Tech Entrepreneurship Program Launches Victoria into a New Era

YBF and the Victorian Government partnered to launch the YBF Startup Immersion Program – a pilot program that focused on reskilling corporate talent for Victoria’s economic recovery.

In response to the economic, societal and employment challenges that the world faced, and primarily Victoria in Australia in 2020, YBF partnered with the Victorian Government to launch the YBF Startup Immersion Program (SIP)––a first-of-its-kind pilot program in Australia aimed at upskilling experienced corporate professionals with entrepreneurial roles and capabilities.

At the time of launch in October 2020, the program was overwhelmed with applications––with over 500,000 people having been displaced from their jobs as a result of the pandemic in Victoria [source: IBISWorld] and a further three million Australian workers looking for a post-COVID-19 career change [source: ING Future Focus Report].

Ultimately, 21 participants were selected to pilot the program which was led by YBF’s Chief Program Officer, Kate Eriksson, a former PwC Partner and Head of Disruption and she previously ran telecommunications giant Ericsson’s innovation centre in Silicon Valley.

Kate Eriksson said, “Joining forces with the Victorian Government on the YBF Startup Immersion Program pilot proved to be a tremendous success. Australia could lead the world in transitioning experienced corporate talent to help start or accelerate the growth of Australian startups. The benefits to Victoria, are immense––with the results being more entrepreneurial talent, faster growth of startups through an injection of experienced talent into startups, and new startup ventures emerging. The calibre of the participants was outstanding.”

Within a week of completing the program, early results indicate that 40% of the cohort have been employed in growth or Australian scaleup roles, 40% are continuing new startup ventures, and 100% of participants and experts involved would recommend the program.

“We found that there is high interest from corporate executives wanting to be more entrepreneurial and growth minded, professionals want to transition to the startup or scaleup sector and be hands-on in driving growth, and from experienced professionals who have a wealth of experience but want to know how to start a venture themselves,” Eriksson continued.

The YBF Startup Immersion Program is unique in bringing together the worlds of business, startups, technology and innovation, and providing knowledge, practical new tools and connections.

The pilot incorporated working with 12 startup companies and their founders, 21 mentors, and expert startup and technology speakers and entrepreneurs.

The program was designed and delivered by YBF’s Executive Leadership Team––a team of former entrepreneurs, founders and executives from GE, Motorola, BP, PwC, Ericsson and Westfarmers.

The curriculum was further delivered by guest instructors from some of Australia’s leading startups and scaleups. Subjects included and overview of the innovation landscape, growth companies and business models, rapid idea validation, operating startups, raising capital, marketing, data and technology, scaling and building cross-functional teams.

Michael Cameron, Co-founder of travel technology startup Rome2rio, which was exited in 2019, and one of the the YBF Startup Immersion Program guest speakers said, “The cliché founder persona is that of a bright, young, college drop-out, but the reality is that startups often rely upon seasoned professionals with corporate experience to help them grow into successful scaleups.”

After the foundation section was completed, participants had the opportunity to practice their newly-acquired skills and experience by working in a high-growth company. Placement companies included Tradeplus24, Mr Yum, July, Who Gives a Crap, Marketplacer, Lucidchart, 7-Eleven and Elenium.

Following their real-life experience within a startup, participants created their own startups under the mentorship of some of Victoria’s top technology and industry leaders, investors and founders including the Hon. Philip Dalidakis, former MP and current Non-Executive Director for the Centre for Asia Pacific Strategy; Ayala Domani, General Manager, Future Business at AGL Energy; Stuart Harker, Chairman of Ball Magnets, Slyp and Tutch Australia; Dr Omaru Maruatona, Founder & CEO of cybersecurity startup, Aiculus; Stefani Adams, Head of Product Innovation at Australia Post; Matthew Barret, Head of Innovation at 7-Eleven Australia; Karen Finch, Founder & CEO of Legally Yours; Adam Vise, Group Treasurer of Australian Unity and Director of Birchal; Maxine Lee, COO of Skalata Ventures; and Hakan Eriksson, former CEO of Ericsson Australia, Group CTO Ericsson, President Ericsson Silicon Valley, and CTO of Telstra.

Participants graduated in March 2021.

The Hon. Philip Dalidakis said of the program and its participants, “There is nothing more inspiring than working with people who risk everything to turn their dreams into reality.

“Thank you to YBF Ventures for running the program and giving people a chance to do just that.”

