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LaunchVic to terminate its partnership with 500 Startups

The Victorian Government’s independent startup body LaunchVic has announced it is moving to terminate its partnership with troubled startup accelerator and fund 500 Startups on the heels of the resignation of Rachael Neumann.

Neumann, appointed earlier this year to head up the company’s operations down under, said she had travelled to Silicon Valley in the wake of the sexual harassment scandal that has plagued the company over the last couple of months to meet with the 500 team to “try and find the right path forward for the 500 Melbourne program”.

However, the trip proved unsuccessful.

“I determined that this is simply not the right time for 500 to launch in Australia, and so I have resigned from the 500 team,” Neumann said in a statement.

In response, CEO of LaunchVic, Dr Kate Cornick said that without trusted local leadership at the helm she didn’t believe that 500 Startups would be able to build a strong and inclusive culture or the social capital needed for the successful rollout of its accelerator program across the state.

The Silicon Valley-founded accelerator program was “placed on notice” last month by LaunchVic, who required that 500 Startups develop a remedial plan that was to include addressing sexual harassment and and lack of diversity in the local startup ecosystem.

This was a condition that needed to be implemented prior to the green light being given for its program to be rolled out across the state.

“While I am deeply disappointed at how this has ended, I feel confident in LaunchVic’s strong course of action over the past month to give 500 Startups an opportunity to show leadership to improve culture in the startup sector and fix the issues at hand,” said Cornick in statement today.

“Unfortunately, as we’ve expressed to 500 Startups, without Rachael Neumann at the helm we don’t believe it will work.”

LaunchVic retains the funds that were originally reserved for 500 Startups. No public funds have been placed at risk.

“Of the grant funding we have allocated to date, 70 per cent has been invested in local home-grown programs and we will continue to invest at a local and a global level to drive outcomes that will position Victoria’s startup ecosystem as a leader,” Cornick said.

Recently the organisation announced its third funding round would focus on finding startups that support the state’s migrants and refugees.

“I’d like to thank the Australian startup ecosystem, many of who have publicly advocated for us and given us the space required to make the right decision,” Cornick said.

Image: Dr Kate Cornick.





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