Monday, January 11, 2016

DataStart announces eight shortlisted open data startups

Late last week the shortlisted start-ups for the DataStart program were released - here's why it's significant and what happens next.

In November 2015 the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, in parternship with Pollenizer Ventures, announced Australia's first open data commercialisation competition, DataStart.

Designed as a pilot to test the approach, entrepreneurs, data scientists and open data enthusiasms were invited to apply for a program that would see up to 20 founders shortlisted, trained and one winner receive start-up coaching and potentially up to $200,000 in funding (via Right Click Capital) towards becoming a commercially viable company.

The program attracted mixed reviews. While some applauded the efforts to link open data competitions with actual commercially viable ongoing outcomes (which has been an ongoing criticism of data competitions in Australia), others saw it as a 'winner takes all' process with little value to the community.

My view was in-between - we need programs like this to be piloted, with the best becoming part of the startup and open data ecosystem. However we also need governments to fund their open data programs such that datasets are released at a sufficient quality level and reliable frequency to be a commercialisable resource.

The DataStart program attracted over 200 entrants and late last Friday Pollenizer released the eight shortlisted start-ups, consisting of 20 founders.

These founders begin a five-day program this week in Sydney to test and work-up their start-ups to evaluate whether there's truly a commercial basis for the ideas.

Following this, based on the competition guidelines, a single start-up will be selected to go into a 9-month incubation process at Pollenizer in Sydney, with the potential to also secure $200,000 in funding from Right Click Capital on commercial terms (aka in return for equity or other consideration).

It's great to see the level of interest in this program, and the next step begin.

What would be really good to see is a higher level of transparency around the start-ups and founders, featured interviews, examples of what data they are using and how.

This is the challenge in public-partner arrangements, where often the partners have a different set of values and expectations, as well as different obligations under law and policy.

I'm hopeful that efforts are underway to align these expectations and values and ensure that these startups become role models and examples of how open data can be used commercially, rather than get hidden away under commercial-in-confidence arrangements.

Of course their IP needs protection, but there's a lot that could be promoted without breaching commercial confidentially.

Who are these founders and start-ups, why are they using open data, what problems are they solving?

Hopefully we'll learn more than their names and vague details of their project area over coming weeks and months.

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