Feds tap Pollenizer for incubator

James Riley
Editorial Director

Sydney-based startup incubator and corporate accelerator Pollenizer has won a competitive bid process to partner with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to deliver DataStart – an open data initiative that will apply new business ideas to publicly available government data.

Which is funny, because Pollenizer had initially responded to an RFQ issued by the Department of Communications. That’s how much has changed in this country.

Communications had issued its RFQ on September 10 to a select group of 10 incubators and accelerators from around the country. All of them responded with bids. Malcolm Turnbull then became Prime Minister on September 15.

From the top: The Prime Minister’s department is in the startup business

Under the new regime, Communications’ Data Policy unit was moved to PM&C to become part of its Data Policy Branch (drawing together a variety of government data policy units from various departments) – and now we have a startup incubation effort being driven by the most powerful government department in the land. Hey, presto!

DataStart aims to be a high-profile, national campaign to find, incubate and accelerate startup ideas that leverage data that is openly available from the Australian Government.

It should also serve as a means to identify the government data that would be most valuable in a publicly available form, and how it can best be presented for consumption by potential business partners.

The DataStart initiative came about as a result of the Australian Government’s participation in Open Data 500, which had been be driven out of the Prime Minister’s former portfolio in Communications and conducted in conjunction with The GovLab of New York University.

Open Data 500 studied for the first time Australian companies and NGO’s use of open government data to generate new business, develop new products and services, and to create social value.

Among its findings were that it was difficult for newer companies – smaller companies formed in the past several years – to engage with the available data, and to engage with government in a meaningful way to create value from that data.

DataStart is not envisaged as a startup only effort. It is open to anyone. But the underlying theme is to create a mechanism for that engagement. And in the case of Pollenizer, it will ‘discover’ an idea, an application for data, and a team to develop further through its incubation engine.

This is certainly new territory for the Prime Minister’s department. Details of the program, which is running at startup speed, can be found at the new DataStart website. It will have completed a national roadshow of information sessions, recruited its teams and ideas by the end of November and completed its initial round of development by mid-January.

A finalist round of 20 startup ideas will pitch to a judging panel by mid-January and a ‘winner’ selected to participate in the nine-month Pollenizer incubation program by the end of that month.

The winner will also be eligible for a $200,000 seed capital investment from a joint-venture formed between Right Click Capital and Pollenizer Ventures, should they consider the venture worth investing in. But equally, the winning startup is not bound to take this investment and is free to raise money from any interested party.

The expected outcomes are three-fold:
• increase awareness about Commonwealth information and the potential for innovation and economic development from its use;
• develop a model that enables government agencies to effectively work with the private sector to deliver digital products and services; and
• test whether sustainable business models can be built using open government data.

PM&C has already signed additional corporate partners to help with in-kind support, including mentoring, strategic advice, and access to business networks. These include multinational firms Google and Optus, with PwC providing strategic advice.

Support is also being provided from CSIRO’s Data61, Rozetta and the Australian Information Industry Association. It is not clear how these partners were selected.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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