Adam Vise, Group Treasurer of Australian Unity and Director of startup crowd-funding leader Birchal, said “The immersion pilot demonstrated the capacity and value of every professional using their skills and experience, whatever they are, to switch on the entrepreneurial engine room that will accelerate their careers, the startups they help and Australian economy generally. The whole Birchal team are committed to the YBF program, and to this cause through Birchal’s platform.”

Maxine Lee, COO of Skalata ventures, “The YBF Startup Immersion Program is creating important and valuable connections between corporate Australia and startup/scaleup teams with ambitions to grow.”

“In my opinion, the YBF Startup Immersion Program is one of the important and vital programs to the growth and success of startups to scaleups in Australia.”

Karen Finch, an expert in legaltech, Founder of Legally Yours, and host of Silicon Beach with over 25,000 members across Australia said, “This program was absolutely fantastic, and I love the way the YBF Team view the program as just the beginning in terms of opportunities for all involved. It has honestly been one of the best programs I’ve seen executed in the country.

“In my opinion, the YBF Startup Immersion Program is one of the important and vital programs to the growth and success of startups to scaleups in Australia. The skill set of the participants, combined with the first-class startup immersion program facilitated by YBF, combine to create a group of high-level, skilled entrepreneurs and founders who will change the landscape of the Australian startup ecosystem well into the future.”

James Douglas, Investment Director at Acorn Capital and one of the YBF Startup Immersion Program mentors said, “Building a strong startup ecosystem is incredibly important for Australia.  As a business founder I have seen the benefits that can come from that, especially as businesses start to scale. The YBF Startup Immersion Program is a terrific way to further enhance this ecosystem and help participants develop an understanding of the sector and relevant skills and networks. I was thrilled to be part of the program as a mentor. Congratulations to YBF for creating the program and to the Victorian Government for having the vision to support it.”

Many of the participants will continue on the path of building their own entrepreneurial enterprises, several have received job offers in innovation with large corporates on the back of the SIP course and several have been offered permanent roles within the startup or scaleup placement companies that they worked with as part of the SIP program.

Pam Rebecca, one of the participants, a Non-Executive Director of Defence Bank and former Chief of Strategy, Innovation & Digital at World Vision said, “What a great experience this has been! It has been a privilege to be one of the inaugural cohort and to have worked with so many talented people. Thanks so much to YBF Ventures and especially Kate Eriksson for creating this outstanding program to build entrepreneurship skills in experienced leaders. I’m excited to get started on my own venture, and equally excited to follow my colleagues on their ventures.”

Adrian Vandenbergh, former Finance Analyst at Boeing and member of the first SIP cohort said “Such an empowering and inspiring program.”

Megan Fisher, SIP participant and former Head of Digital and Innovation at AusNet Services said, “It was a pleasure to be part of such a ground-breaking program.”

Michelle Letho, member of the first cohort to explore the startup world said, “[I’m] privileged to be a pilot participant of the YBF Startup Immersion Program and deep dive into the world of tech startups and innovation. I am excited to continue my startup concept and build a team. Thanks to the YBF executive team for delivering a phenomenal syllabus.”

Stephen Palmer, participant and former Executive General Manager of Sensis said, “A big thank you to YBF Ventures for creating such an innovative and mind-expanding programme. The thought of starting your own startup or working in a startup feels exciting, exhilarating, and terrifying in equal measure. The YBF programme has provided invaluable guidance, practical advice, tools, tips, encouragement, and confidence. Working at the deep end in startups and scaleups has been truly inspiring. Most importantly, it’s created a network of super-smart people to help support each other’s dreams and business success.”

Conrad Braganza, a member of the first cohort, AI specialist, and former Sales Director at Accenture Australia said, “It’s been a fantastic journey working with YBF Ventures and the startup community of advisors/mentors. A journey that has driven innovation and set to create economic value for the Victorian economy.”

Alejandra Chamorro, an engineer and former employee of Caltrex, Viva Energy and Shell said, “It has been such a pleasure to be one of members of this pilot. The experience has been empowering and life-changing for me.”

Farley Blackman, CEO of YBF Ventures said, “Thank you to Kate Eriksson for leading and delivering such an important program; to the mentors for their time and guidance; and to the placement companies for their commitment to innovation. And the biggest of congrats to all the SIP participants––you are all truly inspiring.”

The YBF Startup Immersion Program will become a permanent arm of YBF’s new educational arm and rounds out existing innovation programs and hubs including the LawTech Hub (a partnership with Lander & Rogers); SquareGrape (a partnership with Treasury Wine Estates); and the YBF Fintech Hub (a partnership with the Victorian Government).

YBF is currently developing the next iteration of the program after the successful pilot. Interested parties can email: