An inability to access large data sets is holding back the next generation of potentially huge Australian tech companies, former Fishburners CEO Murray Hurps said.
Mr Hurps, who finished his “interim” three-year role at Fishburners last month after successfully finding a new home for the startup hub in Sydney, has landed a new gig. He will be head up an “industry-first” accelerator focused on data-driven startups in partnership with Westpac and Stone & Chalk.
The venture, called Fueld, will provide participants with a range of data sets from Data Republic’s data mining and analytics platform as part of the three-month accelerator program based at Stone & Chalk’s new space at the Sydney Startup Hub.
Data Republic was founded in 2014 and has more than 100 companies using its data exchange platform.
There is huge potential for startups and entrepreneurs in Australia working with big data, but it is currently difficult and expensive for young companies to get their hands on the necessary data. Mr Hurps likens this to the printing press in the 20th century.
“Previously, if you wanted to start a media company you had to make a significant investment to start to play ball. That’s the same for data now,” Mr Hurps told InnovationAus.com.
“We have increasingly large proprietary data sets that incredible people starting new companies can’t access. That inhibits a lot of progress we could be making.”
“People are collecting data faster than they ever have before, and I’ve seen an increase in the number of data-focused startups at Fishburners, but not the increase you’d expect. Access to data is the fundamental issue here.”
The new program aims to bridge that gap by providing participants with access to Data Republic’s range of data sets, along with data from Westpac.
“This program exists to do one thing – to help new data-focused startups get off the ground,” Mr Hurps said.
“It will do that by providing free access to a lot of proprietary data sets in a respectful way, along with cash, potential mentorship and a place at Stone & Chalk.”
“We want to throw everything we can at each company to help them become companies they couldn’t be without it,” he said.
Along with Westpac and Stone & Chalk, other partners include AWS and Reinventure.
“The program is bringing together a lot of different partners that you need to be brought together for this sort of accelerator, and it is somewhat unique in doing that. It’s certainly exciting for anyone working in the data area.”
The program will be placing privacy and security of the data front and centre in all of its operations, he said.
“Westpac has a huge respect for data, and all the data will be made available with the utmost respect of privacy. Data Republic’s technology is an essential part of exposing data in a way that allows companies to do productive things without violating any privacy,” he said.
Fueld will be accepting eight startups as part of its first cohort. The program will be accepting entrepreneurs with data-relevant skills that are looking to launch a new company, along with more established tech companies in the space.
These companies will be receiving $50,000 in cash each, with Fueld taking no equity in participants and the startups retaining their intellectual property.
“There are a lot of different models for accelerator programs, and this is definitely a founder-centric model. It isn’t about outsourcing consulting, it’s about starting new companies – that’s what I’m passionate about,” Mr Hurps said.
After taking on the position as Fishburners’ chief executive in 2014, Mr Hurps embarked on an arduous three-year journey to secure a new home for the large startup hub.
This journey finally ended earlier this year, with Fishburners becoming an anchor tenant at the NSW government’s Sydney Startup Hub, which will be opening later this year.
For Mr Hurps, this was the right time to leave the organisation and embark on a new chapter. It didn’t take long for his next venture to be revealed, and he is excited to getting back to working hands-on with the next generation of Australian tech companies.
“It’ll be wonderful to be able to get my hands dirty again and work closely with some really big companies to turn out some extremely successful startups,” he said.
“Fishburners was an incredible three years. We added 516 companies in those years and 750 seats of startup space.
“I’m very proud of what I did there, but I’m looking forward to working with a smaller number of companies more intensely to get some real success stories.”