Telstra News |

Celebrating our latest Sydney startups in style

By Julie Trell August 12, 2019

Making a difference is what drives Telstra’s connection to our startup accelerator muru-D and the startup ecosystem. We take an active part in developing and growing technological innovation which, when connected to our network infrastructure, can change the lives of people and businesses across the globe. One of those startups is farm-wide wi-fi provider Zetifi in muru-D’s SYD6 cohort.

Imagine the difference an easy to install, farm-wide wi-fi network that enables fast connectivity for voice, video, internet and IoT backhaul could make to Australian farmers, struggling with connectivity across acreage larger than greater Sydney. This is what Zetifi does.

muru-D identifies seed-stage startups with a working and validated idea that will fit in with other cohort founders, and that can grow in the six month program. Since its inception six years ago, muru-D has gifted us with incredible access to some of the Australian market’s most exciting startups, accelerators and raw talent.

Everyone is intensely aware that we’re constantly moving faster and faster towards a technology future that is increasingly different from anything we’ve experienced before. Supporting our startup accelerator and being actively involved in the startup ecosystem keeps Telstra at the forefront of the best of technological innovation. It also helps us attune our product and services portfolio to technological reinvention and a new way of thinking – like the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality, big data, drones and satellite technology, as well as robotics.

In early August, the 10 startups of muru-D SYD6 showcased their founders and communities at an event – appropriately named ‘connect-D’ – in front of approximately 300 attendees including mentors, investors, our Telstra community, and the media. The event was followed by a demo spectacular – a chance for the audience to meet the founders, touch and feel the technology on display and be inspired.

It was also an opportunity for all to better understand the muru-D program and the role Telstra has played in the SYD6 cohort’s growth and development. Being an entrepreneur is hard. Doing it alone is even harder.

What’s next for the muru-D program? Entrepreneur-in-residence Alan Jones (“the nice one”) probably said it best – “just when you think you’re doing everything that you can [as a startup accelerator], there might be a little bit more that’s possible”. Stay tuned for a new look muru-D program in year seven!

The SYD6 startups that muru-D has advised, nurtured, connected and encouraged over the past six months include:

  1. Zetifi provides easy to install Farm Wide WiFi networks that enable fast connectivity for voice, video, internet & IoT backhaul.
  2. Clipboard is the new way for schools to manage their extracurricular programs.
  3. GeoSnapShot provides a global platform that enables any photographer to upload and sell photos.
  4. Luboo is a rental tracking device and mobile app designed to give peace of mind to parents and caregivers of young children at crowded venues and events.
  5. Littlescribe provides a platform for digitising, sharing and printing children’s writing and illustrations.
  6. Pioneera is a SaaS platform that predicts and prevents workplace stress.
  7. Flux is reimagining banking through autonomous finance – using open banking data to provide loans with rates that improve as you do.
  8. Seer Data & Analytics is a Data Platform that lets non-technical people easily find, share and use data to solve social problems collaboratively.
  9. Staybil develops and provides B2B workforce geo-optimisation (WGO) software as a service.
  10. WallSync provides a SaaS platform that allows teams to digitise their workshops.
Tech4Good | Telstra Foundation |

New tech to help homeless youth connect to services

By Jackie Coates August 6, 2019

In line with Homelessness Week – an annual awareness-raising week to highlight the 116,000 Australians who are homeless on any given night – Infoxchange announces the development of its new technology to help vulnerable Australians better connect to support and services.

Powered by the Telstra Foundation’s Tech4Good Challenge, Infoxchange is working to develop its award-winning mobile website, Ask Izzy, with the aim of providing a more conversational, personalised and supportive way to connect young people at risk of or experiencing homelessness to services.

Launched in 2016, Ask Izzy connects people in need with housing, meals, money help, family violence support, counselling and much more. It is free and anonymous, with over 370,000 services listed across Australia.

With the 2016 Census of Population and Housing revealing that nearly 60% of homeless people were aged under 35 years, Infoxchange is now working on the next evolution of Ask Izzy, to better help homeless youth connect to the services they need.

Originally pitched as a voice assistant, the next iteration of Ask Izzy is being developed based on insights, research and design testing, which found young people are more likely to use a chatbot. Through in-depth interviews and co-design workshops, Infoxchange is working closely with service providers and over 35 young people with lived experience of homelessness to co-design chatbot functionality that best meets the needs of homeless youth.

Set to roll out in March 2020, the chatbot is currently in testing and is the biggest change to the Ask Izzy platform since 2016. Through the chatbot functionality, Ask Izzy will better help connect people to the support they need while maintaining human connection and integrity for its users.

Telstra has been a long-standing supporting partner in the development of Ask Izzy and we’re thrilled to be part of the next phase of the journey with Infoxchange, to ensure we’re developing technology that will help disrupt the cycle of youth homelessness.

Ask Izzy is free to use on the Telstra mobile network, meaning that people don’t need to rely on credit or access to Wi-Fi in order to use the site. With more than 2.5 million searches on the site since it was first launched in 2016, Ask Izzy connects tens of thousands of people to the help they need every month.

Also just launched is the Telstra Top-up program, which provides a complimentary $30 recharge to those who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness and or/family violence. The program is available to specialist housing providers via Infoxchange across Australia and eligible services have already been sent an invitation to opt-in.

If you’re wondering what you can do to help, we are encouraging people to make a $15 donation to purchase an Ask Izzy mobile power card. Up to four hours of power can be just enough to find a meal, health services, a blanket or even a bed for the night. The cards are rechargeable and will be distributed through homeless service providers around the country.

muru-D |

Using AI in the fight against cancer

By Dr Elliot Smith August 24, 2018

Maxwell Plus is a Brisbane-based startup applying AI to medical data to help find early signs of cancer which can lead to early, safer interventions.

