Business Startup Programs In Australia

24 April 2017
Make 2017 the year you get serious about building the brand of your start-up.

If you have a dream for a business the world needs, an accelerator or incubator program available for start-ups in Australia may be just the ticket.

We’ve compiled a list of the accelerator programs that get a new start-up off the ground, and the incubator programs that continue to support start-ups as they take flight.

Australia a nation of entrepreneurs

The facts show Aussies aren’t just dreamers – we get out there and make it happen. According to the ABS (2017), as of June 30 2016 there were nearly 2.2 million businesses trading across Australia.

The number of new start-ups increased by 1.2% in 2015-2016, and we must be doing well, because the number of “exiting” businesses (businesses being closed) decreased to just 12.3%.

The sky’s looking pretty blue for new start-ups, thanks to PM Turnbull’s Innovation Agenda, which promised access to crowd-sourced equity funding, funding for incubator support programs, and tax incentives for investors.

“We’re backing our entrepreneurs by opening up new sources of finance, embracing risk taking on innovative ideas, and making more of our public research.” (Turnbull, 2015).

If we do things right, it will be Gen Z – those born after 1990, currently aged 26 and under – leading the charge in the next 5 years. Gen Y might just have to move on over, because Gen Z is reportedly more entrepreneurial (Millennial Branding), likes working independently, and is the most determined to change the world (Sparks & Honey).

Whether you’re in Gen Z or the Baby Boomers, an accelerator or incubator program should be a vital piece in every entrepreneur’s business toolkit.

Why accelerator and incubator programs are so vital?

Starting a business from scratch is not easy, and hopefully no one will tell you it is. It costs a significant amount of time, money, and sacrifice for you and your loved ones. Many a fledgling business has “exited” the scene due to underestimating what it would take.

This is why accelerator and incubator programs that get alongside start-up founders are such a godsend. They give founders the training in skills and the mentorship they need to not just start a business, but start a business the right way.

Matthew Rowan, founder of the Aussie start-up Process PA (cloud-based software that automates association procedures and paperwork), says his best tip for entrepreneurs is:

processpa logo“You can do more than you think, sooner than you think. Having someone, or many, keeping you accountable to specific targets, really helps you achieve them.”

Before we tell you where to find them, we should explain how these two types of start-up training programs are different…

What is an accelerator program?

An accelerator is a competitive program that provides pre-seed capital funding and intensive mentoring so you can get your business off the ground in its early stages, from idea to reality. Accelerator programs are usually short-term, running for about 3-6 months, and include networking events where start-up founders can pitch to investors and industry.

What is an incubator program?

An incubator is a selective program and is usually a longer-term venture that supports a start-up throughout the course of its early years. A start-up is not usually accepted into an incubator unless you have a viable product ready to promote to the public. The relationship between entrepreneur, investors, and incubator may last until the start-up business is successfully sold.

Many incubator programs also provide access to a co-working space, where start-up founders get to borrow office space, business equipment and technology to run their business. But not all co-working spaces are run by incubator programs, and many co-working spaces simply provide office space and networking events. We’ve chosen not to list the top companies that provide non-incubator co-working spaces in Australia in our list below, but Fishburners and Tank Stream Labs are two that have been reviewed positively in the past.

