Germinate PLUS Program Overview and Application


The University of Queensland’s ilab Germinate PLUS Startup Accelerator Program

Bigger, enhanced and more ambitious!

Benefits: $20,000 No equity, 6 Months startup program, desk space, mentors, connections, partner perks

Key founders: UQ students, staff, alumni (10 years)

One of Australia’s leading startup accelerator programs is now even better.  Germinate PLUS will operate for twice as long as ilab’s previous programs with twice as much funding while remaining very founder friendly with no equity taken. Eligible teams will include key founders with strong UQ ties including students and recent alumni (who graduated no longer than 10 years ago). 

  • $20,000 Funding. Grant funding for each startup accepted into the program will increase from $10,000 to $20,000.
  • Equity Free. Germinate will remain equity free to ensure our founders have as much flexibility in later investments engagements. 
  • 6 Months. Germinate has been redesigned from a three to a six-month program to better support the time required to bring an early stage startup to market.
  • Student-friendly. An enhanced and lengthened program structure will flexibly accommodate study commitments whilst supporting an extended product development timeframe.
  • 12 startups. The program will now accept 12 startup teams rather than 10 eligible startups.
  • Extended eligibility. Key founders eligibility has been extended and includes founders who are current undergraduate and postgraduate students, researchers and recent UQ alumni who have graduated within the last 10 years.

This page provides all of the detail necessary to understand the benefits of Germinate PLUS, who is best placed to benefit from the program, the selection process, the program structure and the more detailed terms and conditions.


Germinate PLUS


Over 180 startup companies and approximately 500 founders have been supported by UQ’s ilab programs since 2012, making ilab one of the most experienced startup accelerators in Australia.  From retail and hospitality to healthtech, fintech, engineering, analytics, sports, education, entertainment, drone tech, agriculture and tourism, ilab has backed startups and founders across a full range of industries.

Germinate PLUS is ilab’s flagship startup accelerator program where we invite high potential startups to join our program to assist in accelerating that startup through the early stages of growth so they can quickly find the best path for their startup to reach its potential.

UQ’s Germinate PLUS is welcoming of all startups be they social enterprises or for maximum profit, be they tech-based or a physical product. We like committed and passionate founders on a mission to change the world.

The 6 month program includes intense mentoring and networking through a structured accelerator program including startup basics education, free co-working space, a supporting cohort of fellow founders and culminates in a pitch night with investors and key stakeholders. 

Germinate PLUS Benefits

The major philosophy of Germinate PLUS is learning through action with the startups focussed on developing a viable, sustainable and investible (if desired) startup by the end of the program.  Along the way, the founders are challenged daily by the program and the obstacles to their startup’s progress, and through this, develop a range of entrepreneurial skills of resilience, execution, communication and risk taking.  Startups and founders will:

  • learn to confidently communicate their startup opportunity confidently across a range of settings
  • learn to execute within an environment of uncertainty
  • benefit from regular engagement with ilab’s Entrepreneur in Residence and ilab’s extensive network of mentors,
  • develop personally and as a team,
  • enjoy warm introduction to ilab’s extensive network of entrepreneurs, investors, and the startup ecosystem
  • participate in regular workshops focused on the needs of startups,
  • have access to a range of free benefits from ilab’s partners.

Who are we looking for?

The opportunity provided by Germinate PLUS is unique.  The intent of UQ to build impactful startups and great founders is serious. We are searching for the very best to join our new Germinate PLUS program and have adjusted the entry criteria accordingly. Startups need to demonstrate the following key attributes to get the most from the program:

  • A balanced and capable team that can execute
  • Passion and commitment founders
  • A strongly validated proposition with traction preferred
  • A significant opportunity to make a big impact.
  • A viable solution beyond a concept
  • An initial sustainable business model


To be eligible to apply, Germinate Plus startup teams must consist of active and committed founders. At least 50% of the founding team must have a strong connection with UQ as evidenced by the following criteria:

  • be a current undergraduate or postgraduate student of UQ in 2018 including PhD candidates
  • be an alumnus of UQ who graduated 10 years ago or less (i.e. graduated no earlier than 1 January 2009)
  • UQ staff (research / academic / professional)

Other founders are not required to meet the above criteria.

Program Structure

Germinate PLUS 2019 will run for approximately 6 months from early January to July.  The program will be broken into three distinct phases to allow participating students to combine the accelerator with their studies, and to increase support through product building and development stages.