Maxwell brings together my love of technology and its applications in helping make a serious change to the lives of millions of people.

Maxwell Plus started (as Maxwell MRI) mid-2016, shortly after finishing my PhD in designing the next generation of medical imaging equipment. My research looked at how to design MRI machines so they could be paired with radiation therapy for treatment.

This allowed images to better guide the radiation beam, getting it off healthy tissue. This technology worked well and has the potential to help a lot of people but relies on prior knowledge of where the tumor you want to treat is.

It was a conversation about this work that would eventually lead to Maxwell Plus. Talking about my PhD with Steve Baxter lead to the question “Why can’t we lie down in a machine, have data collected on us, and leave knowing what’s wrong with us and what we can do to fix it?” A good question. Over the next three months this question wouldn’t leave – a system like that was the technology-enabled future I wanted to create.

Fast forward two years and here we are. Maxwell Plus has gone through an accelerator program (RCL Accelerator – muru-D’s partner program in Brisbane), a round of venture funding (lead by Main Sequence Ventures) and has grown from two to 18 people.

Today we’re preparing our product for regulatory approval and working with some of the best clinicians across the world. We’ve been working with clinicians and patients to use AI to keep them healthy.

Working to create a world where diseases like cancer move out of the top 10 killers list and a world where medicine is about keeping people healthy, not just fixing them when they get sick.

There is still a long an exciting road ahead for us at Maxwell Plus but with great partners, a team of excellent people and passionate investors behind us, the future looks bright.

muru-D |

10 startups, six months, one muru-D demo night

By Julie Trell August 1, 2018

Starting a company is hard. Doing it alone is even harder. This fact is one of the reasons accelerators like muru-D are such a valuable asset.

After six months of hard work, Monday 30 July was the night for our muru-D startups to pitch their companies to the who’s who of the startup community. Our most diverse cohort yet, the companies are working on a range of challenging global problems, from solving deforestation to building the aircraft that will change how we move around our cities.

The SYD5 cohort started their journey in February. As part of the program they gained seed funding, access to a purpose-built co-working space, a global network of mentors, alumni, investors and partners, and a trip to Silicon Valley.

It’s been a humbling and personally rewarding experience working with this cohort who are developing and growing incredibly diverse businesses. Our founders are making their mark in the Australian and global startup ecosystem while helping people and the world to be greener, healthier, happier, more independent and more financially secure.

SYD5 cohort stats:

  • 70% of teams have a female founder or co-founder
  • The average age of the founders is mid-late 30s
  • 60% of the founders are parents and of those parents, most have more than one child
  • 100% of them have shown incredible growth and learning

muru-D stats:

  • 128 companies currently in, or have completed one of, our programs since 2013
  • 200+ founders and co-founders in the muru-D alumni network
  • 89% of teams still have active businesses
  • We have supported 15 cohorts across five programs
  • Dozens of companies have done $1m+ raises
  • Half of the SYD4 cohort have now had $1m+ raises

Thank you Telstra for having the initiative and foresight for investing in this kind of innovation and disruption. Congratulations to the 10 companies who are now part of the global muru-D alumni family.

muru-D |

Skygrow’s blue-sky vision: using tree-planting robots to fight climate change

By Campbell Simpson May 18, 2018

Planting a tree is a considerable task, even for someone who knows what they’re doing. Multiply that task a hundredfold and it’s even more daunting – except if you’re using a team of highly specialised tree-planting robots to lay the groundwork for you. SkyGrow, one of our muru-D #SYD5 startups, has a high-tech solution that will be part of the future of fighting climate change and sustaining biodiversity and ecosystems.

SkyGrow founder and CEO Mark Stewart believes that this, more than anything else he’s done before, has the potential to address climate change and environmental issues on a massive scale. Mark has a background in environmental regulation, and has a longstanding passion for trees and addressing the growing problem of deforestation in countries around the world.

It’s a grand vision: creating a sustainable world for future generations. But to get there, SkyGrow’s mission is deceptively simple. It’s a mission of scale: planting trees faster than the rate at which they’re being cleared by development and deforestation. For that, SkyGrow and Mark Stewart are turning to technology. Stewart isn’t shy about the potential: “Everything we’re doing is breaking new ground – quite literally, in some cases.”

“…our vision is to be out there – planting trees, making a more sustainable environment for humanity.”

With the economic cost of land degradation to communities and governments pegged at $US231 billion per year and rising[1], it’s clear that we need to do more to address the growing lack of established trees and vegetation – and that’s before you consider the overall impact of climate change. Tree planting is the obvious solution, but it’s not so simple. And it’s a worldwide problem, one that Stewart says you can see if you go for a drive, not just one restricted to faraway places like the Amazon.

It is true that the face of massive forests like the Amazon have changed in recent decades; in fact, Russia now has the world’s largest forest area[2]. Deforestation due to industrial logging continues and the solution is simply planting more trees. The problem with current tree planting methods is that they’re highly manual, requiring lots of physically fit planters who have to be trained and traditional planting methods are just far too slow to counter the rate of deforestation. Other robotic techniques use flying drones to disperse seeds, but this method is not suitable for native plants that don’t grow well from seeds and it is also not effective where hard soils exist.

With the help of our muru-D startup accelerator, SkyGrow is getting the resources it needs to succeed. From laying out business plans to refining the way the founders make decisions, along with startup funding, the #SYD5 cohort entrant appreciates the help. “It’s been both challenging and rewarding; it’s really busy, but we’re covering a lot. There are components of the accelerator that have driven me to critique certain aspects of our business and this has helped us become stronger and more resilient.”