Start-up accelerator programs in Australia

  • Muru-D: Backed by Telstra, this accelerator invests in teams with innovative technology and global ambitions. Provides up to $40,000 in investment funding.
  • iLab Accelerator: Queensland-based accelerator that provides mentor support, up to $20,000 in investment funding, and access to the business tools you need. They have supported 100 Queensland start-ups since they were founded in 2012.
  • QUT Creative Enterprise Australia (QUT CEA): This accelerator, incubator, and co-working space in one is perhaps the only 3-in-one option in Australia for creative industry start-ups. It offers business mentoring, workspace, networking events, and investment capital.
  • Slingshot: An accelerator program for tech start-ups. Provides finance mentors and the opportunity to develop commercial and investment relationships with large Australian corporations.
  • HCF Catalyst: A 6-month accelerator program for health technology start-ups, backed by HCF. Provides $150,000 in investment funding.
  • Energise: Backed by KPMG, this 3-month accelerator program connects tech start-ups with companies in the ENR (energy and natural resources) industry.
  • River City Labs: A Brisbane-based start-up co-working space that also runs an accelerator program and provides mentors.
  • New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS): Run by the Australian government, this training program provides job seekers with up to 52 weeks of small business training and business mentoring, income support of up to 39 weeks, and Rental Assistance of up to 26 weeks.
  • Microsoft BizSpark: A funding program that gives start-ups 3 years of free business software, services, tech support, visibility, and the Azure cloud.
  • Startmate: A 5-month mentor-driven seed fund and accelerator program that provides $50,000 in investment funding and includes a 2-month trip to Silicon Valley.
  • Ignition Labs: A 6-month (3+3 months) accelerator program for health and medical technology start-ups. Provides $25,000 in investment funding and finishes with start-ups pitching to Australian and international investors at an investor roadshow.
  • Incubate: An award-winning start-up accelerator and entrepreneur events program, developed by the University of Sydney Union.
  • Unearthed Solutions: A 6-month accelerator program with industry mentors, one-on-one sessions with business experts, and a co-working office space.
  • AngelCube: A 3-month, Melbourne-based accelerator program for tech start-ups, followed by a further 3-month incubator program. Provides $40,000 in seed funding, as well as mentoring to get a start-up ready for pitching to investors.

Start-up incubator programs in Australia

  • BlueChilli: This incubator program was founded in Sydney in 2012 but it has already made a massive stamp on the Australian and global entrepreneur scene. For start-ups that complete this incubation program, the BlueChilli Venture fund will match the third-party investment a start-up has raised for their seed round.
  • The Entourage: Australia’s largest educator of start-up founders and community of entrepreneurs. Runs a Diploma of Business and the ‘Scalable and Saleable’ program.
  • NRMA Jumpstart Program: A mentor-driven program that helps entrepreneurs develop a start-up or up-scale an existing business.
  • Curtin Centre for Entrepreneurship (C4E): Run by Curtin University Business School, this program was founded way back in 1995 and has trained 4,000 business owners in WA.
  • Cicada Innovations: A mentor-based program that helps start-ups and entrepreneurs in the tech industry to grow and find investors. They have worked with more than 80 businesses, helped them raise over $150 million, and helped 8 entrepreneurs so far to sell their business.
  • Pollenizer: Founded in 2008, this was Australia’s first digital-only incubator program. Their blog also provides a wealth of information and networking events for Sydney start-ups.

Events for start-up networking and training

  • Startup Weekend: This annual start-up training event is run in cities around Australia by Up Global and powered by Google for Entrepreneurs.
  • Digital Sydney: Events for tech start-ups in Sydney.
  • TiEcon:The world’s largest conference for entrepreneurs, founded in 1992. Their 2016 conference will be held over 2 days in May in Santa Clara.

Other resources for start-ups


Please note that while some of the companies listed above provide a certain amount of investment funding, this is not a list of seed investors and should not be relied upon when making funding decisions. One of the main goals of any good accelerator or incubator program is to connect your start-up with investors who can help with funding.

Canstar can help your start-up with…

  1. Finding the right business loan or business overdraft to get the financial support you need to bring your dream down out of the clouds and hit the ground running.
  2. Keeping your home life separate to your work life with an outstanding value business transaction account.
  3. Choosing the best value business life insurance to make sure your business income is covered if you get sick or injured and are unable to run it for a while.
  4. Finding your new small business accounting softwarebroadband provider, and office printer from the brands voted most satisfying by Australian consumers in our Canstar Blue research surveys.

Canstar is an information provider and in giving you product information Canstar is not making any suggestion or recommendation about a particular product. The information has been prepared without taking into account your individual business objectives, financial circumstances, or needs. Before you decide whether or not to acquire a particular financial product you should assess whether it is appropriate for you in the light of your own personal circumstances, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation, and needs. You may wish to obtain financial advice from a suitably qualified adviser before making any decision to acquire a financial product. Please refer to Canstar’s Financial Services and Credit Guide (FSCG) for more information, and read our detailed disclosure, important notes and liability disclaimer.

Share this article