This is the story of how Uprise Energy was selected to participate in the Startupbootcamp Energy Australia accelerator program and our experience to date.
First some background.
Founded in 2010, Startupbootcamp is an international accelerator with 20+ industry specific programs around the world in major cities like London, New York, Amsterdam, Berlin, Mexico City, Mumbai and many others.
In 2017, Startupbootcamp set out to assemble their first Energy specific accelerator with Melbourne, Australia, "the world's most livable city" serving as the host location. The new accelerator was a hit and received over 2000 applications from energy startups based around the world. The program directors personally visited 39 major cities in almost as many countries, hearing nearly 500 pitches, before narrowing the field to their Top 20.
Hot on the tails of winning the EvoNexus Demo Day, I (Uprise Cofounder, Jonathan Knight) was one of those 500 when I presented to Startupbootcamp Energy Australia Managing Director, Trevor Townsend, and Energy Australia's Anthony Wiseman during their October 2017 visit to San Diego, CA.
The following month, Uprise was notified that we had earned a spot in the Top 20 and were invited to Melbourne for Startupbootcamp Energy Australia Selection Days in December 2017. This opportunity was a significant deviation from the company's roadmap but having received some of the earliest interest for the Mobile Power Station from Goldfields, the world's largest and Australian based gold mining company, along with the significant traction Uprise has in Southeast Asia, it seemed like a worthy endeavor to put some boots on the ground and asses the Australian opportunity first-hand.
So off I went, on my first trip to Australia where, after a quick 24hrs of travel, I got to meet the rest of the SBC Energy Australia Team for orientation at YBF Ventures. On days 2 and 3, it was speed dating for startups at the Victoria State Library, where on each day, we spent 25min at 10 different tables pitching our business to an average of 5 energy experts and industry stakeholders per table. At the time, it was a race to try and figure out who these people and businesses were, which was largely a futile effort as it was a major case of information overload, but there were people from all the program sponsors, including Energy Australia, Spotless, DiUS and the Victoria State Government, along with Angel Investors, VC's, NGO's, entrepreneurs, mentors and industry experts. I can remember being warned that this would be a grueling experience and thinking to myself "it's just talking and I talk about Uprise all the time, how tough can it be?" In hindsight, I couldn't have been more wrong and the warning was probably not severe enough, but the wonderful reception I was getting for the Uprise Mobile Power Station across the board was energizing (pardon the pun) and made the experience one to remember.
At the end of the second day, the 100 or so people that interviewed the 20 companies tallied their votes in an attempt to come up with a Top 10 but apparently the competition was pretty stiff because the best they could do was come up with a Top 11 and Uprise was one of the companies selected.
The experience I had on behalf of Uprise Energy at Selection Days was so positive that I made the decision along with the rest of our Team to relocate to Australia for the 3 month program to cultivate the connections I made and grow the business in the region.
Of interest, in the cohort of international energy companies, Uprise is the only one that generates energy and is the only company from the United States. Other than Oxto (flywheel storage) and WePower (blockchain), the rest are a variety of impressive software plays with no real overlap to speak of.
That brings us to today, 2 months into the 3 month program and I couldn't be happier about our decision to participate in the program. My wife, Rosa, and our two kids, Keone and Kalani, arrived on Feb. 1 and we went straight to work, while the kids got enrolled in an excellent local IBL Steiner school. Not only have we been able to engage some of the biggest companies and stakeholders in the region, we've also been meeting with scores of potential strategics and investors. On top of that, there have been a host of beneficial workshops, access to excellent mentorship and the SBC Team has been wonderful, helping with everything from strategy to research to web development.
Beyond business development, I've also made considerable inroads on the IoT, telemetry and data analytics functions for the Mobile Power Station working with SBC mentors and sponsors, namely Matt Allen of AWS, who I've really clicked with, and the very helpful folks at DiUS.
The entire cohort has become quite tight and we have a lot of fun working together (maybe too much fun at times). Being surrounded by 9 other companies working towards a similar goal, that are all genuinely interested in each others' success, creates a healthy dose of competition and adds to the enjoyment of going into work everyday.
I remember at orientation, Startupbootcamp Co-founder, Ruud Hendriks, saying that he was going to give us 2 years of our lives back because we were going to accomplish in 3 months what would typically take 2 years. Well, 2/3rds of the way through, I'd say we're on pace.
Now we're on the final countdown to the crescendo of the program: Demo Day at the MCG, which at a 100,000+ capacity is the largest stadium in the southern hemisphere and 9th largest in the world.