Upshot of not making the MAP’s final 8 with FirstStep

“If I find a cow turd on my front steps, I’m not satisfied knowing that I’ll be mentally prepared to find some future cow turd. I want to shovel that turd onto my garden and hope the cow returns every week so I never have to buy fertilizer again. Failure is a resource that can be managed.” Writes Scott Adams creator of Dilbert and Wall Street Journal contributor.

As I walked out of the selection interviews on the 12th of May I was almost certain that we failed to make the final eight. Undoubtedly we failed in our objective. Gutted would be putting it lightly, I remember talking to a family at work that evening thinking I just shouldn’t be here. I guess this is normal, MAP applications were an exhilarating but also exhausting process.

Thankfully the upshot of our MAP experience was two fold. During the one-month MAP selection window we had our fastest growth as a startup. We set ourselves a goal to build bank feeds to the largest 4 banks in Australia and have a prototype of our app ready for the MAP team interview. The amount of code TP and AK wrote during those 3 weeks was incredible. To put this into perspective we only started working on our app, FirstStep a micro-investments platform in February ‘15.

Even today when we send investors our information memorandum, it’s based off the final/34th revision, stored on our Google Drive, of the MAP pitch and accompanying appendix we did. Preparing slides, practising interview questions, plotting ways to effectively acquire customers and figuring out the financial for MAP got us up to speed quickly. The MAP selection process beginning just 2 months after we started was a blessing in disguise.

More important than the acceleration or boost we got from applying were the friends and feedback we got along the way. Despite not making the final 8, we were contacted by a couple of MAP Mentors and a Director who are interested in our app. They have continued to provide us invaluable advice and networking opportunities. If you’ve met the MAP team; Rohan, Maxine, Kostan and Wen you would know just how generous they are with their time and feedback. Suggestions and points they raised, we at FirstStep still bring up 3 months down the track. The final selection interview was great learning opportunity for us.

I may not share Scott Adams’s hope for cow turd turning up on my front step every week. However I do share his ethos of the trick being to make the most of it.

Joe’s a master’s student at Melbourne University and a specialist trainee down the road at the Children’s Hospital. When he is not at either he’s tinkering away at FirstStep, a no-minimum micro-investment app that allows people to invest the virtual spare change of their electronic transactions. FirstStep is in the current cohort at The University of Sydney’s Incubate Program.

About FirstStep

FirstStep is a mobile app that lets you automatically invest your loose change from everyday purchases into a diversified, low-cost investment portfolio, with a risk profile of your choosing.


MAP13 Alumna Dr. Rikky Muller of Cortera Neurotechnologies is Recognised as an Honoree of MIT Technology Review’s Annual INNOVATORS UNDER 35 List

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MIT Technology Review reveals its annual list of Global Innovators Under 35. For over a decade, the global media company has recognized a list of exceptionally talented technologists whose work has great potential to transform the world. For her work in the field of Engineering and Medicine, Dr. Rikky Muller, co-founder of Cortera Neurotechnologies, Inc., has been recognized as an Honoree on the list.

Dr. Muller and her colleagues are focused on developing innovative medical devices to study and treat neurological disorders. Under Dr. Muller’s leadership, Cortera is a key contributor to a DARPA program (as part of the Obama BRAIN initiative) aimed at developing neurotechnology as a therapy to treat neuropsychiatric disorders such as major depressive disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder. The World Health Organization estimates that such disorders account for up to 31 percent of the global burden of disease. Additionally, Cortera has developed a catalog of unique and commercially available products for neuroscientific research and discovery.

According to Dr. Muller, “I am delighted to receive this award and be included in this global community of innovators advancing technology for human benefit. My work involves developing devices that, among other things, lower surgical complexity and expand the patient population that can be treated for neurological disorders, thus improving and transforming their quality of life.”

