Startmate – Featuring Michael Batko

Nov 25, 2019 | New South Wales, Organisation, Podcasts, Sydney

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Featured Image_Startmate_Michael Batko

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Today you’re going to hear the story of Startmate featuring the head of operations at Startmate, Michael Batko.

Startmate is the leading tech accelerator in Australia and they take 10 to 15 companies and new stage founders in each cohort and help them from three to four months to get them to the next stage of their business.

They look for just the most ambitious founders and then work with that talent. Startmate doesn’t necessarily specialise in a certain area or industry. Startmate just focuses on the most ambitious founders and work with them to create immense value.

Let’s go back to day one, to a pub in Surry Hills where this story begins…



It’s more about just highlighting the ethos of Startmate or the reason it exists is actually people helping people out.


Hi, I’m Adam Spencer and welcome to day one, the podcast for regional startups and the organisations that support them.

Today’s episode was made in part by the support of New Economy Media, publisher of new economy news – innovation news without the jargon. Read more at neweconomy.media. Today you’re going to hear the story of Startmate featuring…



Michael Batko, the head of operations at Startmate.

Startmate is the leading tech accelerator in Australia. And we take 10 to 15 companies and new stage founders, and help them from three to four months to get them to the next stage, whatever that stage is.

For us, we look for just the most ambitious founders. And whatever those are, we can add lots of value to them.  And we don’t necessarily specialize in a certain area or industry. We just want the most ambitious founders, and we can work with that talent.


Let’s go back to day one, to a pub in Surry Hills where this story begins…  


So lots of people don’t know that part of history as well. People still see Startmate as it came out of Blackbird, which is actually, it was interesting, because it happened the other way around. In 2010, 2011, Niki came back from Silicon Valley. There was not much of a venture capital industry in Australia. So this was literally before all of the VC funds, as they are not today. The VC industry being very, very new here in Australia, still. It’s only, what, five years? And then he met up with a couple of his buddies, our original mentors, in a pub here in Surry hills. And they all said let’s put in 10,000 dollars each to fund the next generation of founders, which happened to be Mike and Scott from Atlassian as part of that. So that was a great starting in mentor community. And they founded the first five teams back then.


Starting back in 2010, when there wasn’t a lot of VC’s around in Australia, as Michael said, after Niki got back from Silicon valley Niki met up with a bunch of people at a pub in Surry Hills and Startmate was born. Some of those people include the investor and startup mentor Alan Jones, Mike Cannon-Brookes, Bill Bartee, Phil Morle, Scott Farquhar, Mick Liubinskas, Dean McEvoy, Alfred Lo, Peter Huynh, David Jones, Geoff McQueen, Ian Gardiner, Phaedon Stough, Richard Horton, Mike Casey, Ryan Junee, Bardia Housman, and Bart Jellema. If I missed any names, please get in touch with me on the website and I’ll update the list. Thank you to Alan Jones and Michael Batko for helping me with this list.


And ever since then, the community of Startmate got bigger and bigger, and we’ve expanded from taking five teams into 10 to 15 teams. We run across Sydney and Melbourne now. 


Michael has been with Startmate for about 2 years at the time of this story being published. But before Michael was the head of operations at Startmate he worked for a startup called Expert 360 as an analyst operations manager.


When I left Expert 360, I didn’t really know what I was doing.

I actually moved out of Australia then, went travelling, went soul searching. I was in Columbia, Brazil, travelling all over the place trying to figure out what I wanted to do.

And as part of that, I then started to narrow down what industries I wanted to work in and started to broadcast that on all my different channels. And then people started introducing me to other people.

And one of those introductions back then happened from Bridget, who is Expert 360’s CEO, to Niki Scevak, the managing partner at Blackbird. But it was actually for the  head of operations role at Blackbird, which I interviewed for and then I called up Niki the next day being like, “hey. This isn’t quite the right role for me.” Because it was just too compliance and legal heavy and it just wasn’t quite what I wanted to do. And I was like, I actually do want to join an accelerator. And then he told me about a new role coming up in a couple of months time, which wasn’t online yet for Startmate’s head of operations. Fast forward a couple of months, the role came online. Fast forward a couple more months, I got the role.


In a few minutes we’re going to hear from Michael on the types of people Startmate looks for to take through their program, we’ve heard how Startmate got started. But I really want to know why. Why did it start, and why does it exist?


Startmate was founded on the principle of founders helping founders. It’s basically the best founders and investors in Australia, helping the next generation of founders, which is our cohort. But the beauty of it is that this community then comes together as one Startmate family, and they just pull all together on all the same strings.


So number one, you’ve got the best founders in Australia  part of it, and number two, you’ve actually got pretty much every venture capital fund, family office, and the best angels in Australia who are all part of the same community. And that community is super strong.


Startmate exists to build a strong community of founders helping founders. Michael told me Australia now has quite a few angels and seed funding and also quite a few VC funds doing million-dollar rounds.


And where Startmate fits into the picture is exactly  between those two stages. Or, even before the seed stage. So in that early one. So either bridging people from a seed to ABC stage, or actually before  the seed stage. So it is kind of the area which Startmate is covering. So its anything from we value ourselves in a million-dollar evaluation and then getting them to basically a two to four million dollar evaluation.


