An interview with Mark Gustowski: Chief Executive Officer of QUT Creative Enterprise Australia | Techsauce

An interview with Mark Gustowski: Chief Executive Officer of QUT Creative Enterprise Australia

Recently Techsauce had the pleasure of Interviewing Mark Gustowski, Chief Executive Officer of QUT Creative Enterprise Australia to gain a more in-depth perspective of what this innovative accelerator program and startup investor can do for business on a global scale.

QUT Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA) helps to start, grow, scale and connect creative companies with investors. It is Australia’s only dedicated creative industries accelerator and is a global advocate for connecting startups with investors in the seed funding stage.

Mark has worked with innovative, fast-growing and creative businesses for over 15 years within both the private and public sectors and has designed, developed and delivered accelerator style programs for Australian businesses nationally and internationally.

Read on for our exclusive interview:

  1. Could you give us an insight into why and how you created Collider Accelerator?

This Idea came to ideation about 3 years ago for creative and lifestyle tech. In Australia, we realized there was a gap in the market for creative industry startups and this was our big incentive to really implement this Accelerator platform.

CEA has been working with the creative industry across Australia for over 10 years and recently have developed co-working spaces, private equity funds, and mentor programs to support the creative industries. The Accelerator program really tries to support startups in a variety of industries under the creative umbrella and give them a structure on how to build sustainable successful businesses that are competitive globally.

 

We invest 30,000 AUD into each of the accelerator participants these startups in exchange for at a 4% equity. Eventually, we will be able to write cheques for up to 400,000 AUD for our startups. We also operate a seed fund that allows us to invest up to $150,000 AUD into creative tech startups.  Our new fund, the Creative Tech Ventures Fund will provide cheques of up to $400,000 to support the growth of Australian creative startups internationally.

We invest 30,000 AUD into each of the accelerator participants in exchange for equity. We also operate a seed fund that allows us to invest up to $150,000 AUD into creative tech startups.  Our new fund, the Creative Tech Ventures Fund will provide cheques of up to $400,000 to support the growth of Australian creative startups internationally.

  1. What are the biggest challenges that Collider Accelerator has faced and how do you react to competitors?

The biggest thing about competitors in the market is that they make us all better. They make us 'up our game' more. We wouldn't feel the urge to up our game if there weren't competitors out there. It forces us to be better. There are around 35 - 40 accelerators in Australia across a variety of industry verticals, whilst competitive we are also all supportive of each other, whether that means sharing mentors, learnings or even graduating startups from one to another. This highlights the connectivity of the different accelerator programs out there and what they can offer in terms of investment. It's important and also difficult to position yourself as a successful accelerator without heritage or a long-standing background and that is something that we always want to focus on. We benchmark ourselves over other global accelerators to give our startups the best programs and investment possible and to check the content we are providing is on par or above. We have the mindset to be globally competitive and bring in mentors and investors from around the world to increase the quality of Collider. Our first Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR) for batch one was Mark B. Johnson, a successful investor, technology evangelist, and mentor. Mark worked under Steve Jobs and John Scully at Apple and worked in VC in Silicon Valley, he brought a maturity, knowledge and global understanding of what it takes to be successful. As well as a world-class EiR, we bring in successful entrepreneurs from across the globe including specialists from the UK, US, South Africa and Asia.

3: What do you look for in a tech startup that would make you want to invest?

Currently, our investments can only be in Australian businesses but what we look for and what investors from around the globe look for are often the same. We look for startups that are solving a problem that already exists. Is it a global problem that can be solved and how is the market fit?

We also look at the makeup of the team, the founder of coachability, drive, and commitment. Teams with multiple founders tend to have a higher success rate but we know in creative industries single founders are more prominent so we look at how we can support single founders. Participating in accelerators isn’t easy, it’s an emotional roller-coaster for founders, they receive advice and support from so many parties and they put their lives on hold for a single purpose.  It’s our role to support their drive and energy while providing direction and mentorship.

 

 

4: Could you give us more details of your accelerator/mentor program and what it entails?

The way we run collider we take in applications from the whole country, identify the top 20 or so startups and then run a 2-day boot camp.

The startups will meet with over 20 mentors over 2 days, pitch their stories over and over and receive advice and feedback.  We are looking for coachability, a belief in their solution and product, commitment to the program and a determination to push hard.  After bootcamp, we will make a selection for the final 10 startups to enter the program.

The way we deliver the Collider-Accelerator is very hands-on and is essentially full-time mentorship with the startups 5 days a week. We have 3 EiRs that are with the startups all the time providing guidance, mentorship, and support.

Each week is focussed on a different topic so across the 12 or 13 weeks we cover a range of modules including business models, product building, team dynamics, partnerships etc. We have around 25 hours of contact time with the Startups most weeks with some being lighter and some being heavier.

Demo Day for any accelerator is crucial, it is the platform where you have the chance to expose your cohort to a global market and we put a huge effort into our Demo Day. From pitch coaching to the venue, audience, panel and finally the presentations, Demo Day is a chance to put the icing on the cake before the long road to the real game starts. 

