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Ask HN: Is there a Y Combinator equivalent in Australia?
35 points by DistortedRhymes on Aug 8, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 22 comments
Is there anything like a Y Combinator equivalent in Australia? Love to hear if there is as I have one start-up in motion, and a lot more ideas in mind that could use small funding and advice to thrive (but yes know I need to concentrate on one thing at a time to get results!)

Even if a YC-like firm starts up in Australia (and I know of a few people who think it's a good idea) it won't be of the calibre of YC, if the track record of emulators even in the US is anything to go by. Like Silicon Valley itself, the further ahead YC gets, the more it attracts the best startups and investors, and the further ahead it gets.

The most determined Australian founders are leaving Australia to try and make it on the world stage, so any Australian-based version would be limited to startups that are less determined, or whose ideas are Australia-focused, which by definition would be smaller in scale and ambition.

@Bootload is right to point out Pollenizer - Mick and the crew are doing great things to help develop Australia-focused startups, though the type of investment and support they provide is quite different to YC.

Your best bet is to find the startup community in your city and start interacting with them and sharing your ideas and experiences. The Silicon Beach mailing list and weekly meetups in Sydney and Melbourne are the best way to find fellow founders. The Hive events are also great, though less tech-focused. They started in Melbourne and now happen in Brisbane and Sydney, each month. We also run Hackernews meetups in Melbourne a couple of times a year. Follow @ycmelb on Twitter or stay tuned to HN for announcements.

Ultimately, rather than hoping for a YC-copy in your local area, your best bet is to develop yourself to a point where you can get funded by the real YC.

"... Ultimately, rather than hoping for a YC-copy in your local area, your best bet is to develop yourself to a point where you can get funded by the real YC ..."

I agree there really is only 1 YC. Having to travel 23hrs by Jet to get there redefines determination.

The Hive ~ http://thehive.org.au/ & (podcasts) http://thehive.org.au/?feed=podcast you can hear Tom & Finn back in '09 at the Hive where I saw them present this talk ~ http://thehive.org.au/tom-howard-and-fenn-bailey-from-adioso... & http://thehive.org.au/podpress_trac/feed/68/0/tom-howard-fen...

Or TechStars. They've been rolling out a lot of good companies with serious business plans as of late. People are taking notice.

Cheers Tom.

I agree on finding other people and hanging/hacking out as much as possible.

There is lots of activity in this area in Australia and expect a few bits of news soon.

I never saw anything even approaching YC while I was in Syd. Two questions:

1) What's stopping you from moving to the US?

If you wanted to, you could be here on an effectively permanent basis in a matter of weeks (we have an unfair advantage in the form of the E3 visa, a version of the H1B for Australians). Get in touch if you'd like to chat about this.

2) Are you making the most of a community which isn't formalised/mature enough to support a YC equivalent?

There are some real kickass entrepreneurs in Sydney, who I'd say are more approachable and helpful than their equivalents in cities with a more mature startup community. Get in touch for some names, or just show up to Silicon Beach drinks and talk to as many people as you can.

I work with jamesg (who's already commented) as an Aussie in the current YC batch.

The short answer is there isn't really an equivalent, although I think I speak for many expat Aussies in saying we wish there were!

There are certainly many entrepreneurs in Sydney - check out some of the local meetups like http://www.meetup.com/open-coffee-sydney/ or contact people like Mick Liubinskas and Bart Jellema.

However as James said, the incredible wealth of talent, opportunity, and funding available in Silicon Valley has to be seen to be believed. Without such a context, I think it will be hard to develop such a seed funding model.

The debate about why Australians need to come to the Valley to start companies has been raging for decades - see commentary on Atlassian's most recent round of funding as a classic example.

I think it notable that YC's specific value proposition especially makes sense in a climate where later stages of funding are plentiful. I have no quantitative data to back this up, but it appears sensible to assume that the volume of deal flow (in $M terms) raised in Australia for tech startups would need to be massively higher before a seed investment funnel model would make sense.

Finally, go for it! If not now and you, then when and who? :-)

As an Aussie, in the current YC batch, I have to say that the answer is unfortunately no. YC is just an unbelievable phenomenon, and I think it's unlikely to be successfully replicated anywhere.

