LaunchVic tackles skills shortfall

James Riley
Editorial Director

The Victorian government has dished out nearly $3 million in grants to educational services for startup founders, the first funding round LaunchVic has unveiled in more than six months.

LaunchVic, the independent body established by the state government to deploy its $60 million innovation fund, has invested $2.9 million across 16 educational service providers as part of its fourth funding round.

The services range from short courses, workshops, week-long courses, mentoring and online learning, and will be provided either free or at a “low cost”.

Kate Cornick: The latest funding round will a address skills gaps among startups

The grants range from $100,000 to $250,000, and have gone towards services providing legal considerations for startups, B2B sales lessons and marketing tools, among others.

The range of educational services that have been funded will help to fill a gap in the Victorian ecosystem, LaunchVic chief executive Kate Cornick said.

“LaunchVic research has identified that only 15 per cent of founders go through accelerators and many founders need support and access to new skills and capabilities to grow their startups,” Dr Cornick said.

“These programs target the identified skills gap and the short course are specifically targeted towards time poor founders and their teams,” she said.

The largest grant in this round went to Cogent.Co, which was awarded $250,000 to provide workshops and online tools to “help founders build sustainable businesses through learning practical product development”.

The funded programs would now provide up to 2000 places for Victorian startup founders and staff, LaunchVic said.

It’s the first funding round from LaunchVic since mid-August last year, despite a new strategy focusing on “more frequent but smaller rounds of grants”. It’s also nearly six months after applications for the education funding round closed in September last year.

Dr Cornick said LaunchVic has an extensive process to assess the grant applications.

“We have a two-stage grant application process to ensure we are working with only the best and most experienced individuals and organisations to provide credible support and expertise to the local startup ecosystem,” she said.

In mid-August last year LaunchVic chipped in $1.4 million to five programs looking to support first generation migrants and refugees in Victoria.

It followed a tumultuous year for the organisation, which saw it eventually pulling a near-$3 million grant from 500 Startups. LaunchVic had originally chosen to continue the grant after harassment allegations emerged against the founder of 500 Startups, but after weeks of deliberation pulled the funding after the local lead resigned.

The organisation has also lost eight of its 11-person board in the last 18 months, following a government review that recommended the board be made smaller to be in line with other entities.

SVI Global and Melbourne Fashion Festival chair Laura Anderson was also appointed as the new LaunchVic chair last October after an eight month search. This is the first funding round announced since Ms Anderson was appointed in the position.

The state Opposition has been highly critical of LaunchVic’s processes and operations, and attempted to launch an inquiry into the organisation late last year. This was decisively shot down the government and Greens a week before Christmas.

LaunchVic still has two funding rounds where the successful applications have yet to be named. One of them is a funding round for world-class accelerator programs, replacing the funding set aside for 500 Startups, which closed in October last year.

LaunchVic also opened a funding round for local councils in December, which will close at the end of this week.

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