About three-quarters of the companies Startmte accepts into their program already have revenue and have customers, with the remaining portion only having an MVP with no customers. However…


It’s literally just about the most ambitious founders. Whatever stage they are, wherever they are, whatever field they are in, it’s all about the people.


Startmate was founded on the foundation of the  individual, the team, the people that make up the companies. People helping people, founders helping founders, so it makes a lot of sense that they have such a strong focus on the type of people that they look for. 


In terms of what people do we look for, that’s a good one. It’s the person who is 100% passionate about what they to. We call it it’s their life’s mission to solve that problem. It’s somebody who’s a learn it all. They want to learn every single detail about the customers, about the people who have that problem, about the problem space that they can possibly imagine. It’s just somebody who just won’t stop doing what they’re doing, even though a billion people are going to tell them it’s a bad idea.

We want our founders to be learn-it-alls. And when I say we all want them to be learn-it-alls is we want them to know everything about the space. And how do they know everything about the space? Because they talked to as many people as possible. So that’s customer, this is people who have been in the space etc as mentors. What does that mean is that they actually collect so much feedback from people, so many data points, so that’s the data driven part. And they are able to actually consolidate all of that and make sense out of it. So that’s the data driven part.

The best founders have the backbone then to say half of those people are right, half of those people are wrong. Whatever it is, I’m just going to pursue that path. The worst thing that can happen is that you have so much data and you are just paralyzed by it all. Worst thing is to not make a decision.


It’s no accident why Startmate, it’s founder and the people involved have a focus on people, They have a focus on people because of something they call the magnetic force. 


That’s our name for it anyway. We call it magnetic force.  If you put the best people into a room, they’re going to attract other great people.


And that’s why they’ve never had any trouble looking for startups or for mentors, because those people are attracted to them.


We’ve got the founders and the mentors. On the founders side, we get more applications every single cohort. Interesting enough, on the mentors side, we actually overrun by mentors in itself. Mentors just email us out of the blue being like I want to be a mentor at  Startmate because it has a reputation. Actually, that’s what I mean with we don’t have trouble raising a fund because people actually just want to put in it.


And as Michael just said because of the magnetic force, as they call it, they don’t have any trouble with funding either. And you’ll hear more about that in just a minute.

Speaking about funding, Welcome to Day One has just relaunched our Patreon after a couple of people supported us on our old tiers out of the blue. Thank you for your support. If you would like to support our mission of creating a platform for regional startups, you can do  that by becoming a patron of the podcast. There is a link in the shownotes or you can find out more at welcometodayone.com/patreon and you can show your support from as little as the price of a coffee.


We’ve never struggled with that. Our mentors love the community. They always want to come back. And the way it works is that each one of them puts in 10,000 dollars into the fund. Every single cohort. We’ve had mentors doing that since 2011. Every single cohort. And it’s not hard because people want to be part of the community. They see the value behind Startmate. 


That’s all for this episode of Welcome to Day One featuring Startmate. Before I wrap up though, here is Michael Batko’s advice for founders.


The best founders are the ones who have this absolute passion for things and want to learn it all. So today’s advice is to talk to as many people in the space. Your customers, potential customers, people who have been there before. Collect all those pieces of information. But I guess the real piece of advice is just pick a direction. Whatever it is. Come up with a couple of hypothesis and run after one. Validate it as quickly as possible and check it off the list, and go after another one. Or just actually double down on that one. Just actually making decisions rather than being paralyzed and pursuing all different paths at the same time.


Thank you for listening to the story of Startmate. I hope you enjoyed it. Everything that was mentioned in the episode today is on the show notes page on welcometodayone.com/startmate.      

If you enjoyed this story, please consider subscribing to the podcast and rating the show at ratedayone.com.

And if you really loved the show, then I invite you to help us continue to tell these stories and supporting Australian Startups by pledging your support at Patreon. You can do that by going to welcometodayone.com/patreon.

Thank you for giving this episode of Welcome to Day One your attention. This story was created by me, Adam Spencer.

Interviews conducted by me, Adam Spencer.

A big thank you to Michael Batko for taking the time to be involved and credit goes to Alan Jones for helping with parts of the episode and providing his insight into the early days of Startmate. There were a bunch of other people I wanted to speak to for this episode that I wasn’t able to this time around, so I’m leaving it open that I may come back and do a revised edition of this episode when and if I have the time.

The script was written by me, Adam Spencer.

Music by Lee Rosevere, full credits on our website welcometodayone.com.

This episode was produced and edited by me, Adam Spencer

Thank you and see you next time!


Resources mentioned


A big thank you to Michael Batko for taking the time to be involved and credit goes to Alan Jones for helping with parts of the episode and providing his insight into the early days of Startmate. There were a bunch of other people I wanted to speak to for this episode that I wasn’t able to this time around, so I’m leaving it open that I may come back and do a revised edition of this episode when and if I have the time.

Music Credits

Music by Lee Rosevere.

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