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Every founder and entrepreneur will remember those tough first few years. Having a helping hand along the way can be pivotal to success. Startmate was created as a way to pay it forward, offering a 12-week programme for start-ups through support from established entrepreneurs across Australasia. We spoke to Startmate CEO, Michael Batko, about their expansion into New Zealand, their vision, and how to get involved.


There are several accelerators and incubators across New Zealand already. Why did you choose to expand across the ditch?

We've seen some key catalysts for startup growth such as the government’s budget allocation into venture funds and the first wave of startup success (RocketLab, Pushpay, Allbirds, Xero, etc), which culminated in a booming NZ ecosystem. But there is still a lack of a unified startup community, which brings together founders, operators and investors from across organisations, across the country and across the world. Startmate unites all parties by one purpose - to help raise and shape the ambition of Kiwi founders building the next global legacy. Kiwi founders want and need access to world-class mentors with global reach.

We have already been receiving more and more applications from NZ companies for the Sydney and Melbourne cohorts. We have invested in three NZ companies which were part of MEL18, MEL19 and SYD20, who had to move to Australia to join the cohort. Rather than the startups moving for us, we're moving to where they are.

Tell us more about Startmate, and why it differs from the usual Founder programmes?

Startmate was brought to life in 2011 with the core principle of founders helping founders. We believe that (ex-)founders have the most empathy for early-stage founders and that the best advice comes from those who are a couple of steps ahead of you. Every one of our mentors is a founder, ex-founder or early-stage employee in a startup.

Another underlying principle at Startmate is having ‘skin in the game’. Each mentor is also an investor in each cohort. This beautifully aligns everyone's incentives, as the startups success becomes the mentors' success. Startmate has the full values alignment of founders helping founders and putting the money where their mouth is.

Now that New Zealand is at Level 1 and business is starting to move again, what opportunities are there for kiwi startups to go global, from the safety of New Zealand?

COVID levelled the playing field across the world. It doesn't matter for customers nor investors if you're talking to someone down the road or on the other side of the world - the meeting is over Zoom. This is a massive opportunity to get all the benefits of funding and reach, whilst having much lower cost and attracting talent which other companies can't tap into.

Kea has a global community of Kiwi expats and friends of New Zealand, many of whom are willing to help kiwi businesses succeed globally. What influence can they have on the Startmate programme, and how can they get involved?

Startmate has a mentor network across New Zealand, Australia and San Francisco. Our mentors fulfil the three key pillars for us - investment, selection and mentoring. As each mentor invests heir own money ($10k up to $250k per cohort), our mentors also get to decide who will be part of the cohort and then which startups they want to be mentoring. The program is now fully developed for mentors to participate wherever they are in the world.

Are there companies you’d love to see join the Startmate programme?

We're completely industry-agnostic. Software, hardware, aerospace, robots, you name it! Our sweet spot is between a $1-4m valuation and from first customers to $1m in annual revenue.

And similarly are there mentors that you’d love to have eg. With specific skill sets/expertise/backgrounds?

Founders and ex-founders or anyone who joined a startup and scaled a business unit to 100+ people. We don't look for specific skillsets, but empathy for founders.

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Part 12