Leo D'Angelo Fisher Columnist

Leo covers management and leadership issues, business trends and corporate strategy. He is a former senior business writer at The Bulletin and a former host of The Business Hour on 3AW.

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Start-ups can learn from the best

Published 23 October 2012 10:35, Updated 25 October 2012 05:39

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Twenty-five start-ups will have the opportunity to be mentored, develop entrepreneurial skills, make international connections with successful Australian entrepreneurs living overseas and gain first-hand experience of what makes Silicon Valley tick – thanks to the Advance Innovation Program. The program has been established to assist “innovative, globally ambitious start-ups” tap into the experience and knowledge of successful Australian businesses abroad.

Entries for the 2013 program – the second year of the program – will open on November 5 and close on December 7. It is run by the Advance global networking group which has more than 20,000 Australian members living and working in 90 countries and has offices in New York, San Francisco, Hong Kong and London. It is estimated that there are 1 million people in the Australian diaspora.

The genesis of Advance was the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when then Australian consul-general in New York, Ken Allen, created a network to bring together young Australians living in the city. Anthony Pratt, Peter Lowy, Lisa Fox and Lachlan Murdoch were the founding patrons of the network, which was originally known as the Young Australian Professionals in America before the network became global.

The chief executive of Advance is Adelaide-born, now New York-based, Serafina Maiorano. In October, Maiorano was named among The Australian Financial Review-Westpac 100 Women of Influence for 2012.

“Advance brings with it the brain power of a huge network of global Australians who are able to share their expertise and connections to benefit Australian entrepreneurs,” she says. “Companies will leave the [Advance] Innovation Program inspired to build successful global start-ups and with the know-how and connections to do so.”

The start-ups selected – winners will be announced in February 2013 – will receive a range of benefits that include a trip to Silicon Valley and Los Angeles to attend forums with venture capitalists, incubators and investors.

Entrants must demonstrate a working prototype and possess a business model that stipulates revenue projections, markets and distribution as well as demonstrate “a clear competitive advantage”.

Sydney-based online shopping site Wynbox was one of the companies selected for the inaugural program last year.

“The experience and knowledge gained has enabled us to present the company in a more comprehensive manner, resulting in us successfully closing a sizeable round of funding from Australian investors on our return,” co-founder Damien Cantelo says.

Program entries will close on December 7, 2012, and 25 start-ups will be selected to join entrepreneurs, innovators and creative thinkers over five days – two days in Los Angeles and three days in Silicon Valley. Each winning start-up will also benefit from personal mentoring with Australian entrepreneurs based in Silicon Valley.

The chairman of Advance, the former managing director of IBM Australia and New Zealand, Glen Boreham, says of Advance’s mission: “Advance’s long-term goal is to enhance Australia’s competitiveness and leadership in the global economy by assisting Australian companies to commercialise their innovation in key overseas markets and better harnessing Australia’s global talent pool to build Australia’s knowledge and networked economy.”

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