Telstra seeks tech start-ups as Australia's media firms try to future-proof

By Rosie Baker | 22 October 2013

Telstra is looking for the next big things. It aims to take local digital upstarts under its wing as part of a new start-up incubator division.

Dubbed Muru-D, the unit will offer 10 start-ups $40,000 in return for a 6% stake, plus a place on a six-month incubation programme. The telco plans to do two intakes of 10 companies a year.

It will also provide mentoring, space in its Paddington offices and tech support. Successful projects could lead to further investment from Telstra down the line but the incubator programme will also help the firms attract funding from elsewhere.

It is co-founded by Ann Parker, who launched Telefonica’s accelerator program, Wayra, plus other schemes across Europe.

The telco wants to focus on young businesses and will invite 20 teams from the APAC region to pitch their ideas before the end of the year. The application deadline is 25 November. The final 10 start-ups will be chosen in January.

Kate McKenzie, Telstra's group managing director of innovation, products and marketing, will oversee the incubator business but it will operate separately to Telstra with its own management team.

McKenzie said: “Industry is increasingly reliant on the online environment to be successful. For Australia to remain a leader in the digital economy we must ensure we’re consistently nurturing local innovation.

“Muru-D will be a new place for technology start-ups to access investment opportunities and business assistance in their crucial acceleration phase, so they can bring their products and services to a global market. This new initiative will address an identified need to accelerate the use of technology in local industry to ensure Australia maintains its strong global economic position.”

Australian media companies are increasingly recognising the need to get ahead of the curve as traditional revenues and platforms are undermined by new technologies and companies.

Channel 7 last week revealed plans to set up its own digital incubator programme. It will be lead by Kurt Burnette, former chief sales and digital officer who has now taken on the role of chief revenue officer.

Other media companies, including some of the big agencies, are looking at attracting start-ups via events and potentially incubator schemes of their own.

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