‘Thriving’ Aussie tech incubator scene a ‘mirage’


blog If you’ve been involved in Australia’s technology startup community over the past several years, you will be aware that there have been multiple incubator programs that have been made available to entrepreneurs. Programs such as Startmate, PushStart, Telstra’s Muru-D and so on have made early stage seed funding, mentorship and even physical work facilities available. However, according to one business consultant, the ‘scene’ is actually a lot more undeveloped than it seems. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald this week, Greg Twemlow writes (we recommend you click here for the full article):

“The reality is regularly that of time and money down the drain. Budding entrepreneurs are best advised to maintain a healthy scepticism of incubator training schemes. Their programs have a great way of keeping participants busy without progressing with the real work of building their product and finding a market.”

Personally, I view the launch of these incubators as a fantastically positive development for Australia’s tech startup scene. The fact that they exist takes away much of the daunting nature of starting up your own business. But I agree with Twemlow that the ‘school-like’ nature of these programs obfuscates some of the real journey of building a business, with participants sometimes more engaged in following the program than following the money of business growth. I also haven’t seen many substantial successes come out of these programs. I think Twemlow’s article reflects a healthy ‘head check’ for these kinds of programs, as Australia’s tech startup sector grows more mature. It helps round out the whole picture.


  1. I totally agree with Greg. In my experience at best these “incubators” are schooling startups in how to be a “startup” (not get a product to market), and at worst they are cynical business types looking to take a cheap and easy chunk of equity out of a promising startup in exchange for business “services” of dubious value, rather than actually help someone start a company and launch a product.

  2. I welcome the maturing of the innovation ecosystem in this country and believe more can be done. However, having in another life taken a small ICT firm to market I am very wary when I see the quality of the mentors in some of these programs. I see former colleagues and others who have been around the IT community for a long time whose stated credentials hide a more dubious past. There is no way people coming into these programs have a clue – because by the very nature of such programs these people are put on a pedestal.this is a problem!!!

  3. Sometimes these incubator programs bear fruit down the track. Cortex eBusiness was in a kind of incubator at the old Eveleigh railway yards. It eventually failed, the people founded Cenqua and then they were acquired by Atlassian. I’d call that a win.

    Perhaps it isn’t the direct impact of the incubator program but rather the development of a startup culture.

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