This week we watched in awe as the nine startups from our inaugural accelerator in Singapore took to the stage at muru-D Demo Night. They showcased their success in just six months, to a packed crowd of more than 400 investors, mentors, media, analysts and Telstra leaders. I managed to grab Annie Parker, co-founder of muru-D for a quick chat post-event.

How was it watching the first Singapore cohort graduate?

I’m super proud of how far the nine teams have come in such a short space of time.  All of them have customers, they have created new jobs across South East Asia and already raised more than S$1mil in seed funding — that’s pretty extraordinary!

It’s also worth remembering that muru-D only launched in Singapore less than a year ago. The Singapore muru-D team has created a fantastic program and network of people that has not only supported this first intake, but will help many intakes to come achieve their global ambitions.

This batch has a good mix of teams from across Asia and even Russia! How do you find that they differ from the teams in Australia?

Accelerator programs by nature attract talent from all over the world, so we also see huge diversity of cultural backgrounds in our Australian programs too.

If I were to call out the biggest difference between Singapore and Australia, it would be in the amount of funding available for early stage startups; there’s just more in Singapore. There are multiple early stage VC funds and Angel Investors and the Singaporean government also has more friendly regulations allowing startups to start, and investors to invest.

Tonight you called out the diversity among the teams. I know gender balance is something you’re personally passionate about. Why is it so important in this industry?

It’s been proven many times that companies with women on their boards or in senior roles perform better financially and have lower attrition rates with employees, so it stands to reason that we would want to see many more women in tech businesses too.

Globally, around 20% of startups have female founders. I’m delighted to see that muru-D Singapore is smashing this statistic out of the park; more than 50% of the teams have a female founder.  Hopefully they can inspire even more women to follow in their footsteps going forward too.

Now muru-D itself is more established, how is the impact Telstra has made starting to play out?

muru-D is a very real example of how Telstra is investing in the innovation ecosystem. This gives us a unique position in terms of insights. We’re viewed as thought leaders in this space, especially amongst our own customers. A good example is Seven West Media. Their team has been involved in muru-D Sydney as mentors from the beginning, and the relationship developed so well that they have co-invested in one of the startups currently going through our third cohort in Sydney

We’re also in the early stage of exploring how Telstra can use the products of two of our teams (Safesite and Apvera) both internally or for our customers.  Having such early access to these disruptive businesses can give us a competitive edge.

We’re also developing a global partner network. We just announced our fifth partnership with The Junction in Tel Aviv, which gives us extraordinary insight into key growth markets and fantastic opportunities to help our startups scale quickly.

What would you say is your biggest learning through muru-D Singapore?

The biggest learning so far is that there’s so much international talent here and so much opportunity for growth.  Clearly doing business in South East Asia requires cultural understanding and there are language barriers to manage – but the opportunity for digital growth here is so huge, it’s massively worth the effort.

The Singapore startup space is booming but that also means growing competition – how should accelerator programs like muru-D aim to stand out?

Clearly the link to a large-scale enterprise like Telstra gives muru-D a significant USP – the connections and networks that we can provide for startups are huge. muru-D’s global partnership network also helps us to differentiate.  Being able to provide global connections to startups in large-scale markets like the US and China are massively important to their ability to scale.

And finally, what’s next for muru-D?

We do it all again of course! We’re opening the next call for applications in Singapore in June, and we’re also coming up to the halfway point for our startups in Sydney, so we’ve already started the countdown to their demo night in July.

We’re also looking at how we can support the growth of the wider startup ecosystem in Australia through local partnership networks like the trial we ran last year with Brisbane based co-working space River City Labs. I’d love to see more programs like this supporting startup growth all across Australia and beyond.

Find out more about muru-D