University of Wollongong launches $10m seed fund to support Australian innovation

[box]#feb026[/box]The University of Wollongong’s (UOW) iAccelerate initiative has today launched its $10 million seed fund. The seed fund will enable a raft of Australian early and advanced startups to grow and thrive.

UOW’s key partners in the Seed Fund are Artesian Venture Partners which will manage the fund and PwC who were key advisors in the structuring of the fund.

The fund aims to attract investors with a passion and commitment to the startup sector who will contribute to the $10 million seed fund pledge. In turn, the fund will provide investors with access to a unique pipeline of early stage business investment opportunities.

iAccelerate, based on the lean start-up model, is designed to support entrepreneurs who use technology as an enabler for a scalable service or product that can be globalised. It consists of multi-faceted business acceleration programs to help grow the skills of entrepreneurs, create commercially sustainable businesses within a purpose-designed space to enhance innovation in the Illawarra region. 

All companies accepted in iAccelerate will be able to apply for seed funding from the fund. This means investor risks will be lessened due to the support and development provided to the startups through the iAccelerate program and its rigorous assessment process. 

iAccelerate Start is a co-working space for entrepreneurs with first stage ideas to work alongside each other to grow their concepts into early stage scalable businesses. Participants in the program are offered education, business support and mentoring. Companies participating in iAccelerate Start that receive investment by the seed fund will receive up to $40,000 in funding for up to 10 per cent equity.

iAccelerate Advanced focuses on enabling more advanced start-ups to transform and scale into sustainable and globally focussed companies. Companies that are part of iAccelerate Advanced and are selected to receive funding by the fund will receive up to $200,000 in funding for up to 20 per cent equity.

Entrepreneurs will also benefit from the region's first purpose-built high-tech incubator following the start of construction last month of the 4,000 square metre iAccelerate Centre at UOW's Innovation campus. The centre will provide space for more than 280 entrepreneurs. The Restart Illawarra Infrastructure Fund, which provided $100 million in NSW State Government funding for 12 projects in the region, contributed $16.5 million in funding for the Centre. 

CEO of iAccelerate and Director of Innovation and Commercial Research at UOW, Elizabeth Eastland, said the launch of the seed fund came at a time when many entrepreneurs were heading offshore to gain access to venture capital investment, mentors and networks.

"Historically, early stage venture funding in Australia has been difficult to source. Despite Australia having a GDP of about 10 per cent of the United States, Australian venture capital funding over the past 10 years is only 1 per cent of the amount raised by the US,” Ms Eastland said. 

“UOW supplies large numbers of ICT graduates and it is in a unique position to attract the best startups to the region, which we hope will grow a hub of innovation in the Illawarra. We now need the dedication of early stage investments in Australia’s innovation future.”

UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings said the seed fund combined UOW’s strengths in ICT and world class research, which will deliver the Illawarra region with economic diversity and sustainability.

“iAccelerate is one of the top initiatives coming out of the university that is contributing to the development of Illawarra as an innovation hub,” Professor Wellings said.

Since launching in 2012, iAccelerate has found that entrepreneurs have great ideas but lack the commercial skills and know-how to transform a good idea into a business. iAccelerate provides the infrastructure for great ideas to grow and helps connect ground breaking thinking with unique funding opportunities.

Artesian Capital Management Managing Partner Jeremy Colless said: “We know that the younger an enterprise is, the more support is required and early stage or angel funding can often be a challenge for start-ups in regional areas.

"This seed fund will give start-ups a great financial leg up, while the iAccelerate programs will support them through education, coaching and mentoring. We believe this multi-faceted support will attract some great entrepreneurs in the Illawarra”

Visit the iAccelerate Seed page or to learn more about the iAccelerate Seed Fund please contact Artesian Venture Partners.

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