News & Analysis

muru-D’s Mick Liubinskas moving to Silicon Valley to help Aussie startups tackle the US

- April 7, 2016 4 MIN READ

From the get go, accelerator muru-D has always had a global outlook and strong international support networks. First launching in Sydney, the program has expanded into Brisbane and Singapore, and is now set to tackle the world’s biggest startup ecosystem, Silicon Valley.

To create stronger networks outside of Australia and South East Asia, Muru-d’s Mick Liubinskas is moving to Silicon Valley. Having someone on the ground in the Valley will allow muru-D to take advantage of big markets and expose its startups to capital raising opportunities, partnerships, team growth and potential exit strategies.

Liubinskas believes muru-D has the potential to reach a portfolio of 80 high profile startups by next year and to do so that means expanding and taking residence in the US.

“With the alumni growing fast, the workload to help them is getting beyond the team, whose prime goal is to run great programs,” Liubinskas said.

“One of the reasons why this is a good thing for the Australian tech community is that part of muru-D’s mandate is to grow the ecosystem. So whilst a lot of my energy will go to muru-D companies, I’ll also be supporting all Australian, fast growth tech companies with global ambitions.”

Most of the accelerator’s participants plan to go global after graduation, and while opportunities in China are huge and Europe is growing stronger, Silicon Valley still takes the cake as the world leader for fast growing tech companies, which makes having someone on the ground to facilitate connections and help with all the logistics and paperwork associated with the expansion process all the more important. 

Liubinskas will remain as an entrepreneur-in-residence for muru-D, explaining his new role in the US will have two functions. The first is to support the alumni directly with growth, connections, and capital raising and the second will be creating stronger connections outside of Australia and Southeast Asia so muru-D companies can take advantage of big markets.

Having someone on the ground means the gap between Australian startups and US investors can be bridged. A real feel for culture can be established and strategic connections can be made and built upon. Liubinskas explained networks are about building these relationships which are best done face-to-face.

“With all the technology in the world, consistently being there is one of the foundations of strong networks. I can’t do what I need to do from Australia with the occasional visit,” he said.

After 18 years and over 30 trips back and forth between Australia and the US, Liubinskas admitted it’s about time a base in the Valley was established and long lasting relationships were formed, not just for muru-D and its startups, but for the Australian tech ecosystem in general.

“I want to be challenged in all areas and be a tiny fish in a massive pond. I’m someone who thrives on change and this is the change I need to grow,” he said.

On an international scale, Australia is still underachieving and the potential impact we could have on the world is huge. With the Government now jumping on board with the ideas boom startups are now riding the wave and are encouraged to think big and think global. F

rom day one however, Liubinskas believes there are still not enough tech companies with dreams to go global. Having a big country but a small market means building a large company goes hand in hand with taking on the world. Companies like BigCommerce, Campaign Monitor and Atlassian were born global and have their biggest customer base overseas.

“I have seen a lot of companies say that they’ll prove it out in Australia and then go global but often never do or are too late to be a global leader,” said Liubinskas.

He believes validation in Australia is not validation globally with product market fit subject to change from country to country. World class capital may not be attracted, even if customer traction in Australia is high. Customers in big markets are worth ten times the amount they are in Australia, making Liubinskas’ move to the US a critical turning point for startups at muru-D. By 2025 he believes Australia has the opportunity to have one of top ten tech startup cities in the world.

Other programs that offer similar experiences and opportunities to muru-D, such as Starmate, Catalyst, and MAP, also offer trips to other countries with the same in-and-out approach.

Dropping startups into big markets is a great way to gain exposure, however Liubinskas thinks ‘pay to pitch’ programs like these can hurt a startup’s reputation by placing Australian tech companies in front of investors too early.

“The first visits should be about listening, learning, building some connections and getting inspiration. Your mentors and advisors can help you,” he said.

Liubinskas’ new residency in Silicon Valley will help him to listen to what people are doing and saying in the biggest startup hub in the world. It will help him to learn how we can do it better. Inspiration like this can only be found on the ground for a longer period of time. In and out flights fail to provide quality experience and only shine a small light on how the ecosystem really functions. Liubinskas said he will stay a minimum of two years and a maximum of six. He is excited to challenge the common preconceptions of the Valley and bring critical knowledge back to our startups on what it means to go global.

“We are still just scratching the surface of the iceberg. But we are starting to carve out a story and the emergent opportunity is genuinely huge,” he said. “I look forward to my new role in Silicon Valley and can’t wait to see how far we can go over the next few years.”

Image: Mick Liubinskas