To understand my answer, you really need to understand the value that YC gives you. The money is one thing, but it's really not that much -- I don't think you should be doing YC if the money is your primary objective. What has been amazing for me is the access to people who have, it is no understatement to say, changed the world. Getting office hours with PG is massively helpful -- it's saved us a bunch of time when we've been worried about something to just head into YC's offices and have a candid discussion about it with Paul, and he has a particular talent for focusing startups energy in the right direction (users and cheques!).

The big part of this that will be especially hard to replicate in Australia is the introductions to all these people -- fundamentally, those people live in Silicon Valley, and there's not much you can do to change that.

My last comment here is that I don't think Australia (well, Sydney in particular, that's where I'm from) has the same kind of acceptance of entrepreneurs that we have here in the Valley. It's pretty weird to go to a party and not run into someone else who is starting a company over here, but entirely the opposite is true in Sydney -- everyone who could start a company takes an ok job and enjoys the lifestyle. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, but you don't get the same exposure to the startup lifestyle in Sydney, and it's a big mental barrier to get over.

I hope I'm wrong, and I'd love for it to change, because I do think there's some real talent in Australia that could be doing great things (and frankly I miss the beaches!). But making that happen is going to be a lot harder than just throwing some cash around.

"... There's the government neis program ..."

Aus Government anything (insert current gov inititive) is the "kiss of Startup death".

I disagree. Me and friend started a moderately successful web publishing business years ago while on NEIS. Of course our plans did diverge significantly from the plan we submitted to them to get approved. Obviously you shouldn't expect a lot of useful advice them but 6-12 months to work on something is still quite good deal.

If you actually have any evidence of this "kiss of Startup death" you should post it.

"... If you actually have any evidence of this "kiss of Startup death" you should post it. ..."

start here ~ http://siliconbeachaustralia.org/lifeguard/

You wouldn't care to point out any particular section. It is quite a long document and the language appears to be a bit vague and political in nature. Or is your point that this is kind of document is actually part of the problem.

Either way I think that the NEIS program is a bit smaller that what these guys are talking about. If you do a NEIS program you are just as likely to be applying alongside people who are wanting to sell homemade candles at markets. It is really an employment program rather than ITC.

"... Is there anything like a Y Combinator equivalent in Australia? ..."

The closest I can identify is at Mick Liubinskas at Pollinizer ~ http://www.pollenizer.com/pollenizer-investing-in-web-startu... & http://twitter.com/pollenizer

Hi guys, yep, there are two initiatives that we are working on that will address this market. One is Pollenizer co-founding startups (above link), and the second is more a straight YCombinator model which (to be announced in the next three months).

Our bootcamps are the starting point for us; http://www.pollenizer.com/services/bootcamp/

We are aiming to run bootcamps in Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth later in the year.

Email me at mick@pollenizer.com if you want to connect.

Thanks for the great feedback and comments everyone, I didn't expect to get so much great feedback! I will definitely take up a number of the suggestions and hopefully meet some of you at the various meet-ups and events (in Melbourne at least). And I've touched base with Pollenizer and hope to be at a Bootcamp soon.

To answer some questions such as to why can't I go to the USA. I've got a 7 month old son these days, so the international thing is a bit impractical at the moment. Plus I think there are some great opportunities to be exploited domestically, which obviously isn't taking on the world but I see a lot of opportunity to build good local businesses in Australia.

Jamessg, I agree it's not so much the money, but the access to people that have experience and have done it all before to provide that important guidance and save $ from being wasted on the learning curve.

Anyway thanks again to everyone, really appreciate your help, and hope to meet up with some of you in person soon.

I guess they're still working on http://www.seedaccelerator.com/ which looks like YC. In terms of YC-like quality (mentorship and alumni + VC networks/connections) I don't think there's anything close in Australia.

There us one similar program in Chile, from the Chilean Gov't. It's called Start-Up Chile, which give $40k for no equity!!! They are currently recruiting at www.startupchile.org Sydney - Santiago = 16 hrs flight, less than to Silicon Valley :)

Unrelated question: if we only consider tax laws, what's the best place in the world for startups to be? (The answer might be useful for startups that plan to bootstrap and don't mind hiring employees who telecommute.)

Maybe incorporate offshore (Belize, Panama, Seychelles), and work from Costa Rica. Zero tax, and no sea-sickness issues. Might be a problem to get investment, or sell your startup though..

For bootstrapping, the main problem I found with taxation and incorporation is the bureaucratic overhead - it becomes the top idea in your mind for a time and distracts from building your product. So the trade off might be worth it.

A yacht in international waters.

StartMate was announced today;


Well that answers the question once and for all!

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