LaunchVic-backed accelerator aims to help migrants, refugees overcome startup hurdles


Entrepreneurial migrants and refugees are being encouraged to apply for a free accelerator program that has been designed to generate long-term economic value for Victoria by increasing diversity and inclusion in the local startup ecosystem.

The First Gens Program is being run by YGAP – an international not-for-profit that backs early-stage social impact ventures – with the help of a $304,000 grant from startup ecosystem development agency LaunchVic.

There will be multiple intakes for the First Gens program, which consists of a five-day live-in accelerator followed by three months of tailored support for migrant and refugee entrepreneurs as well as startups that are helping to improve the lives of migrants and refugees in Australia.

The top entrepreneurs from each intake will receive access to additional support, including up to $25,000 in growth capital.

According to LaunchVic CEO Dr Kate Cornick, YGAP’s First Gens program aligns with her agency’s vision for a state where people, no matter what their background is, are empowered to launch a startup.

“Migrants and refugees are underrepresented in the startup ecosystem, which has been dominated by Caucasian men,” she told Dynamic Business. “Part of the reason is that the venture capital industry has struggled with diversity and inclusion. In the same way that only 2% of the world’s venture capital flows to female-led businesses, migrant and refugee entrepreneurs have struggled to attract venture capital.

“This is detrimental to the economy because migrant and refugee startup founders are providing themselves to be very successful entrepreneurs, often due to a very strong risk appetite, and they’re actually making significant contributions to the economy.  So, it’s really important they have an avenue to follow to launch a startup.”

Dr Cornick said that YGAP’s accelerator – in equipping migrant and refugee founders with the skills necessary to build startups – will generate “real economic value”, including the creation of “hundreds, if not thousands of jobs”.

She noted, however, that the program is geared more towards the long-term sustainability of Victoria’s startup ecosystem rather than overnight success stories.

“We know that not every founder will be successful the first time around,” she said.  “What we want is a cohort of educated founders who, even if their first startups aren’t successful, can take the skills they’ve learned through the program and use them to help others or perhaps start a second startup.”

“Many people think startups happen overnight but growing a business is a long, tough process. In Silicon Valley, for instance, ten-year ‘overnight success stories’ are common. While we don’t expect large job creation and economic development to happen quickly, its really important for entrepreneurs to have access to programs like First gens so they’re able to accelerate themselves along that journey.”

YGAP’s First Gens Accelerator Program is free to participants. Eligible ventures are open to apply at ygap-firstgens.com.au. Applications close 30th of March so plenty of time.