The Australian arm of Antler — a global VC fund and startup generator — is now officially in business.

The company’s inaugural program kicked off in Sydney this week, with 71 founders selected to take part.

Successful applicants were chosen from an initial field of more than 1,000 candidates; the result of a 12-week selection process where the Antler team conducted more than 800 hours of interviews.

With its local launch, Antler is hoping to replicate its success in other markets such as Singapore and Stockholm, where it’s helped to establish a total of 27 tech startups.

Antler Australia managing partner Bede Moore said the high application rate for the first program “demonstrates the appetite and need for a program like Antler in the Australian ecosytem”.

The company says it’s now set up a waiting list for its second program which will run in January 2020.

For now, the first group will embark on an intensive five-month program culminating in a Demo Day this November where founders pitch their business to Antler’s network of global investors.

Not just anyone

Speaking with Stockhead, Moore said the quality and experience of the first program’s successful applicant had exceeded expectations.

“The thing that makes us optimistic about this cohort is its depth of experience; not only from a sectoral or background perspective, but its track record building businesses,” he said.

Of the 71 candidates, around 25 per cent are women and across the group, the average level of professional work experience is almost 14 years.

Around 10 candidates have built and exited businesses before, while others have left senior roles in tech and commerce to take up an opportunity with Antler.

“We’ve got one applicant who left their role as chief technology officer (CTO) at McAfee Asia-Pacific to join our program,” Moore said. A number of high-level employees at global consulting firms McKinsey and BCG have also come on board.

“The positions have been filled by people with serious experience across the business/technical landscape. We think Antler is ideally placed to leverage that experience to build great companies.”

Time to get to work

Program applicants will now undergo a series of “design sprints” — time-constrained tests focused on the conceptual skills needed to bring a new product to market.

After that “people will break off into founding teams and ‘track out’ their company and product concept. They’ll work on that for 6-8 weeks towards the investment committee decision at the end of July,” Moore explained.

For companies that make the grade, Antler invests $100,000 in return for a 10 per cent stake in the business. Each group will then undergo an intensive four-month product development process ahead of Demo Day, with the assistance of expert venture partners on the Antler platform.

The venture partners include Jane Scowcroft, head of product at CSIRO’s Data61, and successful entrepreneurs Matt Browne and Christian Wanner.

“They have the startup experience to say ‘hey I know what you’re going through, when I was at this stage this is what I did’,” Moore says.

“So there’s a human component, but they also understand what it takes to scale a business.”

“All of our venture partners do office hours on a weekly basis with the Antler teams, so they’re very engaged.”