Ask anyone onstage at the Lord Mayor’s Business Awards (LMBA) and they’ll tell you Brisbane has a proud tradition of celebrating local business. As it happens, the LMBA is only in its eighth year, but every tradition has to start somewhere.
Speaking of beginnings, this year marked the first time the Awards have included categories recognising digital innovation and startups. The Yellow Cab Award for Digital Champion and the ANZ Made in Brisbane Award for High-Growth Business Start-Up both sought to acknowledge recent innovation in the digital sphere.
Nominees in the two new categories included businesses as diverse as Brisbane Airport Corporation, Domino’s Pizza, HSK Instruments, and RedEye Apps. Seeing big established companies and startups come together at the same party was a welcome change of pace. More than policies and press releases, it’s events like this which suggest Brisbane truly is serious about supporting its local startup community. Hopefully in future years, the training wheel hyphen might even come out of “Start-Up”.
The event itself had a convivial atmosphere and as one of the startup nominees, I felt very welcome amongst the larger companies. Admittedly, I might be a little biased about that last part, but it’s hard to feel self-conscious when everyone is wearing black tie.
From the perspective of a startup, it’s good to see the Digital Brisbane Strategy being expanded, even into established government initiatives. Startups can’t exist in a vacuum. Having our own networking events and gatherings is all well and good, but the startup community needs further opportunities to develop strong links with existing business networks and resources if we’re going to thrive.
Whatever else they may be, startups are businesses and the best way Brisbane can support them is to treat them as such.
Having said that, startups aren’t the same as traditional small businesses. This wasn’t always clear from some of the speeches on the night, where terms like ‘startup’, ‘small business’, and ‘SME’ were often used interchangeably. Clearly, there’s some room for improvement and a more nuanced understanding of startups, but that will come with time.
As it stands, these new awards are a very encouraging first step and hopefully a forerunner of things to come.