The much-acclaimed Cerebral Valley in the US has quickly become a leader in technological innovation. In the months since its launch, it has become a hub for engineer-entrepreneurs to learn and build as a community. It also serves as inspiration for an AI-focused cluster in the heart of the Sydney CBD.
Introducing the AI Builder Club
Much of the conversation around mastering AI, especially in the startup and SME space, is about how early days are. Of course, AI is not new but it is expanding rapidly, especially in terms of generative AI.
And with that come challenges and questions around regulation, bias, enforcement and ethics.
On top of all this is the basic fact that mentors, education and guidance can be difficult to come by when a space is still in its infancy.
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This is where AI Builder Club tries to fill that space.
Run out of Aura Ventures — an early-stage VC firm in Sydney — this six-week residency program is designed to provide engineers, hackers and enthusiasts with a platform to build AI-focused ideas, products and startups.
The program was launched in early August with inaugural residents from companies such as Canva, Atlassian, Eucalyptus and PwC.
“Our aim is to remove barriers and accelerate market access for Aussie generative AI startups. We observed a growing market, yet noticed significant barriers to entrants,” said Annie Liao, an investor at Aura Ventures and one of the founders of the program. Smart Company.
“Observing global tech hubs and the success stories of places like Buildspace and ‘Cerebral Valley’ inspired us to pioneer innovation for Australia.”
While the program is currently run out of Sydney, Liao said there has been a lot of interest across the country and even overseas. The community also has an active Slack channel with over 150 participants.
Liao also confirmed that the plan is to have four official accelerator teams per year, but the co-working space will be available year-round.
During the event, participants will be guided by mentors such as Danny Ma (AI Engineer and Technical Trainer), Greg Willis (Head of Technology for Startups at AWS in ANZ), David McKeague (CSO at Curious Things AI), Dr Michael Kolo. (CEO of Adopt AI).
The program itself is supported by Microsoft for Startups, AWS, Google for Startups, Stripe, NVIDIA, Github and more.
According to Liao, the ability of the applicants was so strong that they increased the group from 25 to 40.
It has a mix of people who are already running early stage startups to people who are already in the embryonic stage of idea generation. They include projects such as a generative AI platform for gaming and a no-code LLM-driven applet platform.
“It’s a bit mixed. We have people who are working full-time at their startups from WeWork and only come in on the weekends,” Liao said.
“And we also have people who are hustling from places like Atlassian and PwC who will hopefully go into it full-time after they’ve experimented a bit more and join the community where some people have made the leap.”
Participants co-work from a dedicated space on evenings and weekends as well as participate in mixer events and workshops.
The group is strongly encouraged to stay committed to their idea and program through weekly build updates. If the team misses two weeks, they will be kicked out of the club.
Importantly, there are no fees for participants and no equity claims on any ideas or businesses created during the residency.
The event concludes with a technical demo day where these startups present their ideas to leading VCs, potential customers and industry experts.
Liao and the entire team behind the AI Builder Club hope that alumni will be able to use the resources, mentorship, and contacts made through their residency to secure funding for their AI startups and ideas.
“When you bring together a community of intelligent, ambitious, entrepreneurial individuals, there is a unique alchemy. America has long embraced this ‘building’ culture. Australia deserves a slice of this innovation pie,” said Alex Brogan, LinkedIn influencer and program mentor.