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Wotif founder Graeme Wood kicked off the 54 hour event last Friday with an introductory video call. Image courtesy of Troy Haines.

Cairns’ first Startup Weekend signals regional growth

Reflecting a broader push towards regional entrepreneurial programs, Cairns celebrated its first Startup Weekend at co-working hub theSPACE mid-August.

The event kicked off Friday 15th with an introduction by Wotif founder Graeme Wood, who officially opened the event to over 50 budding entrepreneurs. It also comes as teams from theSPACE finish an iLab three-month accelerator program, which offers up to twenty thousand dollars in seed funding as well as virtual mentoring, support and connection to a wider Queensland network of entrepreneurs and supporters.

Event organiser and founder of theSPACE Troy Haines believes the event demonstrates both the potential for local entrepreneurs and a push for more regional programs.

“Part of us running Startup Weekend is doing it as a prelude to iLab’s summer intake,” Haines said. “Basically use it as a runway to help generate some ideas around tech, and say there is seed funding for the right ideas.

“On a regional level in Cairns we experience people leaving to go to capital cities and so forth,” he said. “So having this facility and seed funding for the right ideas just helps to strengthen regional centres, which for the most part are in decline.

“Part of iLab’s initiative, because they’re state funded, is to be less South-East QLD focused. So they’re reaching out to regional areas like Cairns, and I know they’re doing a push into Townsville as well.”

While Haines is proud of the event’s success and fully believes in the potential of regional entrepreneurs, he does lament Australia’s relative lack of seed funding.

“In the US, if you have a great idea someone will just chuck some seed funding at it,” Haines said. “So we lose a lot of our entrepreneurial community; it’s like the brain drain.”

“That’s why this collaboration with iLab has been fantastic, as it’s a means to say ‘if we’re working on the right ideas, there is seed funding available’,” he said. “Otherwise it comes back to individual entrepreneurs funding themselves, where there’s a greater risk level and it’s just harder.”

The winners of the event, courtesy of StartupQLD, are as follows:

Winning team “PackYack” developed a communications app for cyclists. Courtesy of StartupQLD.

Runners up “Biz Connect” created a contact information sharing technology for conference participants. Courtesy of StartupQLD.

3rd place winners “UberTech” worked on a marketplace for people with tech problems. Courtesy of StartupQLD.

JCU team “TASLE” received an honourable mention for developing a children’s game application. Courtesy of StartupQLD.

About Chris Woods

Chris Woods (@tophermwoods) is the Tech Street Journal's Editor-in-Chief. He lives in Brisbane, has worked in places like Sydney and New York (State of), and will someday update his media-news blog.