Telstra’s muru-D accelerator makes Singapore debut
By Gabey Goh April 30, 2015
- Applications open for 10 tech startups from SEA and Taiwan for August accelerator
- Says it also intends to ‘pay it forward’ to the ecosystem in other ways
ANOTHER startup accelerator has opened its doors in Singapore: muru-D, backed by Australian telecommunications giant Telstra.
muru-D is one of the growth businesses under the Telstra Software Group (TSG), led by Charlotte Yarkoni who is also the programme’s cofounder. It first launched in Sydney in October 2013.
According to muru-D, the inaugural batch of nine Australian-based startups has since attracted more than S$3.15 million (US$2.39 million) in follow-on funding, 98% of which was from third-party investors, with Telstra directly investing a minimal amount in one.
The Singapore accelerator programme is part of TSG’s efforts to grow its global footprint, following recent acquisitions and partnerships across Asia Pacific, Europe and the United States, including Silicon Valley-based video delivery platform Ooyala, which it acquired for US$270 million last year.
READ ALSO: Accelerator avalanche and Singapore’s startup hub issue
Present at the official launch in Singapore on April 29 was out-going Telstra chief executive officer David Thodey (pic), who said that for a company like Telstra, it is important to “give back to the ecosystem.”
“It’s about being at the forefront of technology, being open, and always learning. That’s why we started muru-D and it’s been a wonderful experience.
“We learn a lot working with innovative startups, while we bring our experience in terms of essential practices for running a business to the table.
“Why are we here in Singapore? We feel strongly that whole community across Asia is moving and we’re here to be part of the community, to celebrate innovation,” he said during his opening remarks.
muru-D cofounder Annie Parker said Singapore was the ideal location for its second startup accelerator, which aspires to attract the region’s best digital talent, foster local technology innovation, and grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem across South-East Asia.
“With the launch of muru-D Singapore, we are paying it forward to the rapidly expanding South-Eeast Asian startup community.
“This programme provides us access to some of the world’s most exciting new startups, ideas and approaches to doing business, and we will do everything to help them on their way,” she added.
A unique contribution
muru-D Singapore will be headed by entrepreneur-in-residence Joseph Ziegler, and head of strategic partnerships and alliances Jamie Camidge.
Ziegler boasts more than 20 years’ experience in building and exiting startups around the globe, while Camidge is an experienced corporate strategy executive at Telstra.
Speaking to the media prior to the official launch event, Ziegler said that the decision to base muru-D within the central business district on Amoy Street, in a colocation arrangement with Ooyala, was due to the team’s desire to “give back in slightly different way.”
“We wanted to contribute a new physical space or hub to the landscape as part of our community-building efforts and mission to grow out the ecosystem which we are a part of.
“With a location in the business district, we also want to expand our involvement with people who wouldn’t think that they would be in startups … [and engage] with them either via the open houses or master classes we plan to host,” he added.
Asked about what sets the muru-D programme apart from other accelerators, Camidge said he believes that it is its “deep links” to the corporate side of the ecosystem.
“Introductions made at the right state to corporate partners offer incredible potential for startups ready to accelerate their growth trajectory.
“Our ambition and approach is to work with our startups to identify key relationships that will be critical to their growth,” he said.
Camidge said that via Telstra, startups get an introduction to “best in class” practices in areas such as pricing, marketing, and channel management.
“In addition, if a startup is operating in an area that’s outside our expertise, we will specifically find and vet domain experts to be committed mentors,” he said.
Applications are now open for 10 technology startups from South-East Asia and Taiwan to be recruited for the inaugural six-month accelerator programme, which begins in August.
“We don’t want to limit ourselves to a particular vertical or geography when it comes to assessing potential applicants – it all comes down to quality,” said Parker.
“Especially with such early-stage ideas or ventures, as you never know if you might miss out on a completely new idea or business.
“Essentially it’s got to be a digital enterprise that is applicable to an international market, and it will be interesting to see what kind of startups come out of our first batch here. In Australia, we got a lot of education startups which we really didn’t expect,” she added.
Camidge said that the judging of potential startups will be focused on the quality of the team, along with the merits of the idea, and the clarity of the problem the team is seeking to solve.
In addition, Ziegler said that how well muru-D can help a particular startup will come into play in the selection process.
“It needs to be businesses that we can really contribute to and help grow. It could be a case of a really stellar startup that applies, but the reality might find a better fit with another programme – like, say, a fintech-focused (financial services technology) one,” he said.
Successful startups will receive S$40,000 (approximately US$30,000) in seed capital, space in muru-D Singapore’s office, and introductions to international mentors, coaches and investors.
As part of the programme’s requirements, startups will need to incorporate their companies in Singapore, and muru-D will take a 6% equity stake.
Parker said that the programme’s equity stake is tied to the seed capital provided, which is split into two instalments.
“You get S$20,000 up-front, and a mid-way milestone will be established which will unlock the other S$20,000. We want them to have a progress metric that shows advancement, [like] getting their idea from paper to an app that’s live on an app store,” she said.
Parker said that muru-D is not focused on acquiring a long list of companies in which it holds a stake in to make money, with its objectives fixed on a larger mission of ecosystem-building.
“If at some point, you find that you want to shut things down or move on, we’ll sell back our equity to you for a dollar,” she added.
As part of its outreach efforts, the muru-D team will be hosting a roadshow in the South-East Asian cities of Bangkok, Hanoi, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Singapore, along with a stop in Taipei, from now until June 5 – which is also the deadline for applications.
The team will also be hosting a Mentor, Partner and Investor Info Session on May 13 and will be participating in various events in Singapore in the coming weeks, including the upcoming Tech in Asia conference.
“We look forward to not only attracting the best digital talent but, critically, creating the right conditions for their long-term success,” said Parker.
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