Last week, the team behind AVRO, the newly announced startup and scaleup accelerator program of Qantas Airways was at Inspire9, Melbourne, as a part of their nationwide roadshow to connect with local startup communities. It was a very informative session on what the AVRO Program is trying to achieve and more broadly around corporate innovation and startup accelerators.
David Parfett, Head of Group Innovation and Ventures at Qantas, explained that the AVRO Accelerator, named after the very first aircraft to join the Qantas fleet in January 1921, is emblematic of the pioneering spirit of the company in supporting the next generation of Australian entrepreneurs.
AVRO forms a part of Qantas’ multi-layered innovation strategy that addresses the challenge of remaining relevant and maintaining revenue resilience in an age of continuous disruption. Partnering with startups will complement the airline’s internal innovation processes by helping to identify fresh ideas and talent that can generate efficient and agile solutions than is achievable within a large and mature organisation.
AVRO is being delivered jointly by Qantas and corporate accelerator Slingshot. The latter has a solid history of bringing corporates and startups together and has successfully run several corporate accelerator programs including ones for NRMA, HCF and ING Direct. According to Slingshot founder Trent Bagnall, startups going through Slingshot have an 80% success rate and about two-thirds of the alumni were able to successfully raise funding or get corporate support after completing the program.
The first round of applications for AVRO opened on 20 March 2017 and both startups and scaleups are eligible to apply.
Key Strategic Themes
In order to get accepted, applicant teams will need to address one or more of the Program themes that relate to areas of strategic opportunity for Qantas.
- Creating seamless journeys: Delivering better end-to-end travel solutions that enhance customer experience
- Care Beyond the Air: Addressing customers’ financial, physical and social needs beyond their travel itineraries
- Building Connected Platforms: Enabling Qantas consumers, partners and vendors to better collaborate and transact with one another
- Transforming for tomorrow: Redesigning and reinventing processes to better meet future challenges
- Innovating without limits: Reimagining the use of Qantas business assets in brave new ways
Startups selected for the program in 2017 will be invited to Sydney and commence the program at Slingshot. In the first 12 weeks, Slingshot will guide startups through an intensive entrepreneurial curriculum, provide one-on-one coaching as well as extensive support in the areas of PR, events and marketing.
The idea is to provide teams with all the guidance, infrastructure and even critical appraisal necessary to transform their ideas from a slide deck into a solid MVP (minimum viable product).
Each startup will receive an initial investment of $50,000 from Slingshot in exchange for 10% equity with a further $100,000 if they are successful in getting additional funding from three or more investors without any discount. At the completion of three months, Qantas will evaluate investing in the startups at 25% discount to valuation.
For a company to be successful in the Scaleup stream, they will need to have achieved product-market fit within one of AVRO’s key strategic themes. They would have an existing customer base and revenue and would be looking to expand into new global markets. Additionally, scaleups can be located anywhere and would not need to travel to Sydney.
The aim of the scaleup stream is to deliver a solution to Qantas within three months of starting at AVRO and achieve a commercial agreement which enables growing the solution across Qantas’ vast and global business network.
The scaleup stream will be particularly useful for early stage companies that have achieved their initial success and are looking to sign their first agreement with a large corporate. Qantas is hoping that being a part of the accelerator and working towards a collaborative outcome would enable these partnerships to be much more successful.
Benefits of AVRO Accelerator
What differentiates AVRO from other corporate accelerators is the endorsement from one of Australia’s most iconic brands with a global customer base of over 50 million, including 11 million frequent flyers. This will provide startups and scaleups with a high level of brand visibility both in Australia and overseas.
Moreover, Slingshot and Qantas have brought together a pool of high-quality resources aimed at maximising the outcomes of the program and ensuring that participants have every chance of success. A handpicked lineup of 50 experienced mentors from across a diverse mix of startup founders and corporate leaders will provide one-on-one guidance and coaching to all teams.
Teams will also have access to the enormous storehouse of data and insights on travellers (such as through the Red Planet portal) and the opportunity to work with Qantas’ in-house data scientists to turn those insights into meaningful business strategy. According to Qantas, the total value of exclusive perks attached to the ARVO program is over $500,000.
The applications for the first batch of AVRO Accelerator will close on 27 April 2017. Shortlisted startups will pitch their ideas between 9-10 May and the 12-week program will commence on 9 June. To find out more and apply, visit the AVRO website.