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Startup Themes 2014 & Application Advice

May 30, 2014


INCUBATE is seeking talented entrepreneurs with high-potential startup ideas to apply for our winter accelerator program at the University of Sydney. Below is a list of themes aimed to inspire – and that we know are of interest to INCUBATE, our mentors and program partners.

When assessing applications we look at the qualities of the founding team, their passion and motivation and then the business idea.

These themes are intended to encourage a broad range of startups to apply and definitely do not automatically exclude startups in other fields. Startups across any industrial field are encouraged to apply!

INCUBATE will accept up to eight startup teams for our 2014 programs. Please check our FAQ and apply page for more answers about the program.

Good luck!

– James Alexander, Program Manager.

Startups themes

Below are themes for startups that we’re interested in seeing apply. This does not automatically exclude startups in other fields. All types of startups are encouraged to apply.

National Demo Day Networking

Student Services

Startups that aim to help improve students experience at university. Examples might include student focused financial services platforms, on-campus services such as payment services, lecture and study-aid services or apps.

One type of startup idea we see often are student job platforms – startups applying with new types of job platforms need a strong team and strong go-to-market strategy.

“I think there is a big opportunity for online financial services targeted towards young professionals and university students” – Paul Veevers, Co-founder Beak

Health and Fitness

Startups that are tackling problems in health and fitness related industries. The University of Sydney and Australia has a rich history in innovative medical devices and we want to see the next leading startup apply.

Internet of Things

Startups that want to lead the revolution in new wave of product-applications that help make our lives easier and are always connected to the internet. A recent stand-out example is Nest. We’re also on the search for more startups that use Apple’s iBeacon technology and Bluetooth Low Energy technology as a basis for delivering novel applications across any industry such as tourism, health and fitness.

Augmented and Virtual Reality

Startups that want to utilise new platforms like Oculus and Meta Glasses for business, entertainment, gaming or mobile application purposes are encouraged to apply. While these platforms are very new, we’re eager to see completely new applications in traditionally low-tech areas.

Bitcoin and Digital Currencies

Bitcoin startups are sprouting up everywhere, tackling a range of crypto-currency services. Bitcoin has the potential to completely change the way we manage and transfer money globally with many new services to come. Startups that apply with ideas based in Bitcoin need to demonstrate some background knowledge in this area.


Australia leads in field robotics and is uniquely positioned to adopt and test applications of robotics due to our large physical size and sparse cities. Startups with product ideas that have far reaching implications are encouraged to apply, irrespective of the current regulatory landscape, for example drone delivery or autonomous vehicles.

What makes a great startup application?

laptop and hand

INCUBATE receives many applications. Here’s what makes your application stand out:

  • Vision: A strong company vision for what you ultimately want to achieve gives us a sense of where you want to go and also helps the mentors understand your focus.
  • Strong team or strong single founder: A strong team, with the skills required to make your first minimum viable product or service is always desirable. We understand how hard it is to find a good co-founder. Single founders can apply but we want to see a plan to develop your business in the three months i.e. with contractors or freelancers.
  • Competitor research: Applications that show how and why they are different from common competitors, receive a higher grading by mentors
  • Ambitious 3 month goal:“I just want to build a prototype” can often be done without INCUBATE and without our mentors help, or for free. Think bigger – we want teams that want to launch and get their first customers within 12 weeks – although we understand this does not suit all businesses.
  • 1-Pager or Short Pitch Deck: Including a simple overview in a single page or 1-2 slide pitch deck in the application goes a long way in communicating your startup and professionalism.

Startups from Researchers & Postdoctoral Students

Researchers, doctoral and post-doctoral students are encouraged to considering applying if they believe their research has potential commercial applications.

INCUBATE strongly encourages entrepreneurial researchers who are passionate about bringing their invention and innovations to the real-world to apply.

Key attributes we look for in researchers:

  • Strong entrepreneurial drive – applicants are interested in becoming co-founders of the startup company
  • Clear vision as to the potential product or service they wish to create
  • Willingness to conduct prototyping and business development during the 3 month accelerator program
  • Willingness to learn how to  market and pitch their startup to industry and investors

Staff and students working on University-owned IP may also be eligible to apply for up to $50k Proof-of-Concept funding from Commercial Development and Industry Partnerships (CDIP).

If you are interested in this route, the first step is to tell CDIP about your idea here. INCUBATE works closely with CDIP on any startups that utilise University IP, to assist them in coordinating licensing and commercialisation discussions with The University of Sydney.

“Incubate helped me to find the right people and the right path to accelerate the commercialisation of my research project.” – Ali Fathi, founder TrimphGel

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between Genesis and INCUBATE?

Genesis is a business pitching competition, organised by the Business School at the University of Sydney. We encourage anyone thinking of apply to INCUBATE but still not sure about their idea to apply for Genesis first. Genesis runs over semester and is a great way to help validate your idea. Startups that have gone through Genesis have a better chance of being accepted into INCUBATE.

Will doing an entrepreneurship course before I apply help my chances?

Yes. Doing any entrepreneurship related course, particularly courses like Technology Venture Creation (ELEC5701), will help your chances in being accepted into INCUBATE.

What can I spend the $5,000 Grant money on?

Anything related to helping you build your business and first product. Startups that are accepted will receive guidance from INCUBATE but generally most teams spend the money on product development, contractors and sometimes a contribution towards founders salaries.

Can I just get help from INCUBATE’s Mentors?

At this stage no, but we recommend you attend our public events where we often invite mentors to attend or speak. We have no ability to coordinate external mentoring sessions but we do offer startup advice on-campus to aspiring entrepreneurs. Please get in touch:

I don’t have an idea, but can I join an INCUBATE startup?

Yes. Register your skills and interest here:

I’m a single founder with no technical skills but a great idea, should I still apply?

Yes. We welcome startup founders with limited technical skills but we want to see them become experts in their industry area and have a plan for building their first product within the program time frame.

Can I apply with an idea for a creative project, cafe or consulting company?

No. We only accept startup ideas that are innovative and based on scalable products or services. Creative projects are encouraged to apply to Kickstart:

Suggested Reading

Some selected articles from the INCUBATE team:


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