1. Startup Mobilisation Phase 1 – 8 weeks (Jan to Feb) – Intense!
2. Startup Build Phase 2 -17 weeks (Mar to Jun / Semester) – Less Intense but continued progress
3. Startup Investment Readiness and Pitching – 4 weeks (Jun+Jul) – Intense!

Application Process

Initial applications to Germinate PLUS are via an online application form, accompanied by a short video. From here, we shortlist applicants and invite these startups to our selection bootcamp  (up to 30 startups) where the founders experience a three day weekend of serious exploration and pitching of their proposition to experienced entrepreneurs, mentors and judges. Our selection committee, compromising qualified mentors and UQ staff, then decide the final cohort. These successful team who are then required to sign the UQ ilab Germinate Agreement to gain entry into the actual Germinate PLUS program. The key dates are listed in the accompanying diagram.

Key Dates for Applications

What happens at the selection bootcamp?

Following applications, shortlisted startup founders will be invited to the 3 day Germinate selection bootcamp where they will evolve their proposition through several pitching rounds, interview with experienced mentors, participate in several startup relevant workshops (lean startups, founder agreements, pitching tips, IP basics etc) and present to a final selection panel on the last afternoon.  Selected startups will be invited to commence the Germinate program.

Whether startups get through or not, ilab’s Germinate bootcamp weekend will definitely move your startup proposition forward substantially and founders will have a great personal learning experience as well.

Germinate PLUS – The Detail

What are the key benefits of Germinate PLUS?

Key benefits of Germinate PLUS

Experiential learning

The major philosophy of Germinate PLUS is learning through action with the selected startups focussed on developing a viable and investible (if desired) startup by the end of the program.  Along the way, the founders are challenged daily by the program and the obstacles to their startup’s progress, and through this, develop a range of entrepreneurial skills of resilience, execution, communication and risk taking.

Accountability and agility

The major learning in the program is through intense startup execution and mentor directed action.  This is coupled with weekly one on one accountability sessions with ilab’s Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR) during the intense phases 1 and 3, with (likely) fortnightly sessions during Phase 2 as agreed with the founders. These sessions are one of the key benefits to founders as they infuse a business cadence of execution and review, and delivers the personal and continuous mentoring of founders.


Further mentoring is provided by regular visits from ilab’s external mentors and UQ specialists to provide different insights and feedback to the founders from diverse backgrounds.

Founder support

Building a startup is difficult.  ilab’s staff and Entrepreneur in Residence are with you on this journey to provide on hand support for all the challenges that come up be they customer issues, product issues, team or personal issues.

Desk space

Startups successful in their application to Germinate PLUS will be supplied with desks within a designated ilab co-working space at UQ.  It is their startup ‘home’ for the duration of the program.  This is the space where the cohort gathers and shares, leverages the experience of each other, practices pitches, find support from ilab staff, and participates in the Germinate PLUS workshops.

Networks and introductions

Startups also enjoy access to the extensive networks of UQ’s ilab, the Entrepreneur In Residence and the engaged mentors as applicable to their stage, technology and industry. Such introductions can fast track progress by an early introduction to the right customers, lessons other founders may have learned and potential investment opportunities.

This also includes introductions to the staff at UQ who may be relevant to the startups business area, be that through research, UQ as a potential trial site / first customer or possible use of UQ’s facilities to assist progress including UQ’s Maker Space and UQ’s library. (Note, currently, access to UQ’s facilities is dependent on the status of the founders and may not be open to every startup. It is expected these partnerships will evolve in 2019.

Educational startup workshops

This is all underpinned by a range of educational workshop sessions as outlined below.  The exact selection of topics and their timing will be adjusted in response to the particular needs of the cohort and sometimes the availability of guest presenters described in the next section below.

Startup ecosystem engagement

Germinate PLUS will also introduce the founders to the startup ecosystem through visits to startups and other co-working spaces, and will promote the startups within this ecosystem as the next step for these startups will likely engage in this ecosystem.

ilab’s Partner benefits

UQ’s ilab has established partnerships with a range of vendors including Microsoft, AWS, Google, Hubspot and Mathworks that can provide free initial access to technology to assist startups to find their product market fit prior to spending too much on technology fees. (This list may vary as the vendors change their accelerator support policies.)

