Last week’s Startup Weekend Organisers Mini Summit has helped establish Australia’s organisation of the event and emphasised the need for a nationwide body.
Brisbane’s River City Labs hosted 26 Startup Weekend representatives from across Australia and New Zealand last Tuesday August 5th. With 30 nationwide events held since its formation in 2011, the focus in now on fostering nationwide support, according to organiser Greg Burnett.
“There’s this growing number of organisations but they’re not really linked,” Burnett says. “So the good thing about today’s event is we have representatives from every state in Australia, save Tasmania and NT, and we’ve got the grassroot community champions here building a national strategy.
“We’ve individually grown without any real coordination,” he says. “Today’s the turning point, today’s when we get some groups going.”
Topics included growing and strengthening Up AUS and Startup Weekend in Australia, sharing resources such as organisers/facilitators/mentors, organising sponsors, media & PR, and consolidating post-event wrap-up finances. Additional topics were added throughout the day, notably efforts to increase gender and cultural representation.
Burnett hopes the event will work as an accelerant, and sites the formation of “working communities that will come out of today, particularly within education” as proof there’s nationwide interest in broadening event themes to global “verticals” such as education, medicine, and the media.
The event also emphasised a need to learn from the success of Startup Weekend New Zealand, which has had 25 event in roughly the same time as SW Australia and tops the Startup Weekend’s per capita globally. Founder and senior partner of leaderhsip and coaching franchise Genratec Alan Froggatt, spoke about his time organising Startup Weekend NZ.
“Very early on, the five of us who co-founded the New Zealand network looked after it and all its regional areas in a fairly structured way,” Frogatt says. “It’s a focus on the entrepreneurial journey and the infrastructure for entrepreneurs.
“I’m really interested in sustainability, not just ecological but in these kinds of business systems and what’s going to happen next,” he says. “It’s very easy for large organisations to come in with a deep wallet and get something done, it’s a little different for community to grow up and build all the capacities it needs to get something done, like innovation.”
Additionally, the event highlighted the growth of startup communities throughout regional Queensland, with over half of the Australian representatives from the state.
Troy Haines, founder of Cairn’s theSPACE and lead organiser for the city’s August 15th event, was excited for the opportunity for individual communities to be represented on national level.
“As an entrepreneur it can be quite lonely but there is this community that we do have access to,” Haines says. “And whilst we are building a local community of startups in Cairns we can plug into a national network.
“For the most part Australia doesn’t get ‘startup’ it gets ‘small business’, so it’s that re-educational component and knowing there is support on a global level with UpGlobal summits,” he says. “I’ve been texting my co-founders and partners throughout the day and saying ‘what about this’.”
The Cairns event, which is scheduled to include an introduction by Wotif founder Graeme Wood, is an unofficial prelude to theSPACE and ilab’s next Germinate accelerator program. Haines hopes this weekend’s event will help foster a virtual accelerator model in far north Queensland.
A push for more regional programs and a better public understanding of Australia’s startup ecosystem were also highlights of the event, according to Sally Anne Williams, engineering community and outreach manager for sponsor Google Australia.
“The one thing I’d really love to see is a greater awareness in the broader community of the value of tech startups have in Australia,” Williams says. “[Tuesday’s] volunteers are critical in making this a success, and without them literally hundreds of Australians wouldn’t know of the opportunities in the startup ecosystem.
“The Cairns event is a wonderful opportunity for people not in the major cities to run their own successful business, she says. “You don’t have to be in a major capital city to do it, you could be in anywhere in Australia.
“The support system and network are there for you, you just have to tap into it.”