‘It’s a lonely place being an entrepreneur’: meet the startup CEOs going global with EY


L-R: Michael Kruger (Boundlss), Justin McArdle (Framed VR) & Trent Clews-de Castella (PHORIA)

A trio of entrepreneurs whose startups are harnessing disruptive technologies to solve big challenges in business, health insurance and other sectors have been selected to represent Australia at EY Global Accelerated Entrepreneurs in Europe.

Trumping 68 other program applicants from Australia, Michael Kruger, Trent Clews-de Castella and Justin McArdle will fly to Amsterdam, next month, to participate in the Accelerating Entrepreneurs event (21-24 April) and attend the Innovation Realised conference (23-24 April).

Kruger is the founder and CEO of Boundlss, a health app and conversational AI and IoT platform that helps health and life insurers encourage and reward healthy behaviour, with the aim being to improve the health of their customers at a fraction of the cost of other preventative health services.

Meanwhile, Justin McArdle is the CEO of Framed Mixed Reality Labs (Framed VR), which develops innovative virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality products and services for businesses, enabling their staff to undertake immersive training and make decisions in new environments.

Trent Clews-de Castella, the co-founder and CEO of PHORIA, also operates in the VR space. His company’s mission is to empower anyone with the ability to experience a physical place in a digital space through the use of immersive technologies such as 3D, 360 video and interactive holograms. PHORIA’s latest social impact offering leverages VR as a therapeutic intervention to reduce pain, anxiety and drug use for children in hospital.

Across the two EY events, Kruger, Clews-de Castella and McArdle – along with 27 other entrepreneurs from around the world – will have opportunities to tap into EY’s extensive global network of thought leaders, disrupters and corporate executives, share insights with their peers and receive one-to-one guidance, with a view to rapidly scaling their startups. In addition, over the course of the year, they will undertake a series of learning sessions with EY covering topics such as raising capital, investor integration, customer focus and digital innovation.

Robert Dalton, the Oceania Growth Markets Leader for EY spoke to Dynamic Business about the quality of work being undertaken by tech startups Boundlss, PHORIA and Framed Mixed Reality Labs, including the boxes their CEOs had to tick to be accepted into the Global Accelerated Entrepreneurs program. 

DB: To be considered by EY, what criteria did applicants need to meet?  

Dalton: We were looking for companies that are solving a big challenge through new technology applications. Successful applicants also had to have a compelling argument (e.g. market size, global trajectory), and they had to be commercialised and generating revenue. From 71 complying Australian applicants, we put forward 10 finalists to a global judging panel, and three – Boundlss, PHORIA and Framed Mixed Reality Lab – were selected. That said, we were very impressed by the quality of the remaining 68 applicants from Australia, so we’ll run a similar learning regime for them, as we believe many of these companies will go on to grow significantly.

DB: What about the three successful applicants resonated with EY?

Dalton: PHORIA ticks all the boxes from our assessment. It has good B2B connections, is solving a problem for a range of commercial sectors and industries, and is expanding into overseas markets.

Meanwhile, Boundlss represents a very interesting application of AI that connects people (members) and data with health insurers all over the world, to enable insurers to make better products and services. Boundlss have some significant, large corporate clients who boast more than 50 million customers and have engaged the company to help them provide better health outcomes.

Finally, Framed VR is enabling corporates and not-for-profits to introduce new training methods and undertake simulations to make their organisations better. The company has taken some big steps with a joint venture in the UAE, training teams in the Oil and Gas industry and really should be the launching pad into other sectors in the region. They are also making great steps forward in the Real Estate sector and, ultimately, their technology will become critical in the sports and entertainment sectors.

DB: What other local success stories has EY played a role in? 

Dalton: The Accelerating Entrepreneurs program is in its third year with previous winners going to Shanghai in 16, and Rome in 17. Lots of really great entrepreneurs including the following:

  1. Charlotte Petris, Timelio – An online marketplace for trading invoices which enables businesses and growing SMEs to get paid faster to help them grow their businesses.
  2. Alison Hardacre, HealthKit – A global health software platform for private practitioners and patients or health consumers, digitizing the health sector and building a global health data set.
  3. Chris King, Splend – A vehicle rental company for drivers who want to participate in the on-demand economy revolution but don’t have a compliant vehicle.
  4. Carolyn Mee, cmee4 Productions – Developer of Sound Scouts, a revolutionary game created to detect hearing loss in preschool children.
  5. Alli Baker, Jobgetter – A HR Technology company powering the largest connected job network in Australia and using real-time data to match candidates and employers.
  6. James Fitzgerald, Moneyball – Australia’s first and largest Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) platform.

All of the companies selected have progressed with most of them undertaking a liquidity event in their business to progress growth.

DB: Can you speak to the support EY provides entrepreneurs?

Dalton: We provide many forms of support for Entrepreneurs in the startup sector, including the one that is the most important and most in demand. By that, I mean we mentor entrepreneurs through the idea phase through to commercialisation, liquidity event and growth. In the early stages, our role is often to assist with R&D grants, creating a business plan that investors would expect to see, helping prepare models, and generally being an advisory sounding board, and making sure the entrepreneur stays on purpose. We are also able to provide great Networking opportunities amongst our other clients, again to often accelerate the Growth challenge. Many Corporates are very keen to understand the ideas created through startups as the ideas are often a very ready need to help them with their challenges. It’s a lonely place being an Entrepreneur, and we provide that early support if they think it helps.