2018 has been amazing at Australia’s Home of Deep Tech

Alfred Lo
Alfred Lo
Dec 19, 2018 · 8 min read

It’s curious to note that 2018 was forecast as a particularly noisy season for cicadas in Australia because here at Cicada Innovations, all 400 deep techers working under our roof here in Eveleigh have certainly been making a lot of noise this year!

Photo by NordWood Themes

For a tech incubator that’s operated for eighteen years, there’s never been a year that we’ve welcomed more startups into our community to bring the number of startups calling Cicada home to over seventy.

From launching multiple deep tech accelerator programs, hosting dozens of meetups, guest speakers, investors and delegations, all the way to an Australian-first initiative to connect PhDs and researchers to our community, it’s been one heck of a year.

Big Milestones for our Stars

Being home to more Australian deep tech companies and founders than anywhere else in the country, it’s no surprise that that there’re more milestones and achievements from our community than we can share. Our startups are our Stars but here are just a few:

So what else happened at Cicada this year? Let’s see…


Let’s Make Something!

Starting the year, we announced a community led pilot of a rapid prototyping facility to provide sorely needed tools and equipment to allow startups build and test prototypes in-house rather than having to send offsite and often international prototyping services.

We’ll look to expand this facility in 2019 with targeted design thinking programs and hopefully more kit!

Farewell Startmate

Since 2011, every year at Cicada has started with the hustle and bustle of Australia’s most successful tech accelerator, Startmate which has run out of our Accelerator Hub.

We’ve always been a bit chuffed to have been called home by every one of Startmate’s Sydney batch founders; being witness to these founders is a wonder to watch every year.

Alas, all good things come to an end and the soon to be announced 2019 Sydney batch will be based out at Grok Venture’s new space in Surry Hills. We wish our friends at Startmate well and they’ll always be welcome at Cicada.


Harvesting our First Crop

Cicada GrowLab’s first crop from 2017 wrapped up with its Demo Day and we celebrated the first six companies accelerated, including Flurosat and Livestock Labs who have both gone on to raise their seed rounds and are now residents at Cicada.

Lots was learnt from this first crop and resulted in some big changes for Cicada GrowLab Crop 2.


Peer Networks for Deep Tech CEOs

A new initiative was our Quarterly Cicada CEO Dinners. I honestly don’t know why we didn’t do these earlier.

Since our first dinner, we’ve hosted a further two CEO dinners and feedback has been so positive that we’re going to continue the tradition in 2019.

CEOs from the Cicada community including Morse Micro, Sonder, EzyCollect, Mizzen, Envizi, Opus Medical, BCAL and Prospection.


Nice to get Global Recognition

One of the things we are so proud of at Cicada is the impact the people that make up our community have on the problems they’re trying to solve and the broader ecosystem that we’re all a part of.

Our own Britt Hartnett (centre) with InBIA representatives at the 32nd International Conference on Business Incubation held in Dallas, Texas

That’s why being awarded the 2018 Global Incubator of the Year in April this year for the second time by international peak body InBIA meant so much to us.

This award wouldn’t be possible without our community of deep tech founders so we would like to say “thank you!” to Cicada’s portfolio of over sixty deep tech startups and scaleups who inspire the Cicada team every day.

Founders Paying It Forward

We launched a pilot called Cicada Founders to harness the successful and inspirational deep tech founders from within our community to support the up-and-coming founders.

At the Cicada Founders launch event

Early signs are that Cicada Founders is making a difference and we’ll be pushing to expand this program in the new year.


Providing the skills for MedTech Founders of the Future

One of our signature programs, the Medical Device Commercialisation Training Program (affectionately known as MDCTP) run on behalf of the NSW Ministry for Health, kicked off its fourth cohort.

The 2018 Medical Device Commercialisation Training Program cohort on graduation day

Each year, this pre-accelerator supports nearly 200 clinicians, academics and medtech entrepreneurs to assess the commercial viability of their technologies and put them in the best place possible to launch new companies.

To-date, sixty six innovators have graduated from MDCTP CORE of which fourteen companies have gone on to form and raise a collective $41M in grants and funding. We’ve just finished selection of Cohort 5 and word on the street, this will be the best cohort yet!