We also run a spin-off program from Collider called ‘Collision’ where we utilize the global specialists we have brought in for the accelerator program to run workshops for the whole ecosystem. This helps the Collider brand but also provides the greater public to have a chance to hear from some of the startup industries best minds. We have run 7 Collision programs already and open activities for the wider community that is really pushing and strengthening the whole ecosystem.

5: What are your views on emerging markets and specifically Thailand in terms of investment and startup innovation…?

Half our team comes from south-east Asia or have experience working across Asia including countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Hong Kong so the ASEAN markets are very close to our hearts. 

I guess the real reason is why do we want to take an accelerator to Thailand instead of Singapore or the US? Thailand is in the center of the ASEAN region has a rapidly growing middle class and has such a large population with fast mobile penetration and higher internet usage. The demand for services that increase the quality of life is crucial. In Thailand with over 65 million people and access to a wider ASEAN ecosystem, there is a much larger market than that of Australia. It's a more accessible market and has a lot of capital for investors. Why wouldn't you want to take an accelerator into an emerging market? The west has saturated markets with a different set of demands on more competitive and mature ecosystems. It makes sense to help grow the ASEAN ecosystem and strengthen the connection between the ASEAN and Australian market. We are mentors for the ASEAN entrepreneurial program and want to open up the markets more to partner with Australian investors. There is a lot of government support for startups in Thailand and with our Australian mentorship program its the perfect marriage and bedrock for increasing the opportunity for Thailands ecosystem.

 

6: What is your prediction for the future of Startups, entrepreneurs and growing ecosystems?

We have seen a lot of growth and opportunity in developed markets like Isreal and of course the US, but we believe there is a lot of potential in the ASEAN region to become the technological and startup hot spot on the planet.  The ASEAN countries have a high density of population, a need for a better quality of life and a lot of innovative startups. These factors are serious reasons to drive investment forward.

7: Could you give us insight into successful businesses that you have mentored and invested in?

We have about 30 startups in our portfolio. 'Trademark Vision' was one of CEA’s early investments and now has offices in Brisbane and Pittsburgh. We have global partners all over the world which are helping our startups to progress quickly.

'Audience Republic' are music-tech startups that we invested in a few years ago, the company has grown steadily and is now looking at expansion opportunities into global markets. It was a startup venture with 1 tech team manager - now there are around 10 people looking at multi-million dollars revenues and is about to launch in the US. Our investment fund is primarily a seed fund that supports startups at the early stage. We want to get involved as early as possible where we can support and play a key role in early growth.  Typically the rounds we invest in range from $300,000 to $1M.

 8: What tips do you have for tech startups in Thailand that are looking for foreign investment?

We recently had around 5 Thai startups visit Australia as a part of a wider delegation supported by the Thai National Innovation Agency (NIA) and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) It was a great first-hand chance to see how Thai startups operate in foreign markets and we were so impressed with them and their global ambitions.

Most investors are looking at what you have achieved so far and what your view on expansion is, how are you going to get more customers? An investor needs a detailed plan of how you will make a return on that investment. The more detail you can give the better.

In the future, we want to integrate with more Thai Startups and strengthen the connection between the two ecosystems and keep the investments strong.

 

We would love to bring some of our programs to Thailand where we can collaborate with groups supporting startups.  Australia has a strong history now in supporting startup ecosystems and we want to bring some of that knowledge and expertise to support the amazing activity already taking place in Thailand.

 

Bio of Mark:

With over a decade of corporate advisory and management consulting experience, Mark has supported businesses through the development of B2B and B2C strategies, marketing and sales strategies, IP strategies, channel management, and identification, capital raising, corporate structuring, and partnering.

Mark has also been involved in the development of four start-ups and has successfully run his own commercialization advisory firm supporting fast-growth and innovation-based companies prior to joining the CEA team.

Previously, Mark has been responsible for driving international business development for a major UK based design and engineering firm including working on major projects such as London2012 and more recently has assisted the iconic Tonino Lamborghini brand build an Australian presence.

Across Australia Mark has worked with over 1,500 businesses across almost all industry verticals and currently sits on the Advisory Board of a number of creative industries, innovation, FMCG, and technology companies.

 

For more information on the QUT Creative Enterprise Australia follow the link below: 

QUT Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA) believes in enriching the future by empowering creatives.

We aim to close the gap that currently exists between creative excellence and business acumen by offering a supportive network, and a variety of programs and events tailored for growth.

Since 2008, over 4,000 entrepreneurs have engaged in our services. We have supported over 500 companies and established Australia’s first creative tech startup fund, creative tech accelerator (Collider), and fashion accelerator (Fashion360).

If you are a business in the creative industries, we invite you to connect with our community and get involved with CEA today.

http://qutcea.com/

 

Mark will be speaking and moderating at  Thailand's Digital Big Bang 2018 conference from the 20th of September reinstating and implementing Thailand 4.0.

http://www.depa.or.th/en/digitalthailandbigbang2018

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