at the world cup demonstrates the impact of this young team and the potential of Ani to make a positive impact across industries such as healthcare, retail, urban planning and entertainment.

Celebrating Australian innovation, the Tech23 competition attracted over 400 delegates in 2016, its eighth year of operation. Black AI were amongst 23 high-growth potential and technically competitive startups selected to pitch their innovative solutions. Keaton will once again pitch Black AI’s Ani at the Melbourne Town Hall on October 27, as part of the upcoming Melbourne Demo Day featuring the 2016 cohort of MAP’s startup accelerator.

As part of his prize, Keaton will travel to Boston, Massachusetts to learn more about the startup scene on the US East Coast. He will also receive mentorship from Tech23 alumni BigtinCan – the sponsor of the award – and will attend a special Boston Product Management Association event. In addition to the leadership prize, Black AI were also awarded the MYOB award and will receive a personalised session with a MYOB Executive Leader.

Congratulations Keaton and the Black AI team!

Finding true north: how to define your growth compass.

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-4-42-34-pmLessons on growth from Envato’s Ben Chan

It’s always a great learning opportunity when the founders in our startup accelerator gather together for their weekly workshop. When the guest presenter happens to be a General Manager from one of Australia’s most successful startups, the excitement and engagement step up another level. Ben Chan, General Manager of Envato Market, captivated our startup founders last week as he shared some key pointers on how to measure and pursue growth. Since its launch in Melbourne in 2006, Envato has grown its community to over 6 million users, making it the world’s leading market place for creative assets.

With a background in investment and management consulting, Ben has an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience from which to draw. After completing his undergraduate studies in Commerce and Engineering at the University of Melbourne, Ben worked in Investment Banking in Melbourne, before moving to Goldman Sachs in New York. While based in the US, Ben completed his MBA at Stanford University. In 2010 Ben returned to Australia to work in management consulting for McKinsey & Company, later moving to Envato as Director of Growth and Revenue in 2013.

“Growth should serve as a compass for startups, helping to guide your movements at every critical decision”, Ben revealed. If you’re making decisions that do not clearly link back to your growth objectives, you’re missing out. Ben shared the four key pillars of Envato’s impressive growth with our founders, who were keen to learn from his wealth of experience. For Envato, growth comes down to: a strong user focus; delivering products that address those users’ needs; having the right team to deliver the product; and ensuring the right processes are in place to assist your team. This last step is critical for startups struggling to scale their business.

Envato’s stellar growth is fascinating to consider, given the challenges that typically face online marketplaces. While trying to grow both the supply side (their authors) and the demand side (their customers), Ben explained how crucial it was to understand what is important to each. He admitted that, at times, one side of a market place can be easier to develop than the other, but that in order to grow, you need to double your efforts to invest in the side that proves to be a greater challenge.

Through Envato’s careful market analysis they discovered that authors of digital assets wanted to earn a living through freelancing, but that they also were desperately seeking a sense of belonging and a community where they felt cared for. On the other side of the equation, buyers of digital assets wanted good value, trust, high quality and diversity of product. Ben and the team at Envato provide proof that both suppliers and customers in a marketplace can be satisfied simultaneously, and have continued to expand their marketplace tailored to the specific needs of each group.

Taking this advice on board, our founders were keen to learn more about how Envato have grown their customer base. Approaching digital marketing by channel, Ben was quick to stress the importance of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). “Search Engine Optimisation is critical. It doesn’t matter if you have the best product in the world, if Google and your customers can’t find you, that’s the end.” Paid acquisition can be used to bolster your audience, but, as Ben stressed, it is often costly and only generates small volumes. “Affiliate marketing is a huge industry and can be a great way to encourage a virtual sales team – but you need to make it worth their while” said Ben. Our founders had plenty of questions on this topic, discussing how best to select and engage with affiliates. Email marketing was also discussed as a key tool in pursuing growth. The founders were challenged to think beyond the use of email for existing customers, instead using it for new customer acquisition by collaborating with complimentary organisations, where benefits can be realised for both user-bases through joint marketing campaigns.

