A Startup’s Journey to the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP).

Jimmy Zhong
Jun 13, 2018 · 5 min read

Standing backstage in the partial dark, I listened to Saul from Atticus finish delivering a brilliant pitch and knew that it was time. As he began to introduce me onto stage, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath and began walking onto the stage.

Suddenly, I was consumed by a wave of light and energy as I took my spot. I looked at the crowd and took it all in for a brief moment, before introducing myself and my startup Syncio to the sea of faces in front of me.

In awe of what’s in front of me.

It has been 4 years since the first time I applied for MAP. That’s roughly 1,500 days, 88,000 hours, and 5,300,000 seconds between nervously submitting our first amateur video application for my first startup to nervously walking onto the stage to pitch Syncio as part of MAP18.

Suffice to say, it’s been a bit of a journey, and that a lot has happened during that time. I had founded three startups including Syncio, going through some crazy highs and lows. Upon reflection, MAP was the one real constant during these four years.

A lot of people ask me how I have kept at it during this time, to persist and keep trying. I don’t really have a succinct answer. I just felt that every year we had a decent chance except ironically, this year. As an entrepreneur, you inherently have to be optimistic, it always felt natural to apply.

The first time we applied, we were still in idea phase but got a lot of good feedback on our idea. We didn’t get through to pitch night, but we importantly got to meet the MAP team, which was our door into an incredible community.

Since then, MAP has provided us tremendous resources such as introductions to mentors, alumni, and to the numerous events they host. We have learnt and grown from being associated to MAP, despite not actually being in the program. This a key takeaway for me — that despite not making it through our first three attempts, we could still learn valuable lessons each time.

That despite not making it through our first three attempts, we could still learn valuable lessons each time.

I worked hard to perfect my pitch for MAP17 and felt that I nailed it on pitch night — unfortunately, we weren’t good enough to get through but that rush after the pitch remains one of the highlights of 2017 for me.

Despite that positive note, for the first time, I had doubts about getting into MAP18. I was intimidated by the calibre of startups that had gotten into MAP previously and the bar seemed to get higher each year.

Pondering life at pitch rehearsal.

I actually left my application to the very last minute because I was seriously procrastinating over my chances of getting through. With the deadline at midnight, by 11pm I finally convinced myself to apply — I’m not entirely sure why but a quote from Wayne Gretzky summed up my thinking quite nicely: “You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take”.

“You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take”

In a lot of ways, being a startup entrepreneur means that you have to take shots that may not have a high chance of converting, but you do it anyway because it’s better than no chance. I had applied unsuccessfully to MAP 3 times, but have absolutely no regrets because I had tried. The worst thing that could happen for me was to regret never applying. Fear of regret can be a powerful motivator.

Bright lights and showtime.

Now, it all worked out in the end, but please DO NOT do what I did and decide to apply an hour before the deadline. Aside from unnecessary stress — there are many things that could go wrong that you have no buffer against such as video/webcam not working, editing software not working, computer not working, internet not working, and slow upload times to Youtube or Vimeo. I wasted time playing with editing software and untimely slow internet speeds. I simply left it to too much luck in the end.

After submitting, my goal was to progress past pitch night as I had never progressed that far before. We got through pitch night, and then went through the alumni interview stage and final pitch and selection panel stage.

Preparing for those two stages and being able to gain valuable feedback from the MAP team during these stages had gave me further clarity over what is most important to growing Syncio. If I had not progressed past these stages, I would have already gained so much — certainly a lot more than if I hadn’t applied. Even if you’re not sure, do it anyway.

Beer tastes better after pitching in front of 1,000+

Getting the call from Maxine about the good news was surreal. I’m not sure if it’s all even sunken in yet, 3 weeks later. Launch night was an absolute dream, I will never forget that night, not just for Syncio, but for the other 9 startups that I am so proud to be included in. We will always have this unique connection, and I’m super excited to see what we can do.

With the untold hours, energy, and stress devoted to the pitch for launch night, I thought that I would be in total relief after I had come off stage. To my surprise, my nerves and tension did not leave me at all, in fact, it felt arguably worse!

It was only after Alex from Acusensus, who delivered the final pitch, that I finally felt all the stress and tension released. This experience was something that also left a lasting impression on me — you are not alone in this journey. The cohort and MAP family are now on this journey with you.

The MAP18 cohort doing crazy jazz hands.

1,500 days, 88,000 hours, and 5,300,000 seconds later, my application into MAP is finally accepted. It has been a journey, but I feel like now that I am here, the real journey is only just about to begin.


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Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP)

The official medium publication of the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP), a homegrown startup accelerator based at the University of Melbourne

Jimmy Zhong

Written by

Founder, Syncio. Thinker, therefore Am'er.

Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP)

The official medium publication of the Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP), a homegrown startup accelerator based at the University of Melbourne

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