“Over the years, we’ve had success in choosing young innovators whose work has been profoundly influential on the direction of human affairs,” says editor in chief and publisher Jason Pontin. “Previous winners include Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the cofounders of Google; Mark Zuckerberg, the cofounder of Facebook; and Jonathan Ive, the chief designer of Apple. We’re proud of our selections and the variety of achievements they celebrate, and we’re proud to add Rikky Muller to this prestigious list.”

This year’s honorees will be featured online at starting today, and in the September/October print magazine, which hits newsstands worldwide on September 1. They will appear in person at the upcoming EmTech MIT conference November 2–4 in Cambridge, Massachusetts (

About MIT Technology Review

MIT Technology Review, which is wholly owned by MIT, creates award-winning technology-related editorial content on a variety of platforms for an audience of millions of business leaders, innovators, and thought leaders, in six languages and in 147 countries. At, readers access daily news and analysis, and the award-winning MIT Technology Review magazine has set the standard for technology publications since 1899. In addition to producing engaging live events, the company manages the global entrepreneurial organization MIT Enterprise Forum. 

About Cortera Neurotechnologies, Inc.

Cortera is a medical device start-up, founded in 2013, that leverages over a decade of research and development in medical devices and neuroscientific products to study and treat intractable neurological disorders. Located in Berkeley, CA, the company has received grants and awards from DARPA (as part of the Obama BRAIN initiative), the NIH, UC Berkeley, The University of Melbourne and the State of Victoria in Australia. To learn more visit

For MIT Technology Review:

David W.M. Sweeney


For Cortera:

Tom Mahon, Thomas Mahon Associates

(925) 200-5165

Visions and Solutions- Valentin Muenzel, Co-Founder of Relectrify (MAP15)

Snip20150809_14Some startups are born out of a vision alone. These begin with the founders envisaging the world without a key problem. The founders then leverage their own skills, or those of others they recruit, to find a solution.

Other startups begin with a solution. This solution can be a technology or business model, either newly developed or just never having thus far been considered for a given context.  Such startups form when founders identify a valuable problem that a given solution is suited to address.

And some startups are somewhere in-between. Our company, Relectrify, for example, is based on the vision that rechargeable batteries will become the heart of the future electricity grid. The problem to overcome is we currently use batteries for only a fraction of their lifecycle causing high cost and waste. Alongside this vision, however, we had a previously developed solution to a related problem as a starting point. The company effectively formed out of an ongoing brainstorm between my co-founder and I regarding how the existing solution would need to pivot to address the current problem. First this discussion was purely technical, then it became increasingly economic. Finally, Relectrify was born.

Whether a startup is problem-first, solution-first, or a mix thereof, one key challenge is making sure suitable focus is paid to both aspects as the company develops. This is what an engineer may compare to an inverted pendulum on moving ground. It almost always swings too far one way and it takes active effort to rein it back in. As soon as it is back under control it starts to swing back out, either the same way or the other. Rarely, if ever, does it sit perfectly in the middle without any effort. Having clearly differentiated team members helps. But nonetheless it is an ongoing challenge.

Over the past 6 weeks MAP has pushed all the 2015 intake companies tremendously towards getting both aspects right. Setting and working towards both weekly goals and longer-term milestones pushes development of solutions. However, just as much focus is being paid to defining a very clear company vision and being able to communicate it effectively. Our pitches, which to us seemed so well developed when we entered MAP, are under fire on a weekly basis, be it by Rohan’s well-placed injection of the word “boring” or very direct feedback from fellow MAP team members.

As a result we are thinking longer and harder regarding our companies. How to describe the vision succinctly. How to balance between the broader problem and the specific solution.  And, of course, how to share all of this in such a way that our pitch audience really cares. By following a rapid learning curve, we have a shot at making a real impact in this world. And at the end of the day, that’s the one thing that really matters.

About Relectrify

Relectrify is developing technology to provide an affordable solution to the rapidly growing need for energy storage. For more information visit