RMIT has a long history of supporting enterprise and has sought to address the challenge of access to pre-seed funding through the establishment of the Activator Capital Fund.
The Capital Fund (previously known as NEIF) provides critical funding support to early-stage ventures. The fund has recently reached the noteworthy milestone of granting $1Million across 43 high potential startups since 2015.
The primary use of the fund is to support new ventures achieve market launch through a pre-seed interest-free loan of up to A$25,000. Access to the capital is primarily with a focus on reaching Minimum Viable Product (MVP), executing marketing activities to grow customers and to enable successful market entry. The ability to successfully pitch for loan funding is also an attractive signal for third-party investment to enable further business growth.
Activator Director and capital fund board member Adam Seedsman highlights that “The fund mandate serves to endorse our support for the diversity of enterprises emerging from our talented community, and reflects the capabilities which differentiate RMIT as a University of Design, Enterprise, and Technology”.
The fund is open to participants of RMIT Activator’s competitively selected accelerator program LaunchHUB. Providing access to equity free loan capital is a unique differentiator for LaunchHUB participants, and carries an important educational element given the experience of preparing and delivering a funding pitch. A pre-seed loan is often a critically important part of being able to achieve early stage milestones and comes wrapped in Activator program support to ensure founders are ready and equipped to apply the funds successfully.
“The Activator Capital Fund is both an attractive and important offering within the program, and our role is to adequately prepare and support the team both during the loan process, as well as beyond the through our ongoing relationship with program alumni” said Julie Stevens, head of Activator Startups.
While time will reveal the full impact of this early stage funding support, the number of enterprise success stories is continuously growing. Founders Greg Curio and Jason Fabbri received funding for their travel share app Roamni which pairs travellers with locals who can create and sell tours at a fraction of the price of a generic walking tour. When reflecting on the impact of the funding, Jason said “it was very important in our journey, the process to gain the funding forced us to continually validate that we had a viable business, not just an idea. Once we received the funds, it was all systems go and we are still going strong today thanks to the initial funding from RMIT Activator.”
“The Roamni team used the funding to build the first version of the app, testing and validating it with focus groups. “We were able to stretch the funds to source new designs and kick off marketing activity, as well as set ourselves up legally to do business. RMIT Activator also provided advice, support and an amazing venue to collaborate and meet with our customers and teams” said Jason.
Businesses who have received funding also include Lawson Media, a podcast agency that connects podcast listeners with global stories, subscription pet food business Petzyo, and mobile device security solution EyeCura. Recently funded startups include educational platform ClassCom, and ‘live in the moment’ social experiences app girigiri.
Earlier this year media startup Brandollo received funding for their platform that allows small businesses to plan, manage and coordinate their marketing. Brandollo CEO and founder Brian McCarthy said “the funding we received from RMIT Activator came at a time when we were making our greatest leap of faith yet. It helped us to cover the distance, acquire customers and get our product to market.”
Smoothie Bombs founder Cinzia Cozzolino was one of the funds early loan recipients in 2016 and has since gained significant traction with recent global expansion. From hand-rolling smoothie boosters at home, Cinzia now has a factory to meet the demand for her nutritious balls. Today, Smoothie Bombs are sold Australia wide in health food stores and Chemist Warehouse. They’re also stocked in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and The Middle East.
Activator Capital Fund board member Derek Young said “in today’s world we need to encourage our staff, students and alumni to create their own future by starting up new businesses. The fund and supporting RMIT ecology makes this more achievable.”
Have an idea you think can change the world? Register your interest for LaunchHUB here.