Sowing the Seeds for even more Agrifood Tech

Cicada GrowLab was bigger and better in 2018. For the first time, we’re launched a program to invest our own cash in the companies as well as build out Australia’s best agrifood tech mentor group.

Proud. That what the twelve agrifood tech companies we’ve help accelerate in just over fifteen months make us feel. And for good reason; they’ve collectively raised over $13m in investment and grants and now employing over fifty people.

Cicada GrowLab Crop 2 Founders at Demo Day

We are more excited than ever for the future of food and how startups will contribute to it so if you’re a budding agrifood tech entrepreneur, register your interest for GrowLab Crop 3 today!


Next generation of PhD goodness

Another first for us this year was running the Innovation Experience Program (IXP) with University of Sydney, placing a cohort of PhD candidates into our deep tech startups and scale-ups for 6 months.

Through this pilot program, students gained a unique industry experience, access to entrepreneurial training, and lifelong networks within Cicada Innovations’ deep tech community.

IXP participants An Truong (1st from left), Jesse Xu (2nd from left) and Brian Kim (4th from left) with Cicada Head of Community Marin Peplinksi (3rd from left)


Opening our Doors to Showcase the Deep Tech Ecosystem

At our second annual Emerge STEM Careers Expo, we opened our doors to host over 800 university students, graduates, researchers and the wider startup ecosystem.


A big thank you goes out to the guest speakers who kindly donated their time as well as our Emerge event partners UrbanGrowth NSW Development Corporation and the City of Sydney! We couldn’t have done it without you!

Women in STEM

Our inaugural Project XX course for forty female undergrad, post grad and PhD students was designed to bring focus on women in STEM careers.

Featuring some of Cicada’s network of successful female STEM entrepreneurs as role models, it tapped into their knowledge and experience to bring awareness and inspire the pursuit of a career in STEM.

We were so pleased with the response to Project XX and will be running it again in the new year — register your interest!


Stepping up in MedTech

Building on Cicada’s strong track record in medtech, this year we welcomed six promising early-stage startups into our inaugural medtech accelerator, Cicada MedLab.

The inaugural MedLab cohort

We’re currently only half way through this program; instrumental to MedLab are our 40+ strong network of mentors and domain experts who’ve blown us away with their generosity of time and knowledge.

Mark 28 February 2019 in your calendars for this first cohort’s Demo Day!


Another FABBAbulous Nobel Gala

In what was our final event of the year, we were pleased to host our third annual Cicada Nobel Gala. It’s a privilege to work with so many pioneers and leaders at the coal face (pun intended) of so many Australian deep tech industries and this event allows us to celebrate Australian science-based innovation with many of our friends and supporters.

Anything but a regular corporate event, the traditional Nobel elements of the St Lucia Choir and a special envoy from the Swedish King added a fun and light touch to the night at our flagship event!

Come check out the short video of the FABBAbulous time we had on the night!

Out with the Old, In with the New

Farewell Sony Trinitron, so long fair but lonely VCR. Goodbye never ever reliable Polycom VoiceStation 100. Panasonic Panaboard UB-5815 interactive whiteboard you served us well until we all got iPhones. But Apple Newton MessagePad 2000— I think you’re a keeper.

So many things have changed since our office was opened in 2000 (dot com, Wi-Fi, cloud computing, blockchain, group buying, smartphones, social media, our own business model).

So over this Christmas break and after 18 years, Cicada Innovations will undergo an office refurb so right now it’s an office clean out at Cicada until February.

Our new space will be a reflection of how we’ve evolved and allow us to better support our deep tech companies in the years to come. Think more meeting rooms for the entire Cicada community, more open, flexible spaces for collaboration and project teams, improved reception and package storage.

So that’s a wrap. 2018 was epic and it’s never been clearer how much more work there is to be done.

We’ll keep striving to create an environment that’s so special for deep tech founders in this country.

We can’t wait for what 2019 will bring. Let’s do this.

Cicada Innovations

Australia's Home of Deep Tech.

Alfred Lo

Written by

Alfred Lo

In pursuit of amazing.

Cicada Innovations

Australia's Home of Deep Tech.

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