The latest round of Unearthed’s Accelerator program kicked off this week, with one WA startup trekking over to Queensland via Silicon Valley to take advantage of the opportunity…
The BUILD phase of the Unearthed accelerator began on Tuesday, with startups, investors, mentors and potential future customers gathering in Brisbane to launch the energy and resources-focused program.
Run over twelve weeks, the accelerator is supported by utility Origin Energy and Advance Queensland – the sunshine state’s investment in startups.
Each week, entrepreneurs gather on Monday evening to share their experiences from the week, before spending Tuesday in sessions with mentors and industry connections.
Three of the accelerator’s participants are traveling to join their peers from as far away as the Silicon Valley.
Perth-based Joseph Ayrookaran is flying the WA flag for SnapSupport, which aims to help companies better assist field engineers, giving real-time monitoring of equipment as well as a wide array of support options when staff are troubleshooting on site.
Speaking to Startup News from Queensland, Joseph said because SnapSupport was originally designed to support the telecommunications industry, he’s hoping the program will help the company find its place in the energy and resources sector.
“We didn’t have a lot of background in those industries, so that’s why we applied to Unearthed,” he told Startup News.
“That’s one thing we are trying to get from a product-market fit perspective, where we want to tailor SnapSupport for those specific markets and we’re looking forward to talking to a lot of mentors and work with the Unearthed team to achieve that.”
Having founded the mining-tech company in the Silicon Valley, Joseph said it was a move to Perth that first sparked the potential for an expansion into mining.
“We were active in the region and then when we looked beyond that and how to grow in Australia, the first market that we saw was mining,” he said.
“Everything in Perth is revolving around mining and resources, that’s what prompted me to look into the mining segment, so from that perspective the decision was easy because of the proximity to the industry and everything that’s going on around.
“We talked to Justin [Strharsky] and Zane [Prickett], who are the founding directors of Unearthed. They seemed to be a great team to work with and they’re very good mentors, they were founders before, founded technology companies in the mining sector, and scaled them.
“Now we are learning that it’s a slower industry from a technology adoption perspective, so the decision wasn’t hard but I think we might see some challenges with respect to adoption.”
Connecting with customers
Unearthed Accelerator General Manager, David Camerlengo, said the program’s main point of difference is the integration of potential customers into the accelerator.
“Times have changed whereby startups can now choose from a variety of programs to help them build, grow and scale. However, not enough programs bring customers along on the journey,” he said.
“The Unearthed Accelerator provides the skills, funding and more importantly access to the huge market of resources customers to maximise startup success.”
Those potential customers include Origin Energy, who will present startups with the problems they are trying to solve in the hopes of generating co-creating relationships with the cohort.
Joseph said this customer-focused approach provided a supported path for SnapSupport to enter the energy industry.
“The idea about corporate [connections] was it’s just go there, understand the problem from the companies that are facing it, and tailoring our product to solve those problems,” he said.
“That process is definitely helping us because we are not going out with the hard sell. We’re not saying SnapSupport is going to solve all of your field service problems.
“Rather, we say … if you’re experiencing a problem in that space, there might be an opportunity to co-create a solution that works for you.
“So that’s the pitch … which is something that Unearthed helped us formulate.”
Mentors making a difference
The accelerator is supported by more than 50 mentors and advisers, who Joseph said are the difference between Unearthed and other accelerators.
“I really like how Unearthed is structured with industry partners and mentors, and [it’s a] very purpose-driven accelerator as well, so we really like that aspect of it and we think that it’s the right place to be to scale our business into mining, energy and resources,” he said.
“[The mentors’ messages have] resonated very well and so it’s been mentoring and industry partners that make the difference.”
Joseph said the ability to connect with the right people to help grow SnapSupport has been a big bonus from the accelerator experience so far.
“The way that Unearthed has brought in mentors and how Justin and Zane have put together the program is to make those natural collisions happen,” he said.
“I don’t think we can [expand into mining and energy] alone, at all,” he said.
“Firstly, we don’t have any expertise or experience in mining or resources. Secondly, we don’t understand the problems in detail.”
Joseph said he hoped the Unearthed Accelerator will help SnapSupport find the people it needs to develop its place in the mining and energy sectors.
“Ideally we will have three or four customers that we have started a PoC [proof of concept] with, but I don’t know, that’s what we want to do from the accelerator in those specific industries, either mining, mining equipment, utilities, energy, that space,” he said.
“If we can start a couple of proof of concepts or start with a couple of co-creating customers as they call it, [that] would be the best situation at the end of the twelve weeks.”
After the build phase of the accelerator wraps up, Unearthed turns its attention to SCALE – another full-time program for startups looking to grow their business in the resources sector.
Applications for this close on Friday 21 December.
For more information on Unearthed Accelerators, click here.
FEATURE IMAGE: Joseph Ayrookaran pitching SnapSupport at Unearthed (image supplied).