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Anne Rahilly
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Investments totalling $700,000 in two startups, and a prestigious national energy award for a third, has cemented the University of Melbourne’s School of Engineering as a leading centre for entrepreneurial activity as its accelerator program celebrates of its first year of operation.

“Venuemob”, a startup which has refreshed the venue booking industry by providing users with a simple-to-use database of party and function venues in Melbourne, has raised $450,000 in a funding round led by Singtel Innov8.

“121cast”, a startup developing a free, personalised radio station app that converts text based ‘social’ news and information to speech to keep users ‘entertained as they go’, raised $250,000 in a funding round led by SingTel Innov8 alongside co-investor Adventure Capital.

The funding for the two start-ups represents the first investments in the Australian start-up scene by the Optus-Innov8 Seed Program. A recent announcement from the Optus-Innov8 program recognised “121cast and Venuemob” for their ingenuity, “standing out in the preliminary round that saw entries from all around the country.”

Separately, the founder of a third start-up in the program, Braden Kidd, received first place in the Australian Institute of Energy – Victorian Postgraduate Student Energy Awards for his new technology that has the potential to revolutionise the efficient distribution of renewable energy; particularly in remote applications.

The recognition for three of the four start-ups in the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP) has capped off a positive first year for the new initiative in the School of Engineering, attracting strong interest from students keen to take advantage of the structured mentoring and financial support the program offers. Students benefit from coaching and advice from University alumni and from local entrepreneurs.  

Dean of the School of Engineering, Professor Iven Mareels, congratulated the teams on their success in the program. “The latest news is a solid validation of MAP and its support and development of emerging entrepreneurs. The Melbourne School of Engineering is determined to continue to foster a strong culture of entrepreneurship among our students, staff and graduates by providing outstanding new entrepreneurs the opportunities they need to succeed,” he said.

The recognition for the MAP comes just over a month after the Melbourne School of Engineering was ranked No 1 in Australia, and 30th in the world, in the Times Higher Education World Rankings.