What topics are covered in ilab workshops?

The above experience is underpinned by a range of educational sessions as outlined here.  The exact selection of topics and their timing will be adjusted in response to the particular needs of the cohort and sometimes the availability of guest presenters.

Founder stories / panels / fireside chats

  • For relevant and inspirational startup stories and founder journey’s including lessons learned along the way, ilab regularly hosts key entrepreneurs to tell their story to the Germinate PLUS cohort.

Personal and team development

  • How to engage mentors and how to take feedback
  • Team building

Pitching and communication

  • How to tell your story to different audiences
  • Investor and elevator pitch content, development and delivery
  • Business Networking Skills

Product and customer

  • Customer validation and interview techniques
  • Minimum Viable Product development
  • Business Modelling through Business Model Canvass (BMC)
  • How to build tech products without tech
  • Customer acquisition, retention and traction approaches and measurement
  • How to price your products

Marketing and sales

  • Social media and Branding
  • Selling to Enterprises (Corporates / Governments)


  • Lean startup and Agile startup operations
  • Company Basics (Incorporation, Director responsibilities)
  • Intellectual Property Basics
  • Startup tools to run your startup company (Collaboration, CRM, Surveys, Marketing, Prod Dev, Accounting etc.)

Investment Basics

  • Understand Investment Process
  • Intro to core Investor Agreements (Term Sheets, Shareholder Agreements, Vesting)
  • Non-equity based funding (grants and R+D tax)
  • Intellectual Property Basics


  • Basic accounting
  • Financial Planning and Modelling

What the best startup for Germinate PLUS? What does ilab look for from the startup applicants?

The opportunity provided by Germinate PLUS is unique.  The intent of UQ to build the best startups and the best founders on the planet is serious. We are searching for the very best to join out new Germinate PLUS program.

What makes a good founding team for UQ’s Germinate PLUS?


A well balanced, collaborative, diverse and resilient team is an important element of successful participation in the Germinate PLUS program.  Founding teams should be made up of individuals:

  • with the right skill sets relevant to your (technical, business, community, market ..) that are relevant to develop and grow the startup
  • who have already put significant time and effort into validating the idea and understanding the problem and solution prior to applying to the program, and 
  • who can commit to active involvement in the program for the duration of the program as described in the program overview.

Some questions ilab will be interested in include:

  • Why are you the right founders to be working on this problem?
  • Why is solving this problem important to you?
  • What is your personal attachment and familiarity with the problem?

While single founders can be successful, startups founded by strong teams will naturally progress faster and gain more benefit from the program. If you are applying as a single founder, then you will need to describe how you will be able to successfully execute on the multiple dimensions of customer, product/technology and business development during the program.

Committed founders


Successfully founding a startup requires focus, passion and commitment an to make the most of Germinate PLUS, dedication is required. It should not be viewed as a part-time activity.  The program does, however, acknowledge that student participants, in particular, do we require time to attend to their universities studies and we have crafted a three phase program accordingly as described in the structure.

The key founders of the startups must commit their full time energies to progress their startup in Germinate PLUS during the intense Phases 1 and 3.  Phase 2 is more flexible allowing founders to vary their commitment in line with their other priorities. Student founders will be able to work at a pace to match their study commitments. Startups will however still be engaged in regularly structured mentoring / accountability sessions and some activities as appropriate so as to ensure startup momentum is maintained.

Germinate’s approach is to conduct weekly seminars on various aspects of startup development and regular check-ins on progress both to ilab and to other startups in the group. Founders are expected to participate in at least 90% of the provided workshops and accountability sessions. Lower participation may trigger program suspension as per the termination and suspension statement below.

A strongly functioning cohort is a key part of the Germinate experience. Founders are expected to actively participate in the cohort and to base their operation at UQ’s ilab facility during the program.

If you have other commitments that you think may interfere with your ability to commit to the above, then please contact us.


How big is the potential impact of your startup?

Market and impact

Germinate PLUS will most benefit those startups who have the potential to make a significant impact be that in business or socially.  To understand this, in the application process, we will be seeking to understand:  

  • Who has the problem? How is it addressed today and why is that not sufficient. How big can this market be?
  • Why is it worth the sweat and sacrifice you will give to it?
  • Which market segment are you focussed on to start with?
  • Why is now the right time? Are you creating a new market?

