Hewlett-Packard opens Garage Program to Australian start-ups

Hewlett-Packard's program to help young Internet companies get off the ground, the HP Garage Program, has now been extended to Australia.

Operating under the slogan of "Invent it, build it, run it, finance it and market it", the service is designed to help new dotcoms secure venture capital funding, as well to provide a range of what HP considers "business essentials", including hardware, security, software consulting, support services and training.

Australia and New Zealand form one of three markets in the Asia/Pacific region, along with Japan and Singapore, where HP has chosen to deploy the Garage Program.

In Australia and New Zealand the Garage Program will consist of three parts:

* Garage Dot Com Program: Endorsed by AVCAL, the Australian venture capitalist association, this initiative will provide funding and other assistance for new companies with a business plan HP deems sound and which have already achieved some level of venture capital financing.

HP is offering successful candidates a maximum of $2 million in assistance, and companies are not required to have a minimum level of existing VC funding to be eligible for the program, as in the US model.

Assistance will be in the form of debt financing, as well equipment and services tailored to meet the IT infrastructure needs of a young start-up - including a six-month payment deferral for the acquisition of business essentials.

* Garage Export Program: a new component to the Garage Program not featured in the US model, this initiative aims to help existing Australian small to medium-size enterprises take their product or service to the global market.

HP will provide successful candidates with funds for global expansion and R&D, as well as access to worldwide HP businesses and channels.

Eligibility requirements for the Garage Export Program include current sales of more than $1 million, in a 10 per cent-plus growth market.

* Garage e-Scholarship Program: offers funding and assistance for budding e-services developers currently attending Australian universities.

Young developers will be given the opportunity to peddle their ideas to HP as if presenting to prospective venture capitalists.

HP aims to have the e-Scholarship Program up and running in time for the 2001 educational year.

To apply for the Garage Program in Australia, companies must visit www.hp.com.au to obtain a qualification form, which will require them to outline their business plan and other relevant information.

"We're looking for companies focused on changing the business model that is accepted today - companies that are looking to break the mould and move beyond today's Chapter 1 solutions," said David Lenz, marketing director enterprise computing for HP Australia and New Zealand.

According to Lenz, HP is particularly interested in companies that sell handheld appliances, telecommunications and management networks, desktop management and deployment software, and e-services technologies.

"We will take equity if the right opportunity comes along, but what HP is not going to do is act as a venture capitalist. That's not our goal and it wasn't the goal of the US program," Lenz said.

Lenz said that HP has no local partnerships in place to assist in the delivery of products and services to Garage Program participants, but claims that discussions are currently under way.

HP expects to sign 20 to 25 companies to the Garage Dot Com Program and four to six companies to the Garage Export Program.

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