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Announcing 10 startups for 2019 Accelerator program

From wearable devices that combat period pain, to a global network of locations to store your bags and personal items, 10 promising startups will receive in-depth training and financial support as part of this year's SPARK Deakin Accelerator program.

Launched this week, the Accelerator provides a diverse group of up-and-coming entrepreneurs with $10,000 equity-free funding, as well as mentoring, masterclasses, legal support, and access to a dedicated co-working space in Melbourne's CBD.

SPARK Deakin has also joined with Google Cloud for Startups ahead of this year's launch, with the tech giant providing teams with $20,000 worth of Google credits towards their venture.

SPARK Deakin Program Manager Daizy Maan said the Accelerator's purpose was to empower founders from a diverse range of backgrounds who were at an early stage of their journey building promising and impactful startups.

"We're focused on building a true sense of community, powered by a 'give-first' mentality that supports impactful founders who align with the University's core value of serving our communities," Ms Maan said.

"We're also pleased to announce, for the first time, that 50 per cent of our Accelerator founders are women. It's important for us to recognise the value of gender equity with our Accelerator, to do our part to address disparity within the startup and entrepreneurial space. We are very proactive in encouraging diverse founders to apply."

The 10 teams will now go through an intensive three-month journey centred on a series of masterclasses and mentoring sessions designed to boost their growth.

This year's Accelerator mentors include leading entrepreneurs, industry experts, and investors from the startup ecosystem, such as Newmarket Capital founder James Douglas; Royal Bank of Canada Vice President of Innovation and Transformation, and former Head of Market Development and Mobile at PayPal Alexander Peh; and Pawan Lalwani, a Deakin University alumnus and CEO of Language Your Way, winner of the iAwards 2018 Startup of the Year.

"The future is going to be led by the next generation of entrepreneurs, and we're here to empower them," Ms Maan said.

"Every team is now part of a community of generous, ambitious, committed and passionate entrepreneurs. Your network matters – so we strive to connect our teams with some of the best founders, corporate partners, advisors and mentors that Australia and the international startup ecosystem has to offer."

The SPARK Deakin Accelerator teams for 2019 are:

  • Art Everywhere – A digital art sales platform that connects artists with commercial spaces for exhibitions.

  • Humanism – Creates safe and sustainable crafting and textile work for people in developing countries.

  • Mind My Bag – A storage solution for bags and personal items, with a network of convenient and safe locations.

  • Our Songlines – An Indigenous-run digital platform that maintains data on Indigenous areas of significance.

  • Ovira – A small wearable device that stops period pain.

  • PolyLab – Provides novel methods of recycled plastic additive manufacturing in 3D printing.

  • Sproutr – Matches startups with a pool of freelancers and skill providers, allowing businesses to pay in cash or shares.

  • STRUT – Aims to provide a turnkey internet of things (IoT) solution for customers within an IoT ecosystem.

  • The Other Straw – A social enterprise replacing plastic straws with reusable, ethically-sourced bamboo straws.

  • TutorSeek – A mobile app that connects students with tutors in their area.

This year's finalists attended a pre-Accelerator intensive boot camp, and the final 10 were selected after pitching their ventures to a panel of judges made up of industry experts, mentors, investors and key Deakin stakeholders.

The teams all include at least one member with a connection to Deakin – whether as a student, staff member or graduate. This year's Accelerator crop also includes teams chosen through a newly-instituted social impact category (Our Songlines, The Other Straw, and Humanism), as well as two teams from Geelong (Polylab and STRUT) and one from Warrnambool (Art Everywhere).

Ovira founder Alice Williams, whose discreet wearable product is designed to release unique pulses that relieve period pain by blocking pain signals from travelling to the brain, said she felt privileged to be accepted as part of the program.

"I hope to gain the knowledge and skill-set to grow Ovira into a global brand, so I’m able to positively impact as many women’s lives as possible," Ms Williams said.

"As a Deakin graduate, it makes me proud to know that my university is supporting entrepreneurship and is helping students grow their ideas and take them to the world.

"Mentorship and advice will be particularly useful for me and Ovira as a first-time founder with an early stage startup. But what I'm looking forward to most is working alongside other like-minded, passionate founders to share, support and help each other."

Since launching in 2015, the SPARK Deakin Accelerator initiative has assisted 45 founders to launch 20 startups, which have gone on to create 99 part time and full-time jobs, more than 750 contract roles, and more than $3 million revenue, while serving more than 14,000 customers.

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