If you haven't heard of it, Startup Catalyst is a company founded by Steve Baxter which takes different groups to international startup hotspots to widen their perspectives and bring new knowledge back to Australia. In the words of Steve Baxter:
I want to take (participants), infect them with this ‘startup disease’ and hopefully they’ll bring it back and it will be infectious.
Right now, they are finding their next 20 Future Founders (18 - 29-year-olds) to drop into Silicon Valley for 10 days and experience this for themselves. Be warned: this is not for the faint of heart. You will be broken. You will never see the world the same again. You will have an absolute blast.
Anyway, much like my fellow participant from last year, LJ, I thought this would be a great opportunity to put some words together about what makes a good application.
1. Have some technical rungs on the board.
Are you a Swift legend? Raspberry Pi aficionado? Design champion? Quantum computer physicist? (Seriously, I had to compete with that). Rocket scientist? (And that). Great! You're in great stead. This mission is, after all, about taking technically savvy youngsters over to bring them back as tech startup founders. Github repositories, working apps, previous startups or research papers welcome.
2. Be a giver, not a taker.
One thing you will find is that the startup world is all about giving. Time, expertise, mentorship, harsh feedback. You ask for it, you'll likely get it. So if you're someone who mentors people, builds communities, connects people or volunteers, you're someone who will fit right in.
3. Think like an American. No, seriously.
One thing American's have more of than Australian's is hot air. Usually about themselves. But in startup land, where everyone wants the same thing (funding, free trips overseas) and there's more noise (awareness) around, standing above the crowd can be a hard thing to do. Australian's have a shocking response to people who talk themselves up (even when it's completely valid to do so). It's called Tall Poppy Syndrome. And it stinks. Did you build an app that made you millions? Say so. (Although you may not need a sponsored mission to the Valley). Did you create a community for hundreds of people to come together and work with each other? Scream it from a rooftop. Did you save an endangered panda while trekking through the Chinese wilderness? Maybe irrelevant in this case, but I'd still bring it up.
4. Have a sponsor lined up
I was hesitant in including this one. At the risk of making the application process sound like a pay-to-play, this is something to keep in mind, and is a question on the application. And look, when you have your startup, you're going to need money. So now's a good time to practice your hustle. Free 10 day trips to Silicon Valley aren't actually free. Someone has to pay. And for this, Startup Catalyst has some amazing sponsors, many of whom have sponsored for many years in a row. If you're able to bring a sponsor (or even part sponsor) to the table, it makes paying for and organising the trip that much easier. For me personally, my alma mater sponsored me. You may have a university, workplace, government grant or other organisation willing to send you.
5. If at first you don't succeed, try and try again.
I applied three years in a row before being accepted. Taking the feedback on board and putting that into action is incredibly important. It shows you have resilience, tenacity and actually give a shit. It caused me to grow personally and become acutely aware of this amazing community we have around us.
I hope these help. If you feel you don't quite hit all the markers, apply anyway. It's a great experience and introduction to the ecosystem.
Apply now! Applications are open until September 22nd.
The mission is from October 29th - November 10th.
Josh is a product design leader based in Melbourne, Australia. He has been working in the design space for 7 years across various industries.