As the discussion turned to focus on the processes needed for growth, Ben shared the value in iterating fast and gathering customer feedback at every stage of the sales funnel. Laying down the challenge, Ben encouraged the startups to push out at least one market or customer ‘experiment’ per week in order to gain valuable feedback which can then be used to make data driven decisions. “While focus groups are useful, even the best focus groups can only give you a few voices. Some of those voices may be louder than others but not necessarily point in the right direction”, shared Ben. “Real data should always trump anecdotes”.

Ben concluded the workshop by covering the two key growth metrics that Envato consider the most valuable: conversion rate and value by cohort. While most people think of conversion rates from a ‘visit to action’ point of view, Ben suggested our startups break this down even further to gain a more comprehensive understanding of their sales funnel. Each step in the sales funnel from should be tracked, in order to minimise leakage. Looking not only at page visit to purchase, but also at customer lead to face-to-face interaction, or event view to event registration, can provide useful insights that can be used to improve your offering overall.

Value by cohort groups users and customers by common factors, including but not limited to the channel that brought them to you, the geography they’re from, the product they’re interested in, the campaign that won them over, and when they engaged with your business. This data can then be used to understand the revenue generated by a cohort, in comparison to their cost of acquisition. Particularly valuable for startups to identify where traction and revenue is being generated, and consequently, where marketing efforts should be focused.

Ben was incredibly generous with his advice and time, staying behind to talk to our founders after his workshop. We are very grateful to Ben for sharing his wisdom and advice, and we look forward to having him back at MAP again soon.

Morning tea with Ian Bernstein, co-founder of Sphero


Co-founder of Sphero, Ian Bernstein shared his startup experience with us in a special visit to LAB-14 on Thursday 25 August. The MAP team was incredibly excited by Ian’s visit, as he truly is a leader in the development of interactive toys and applied technology. Sphero’s star product is a robotic ball that can be controlled by smartphones, which as we learnt, played an integral role in the creation of the iconic Disney Character, BB-8.

Ian’s journey started when he and co-founder Adam Wilson were accepted into TechStars. Accelerating their growth through sheer determination, hard-work and a commitment to take advantage of every opportunity, by the end of the program, the boys had developed the basic prototype for Sphero. At this point, and after demonstrating significant success through sales of their robotic balls, Ian and his co-founder Adam were invited to the Disney Accelerator program. After a chance meeting with a Disney executive involved with the Star Wars Episode VII movie, in in the space of 4 hours, Ian and Adam developed a (very) rough prototype for BB-8, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The film was a huge success, BB-8 was a stand-out character, and Sphero’s BB-8 app-controlled droid went on to achieved ‘Toy of the Year’ status.

Here’s a sneak peek into the Q&A session we had with Ian.

MAP: There are many different accelerators around the world. How do you figure out which one to apply for?

IB: The easiest way to find out is to search for the companies that those Accelerators have funded, to give you a better idea of who they cater to. In the U.S, for instance, some of the commonly known Accelerators include Y Combinator, 500 Startups, and TechStars, which are mainly for early-stage startups. Other Accelerators such as HAX and Disney Accelerators are designed to help more established startups to scale up.

MAP: How do we go about choosing where to manufacturing our products?

IB: Most hardware companies (including Sphero) manufacture their products in China. Firstly, it is important to choose manufacturers that you can trust to reduce the likelihood of being copied by other surrounding manufacturers. Secondly, manufacturing in China requires founders to stay highly involved with the production line to ensure the quality of their products. I personally spend a substantial amount of time each year visiting our manufacturers to solve all kinds of technical issues.

MAP: What should we do if we want to expand our product line?

IB: BB-8 has been the most popular product by Sphero to date. This doesn’t mean we won’t continue to develop. How will Sphero expand our product lines to stay relevant in the market? We have products for users at different levels, so that when they have developed or progressed beyond one product, we can upgrade the speed for players or the challenge from intermediate to higher levels. This has proved effective to keep our users engaged and challenged so far.