According to Kamilaroi man Dean Foley, many of the programs offering business skills to Indigenous Australians only “tick boxes.” They’re just not the right thing for would-be founders of global tech companies.
Foley’s new accelerator program for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entrepreneurs launched its first mini-program Monday in Brisbane, with six startups on board.
Known as Barayamal, the mini-accelerator will run for four weeks offering mentorship, networking and training, but he hopes to begin a full 12-week program from mid-2017.
The first cohort includes an app that provides real estate assistance, an initiative to support healthy eating among regional Indigenous families, and a cultural app that would showcase Australia before First Settlement, among others.
After spending more than five years in the Royal Australian Air Force, Foley left with dreams of becoming a businessman in the vein of Richard Branson.
“I looked at a few organisations that are supposed to help Indigenous entrepreneurs, and they couldn’t help me,” he told Mashable. “A lot of Indigenous people I talked to felt the same way.
“Especially for Indigenous startups that are just coming up. Maybe they’re perceived as more risky, which is a shame.”
After getting involved with the startup ecosystem, he saw a significant need for training and mentorship focused on Indigenous people interested in digital technology.
“The reason why I think it’s important to have an Indigenous-specific one is to help close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians,” he explained.
Historically, Aboriginal Australians have been excluded from entrepreneurship due to systemic disadvantage in many communities, and low self-employment numbers continue to this day.
To inspire young Aboriginal Australians, Foley also ran Australia’s first Indigenous Startup Weekend in Brisbane in August featuring a pitch competition and prizes.
Slingshot, which runs corporate innovation programs, is a partner of Barayamal, and the accelerator is being held in the Brisbane location of the startup co-working space, Fishburners.
In addition to mentorship and training, Foley hopes to offer some early-stage funding when Barayamal officially launches its first full session next year. He’s also looking for financial partners who can support founders that would need to travel to Brisbane from regional Australia.
“If you look at what the government is saying now, ‘we need to increase innovation, businesses,’ why are they trying to do that?” he asked. “It’s to create more jobs in Australia, to create economic development, which is being ignored for Indigenous people.
“I want to provide an alternative.”
[H/T Silicon Paddock]