We will be looking for evidence to underpin your analysis such as market research and/or market stakeholder interviews.


How do you know you are solving a real problem for real customers?

Validation and traction

We will be looking for strong indicators that your proposition is valid in the real world with real customers.  Applicants should demonstrate significant evidence of customer discovery and validation of the problem being solved. This goes beyond market research and involves interactions with potential customers and users.

We will be asking for proof that you have validated this market, and validated with real customers.  As an example, how many customer/user interviews have you done?  Levels of validation may differ from market to market. 

Validation is good, quality traction is better if you have it.  How many active users do you currently have and how many paying customers do you have? What does your growth look like?

In order to be pitching to investors at the concluding pitch event, teams will be expected to have real traction with either paying customers or customers trialling their product by the end of the program.


Have you built something yet?

Product and Solution

While a Minimum Viable is not necessarily required to enter the program, you will need to describe how your solution will work.  We expect teams to have leveraged the insights from their customer validation to have begun a prototype and to have the skills, capabilities and capacity to build the product.  This may include prototypes based on research (refer to the Intellectual Property clause in Terms and Conditions)

By the conclusion of the accelerator, all teams are expected to have a high quality MVP in the hands of real customers. We understand that not all products/services are the same and some prototypes will require much more time and effort to build. UQ’s ilab will work with teams to help them progress their product as far as possible thoroughly the program.

One of the key benefits of Germinate PLUS is the longer time available for product development.

Initial Business Model - How will your startup sustain itself and grow

Business Model – How will your startup sustain itself and grow?

Applicants will be asked to articulate how they will build a sustainable business model around their solution independent of whether it is a ‘for profit’, or ‘not for profit’ undertaking.

Examples may include a Business Model Canvas or other modelling techniques.

A financial model underpinned by real experience will also be well regarded.


Key Terms and Conditions

Who is eligible to apply?


UQ’s ilab at UQ Germinate PLUS program accepts applications from startups where at least 50% of the founding team has a strong connection with The University of Queensland (UQ) as evidenced by a founder meeting one of the following criteria:

  1. be a current undergraduate or postgraduate student of UQ in 2018 including PhD candidates
  2. be an alumnus of UQ who graduated 10 years ago or less (i.e. graduated no earlier than 1 January 2009)
  3. be a member of UQ staff (research,  academic or professional)

The balance of the founders who do not meet the above criteria need not have any relationship with UQ.

Note however that it is often difficult for staff to be considered ‘founders’ in the above definition as committed participation in the program and working for UQ full time are rarely compatible.  Previous programs have benefited significantly by having staff as key advisors rather than founders.

If you are seeking clarification on your eligibility, then please contact us ASAP.


How much funding?


Each eligible team will receive $20,000 in grant income from UQ made up of a series of six (6) equal tranche payments throughout the program roughly aligned to each month of the program, with the first payment due upon signing of the Germinate Agreement and the last following the final pitch event.

Startups are required to make continual progress against regularly in order to receive tranche payments. UQ reserves the right to cease payments for reasons that include lack of progress, lack of commitment and any significant change of founders from those proposed during the application process

On occasion, startups may already have enjoyed investment from UQ in some relevant form. In this case, they may be offered a place in the program but without grant payments.


How much equity do you take?


UQ’s does not take equity in the startups as part of this Germinate PLUS program.  Our mission is to build founders and entrepreneurs as much as it is to build startups. We support a wide range of startups and investment is not always the right end game. Of course, many of our startup companies have successfully secured investments post-program and a smaller cap table sometimes makes this easier.

Giving back.

Giving back

To assist in communication the Germinate PLUS experience to other potential participants, UQ’s entrepreneurship community and the broader startup ecosystem, each startup will be required to regularly create and publish marketing content that focusses on their program experience and Germinate PLUS outcomes.  This may include blogs, social media, videos, podcasts etc.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property

The ownership of any Intellectual Property (IP) that underpins participating startups must be clearly highlighted and understood by both the founders and the selection committee, including ilab.  This is to enable assessment of the startup potential at the time of application, and ensure the value of that IP is not inadvertently compromised, nor its ownership misrepresented to investors throughout the program.  Where  IP is owned or controlled by others, this needs to be clear and transparent at the time of application.

Of particular note is UQ IP (for example IP from UQ research) where UQ’s Intellectual Property policy will apply and founders will need to commit to that if relevant.