Two years ago, Brisbane hosted its first official visiting entrepreneur. Tyler Crowley arrived shortly after the launch of the Digital Brisbane strategy, when Twitter’s acquisition of local startup We Are Hunted was big news.
Since Crowley’s credentials include helping build startup ecosystems in Los Angeles, London, and Stockholm, everyone asked him the same thing: can Brisbane’s startup scene be as successful as those overseas?
Crowley was optimistic about our future, and he gave a list of ingredients that a startup scene needs in order to thrive. We didn’t quite have everything on his list back then, but he did give Brisbane something to aim for. Two years on, let’s look at how we’re doing.
Regular meetups help lay a foundation of collaboration and mutual support amongst local entrepreneurs. They are the difference between a startup community and a collection of entrepreneurs who, with their heads down, all happen to live in the same city.
In 2012, there were a lot of tech meetups to attend in Brisbane, and there still are today. The city has a good range of small meetup groups dedicated to specific topics, although the majority cater to the technical, rather than the creative or business sides of a startup.
A hint for anyone looking to run a meetup group: a regular meeting for startup marketers, or a series of talks on business strategy for startups would be very useful. Nevertheless, as far as niche meetups go, we’re doing well.
But it’s not just small meetups we need. According to Crowley, we need a larger monthly meetup attended by just about everyone in the scene. This meetup becomes the entry point for any newcomers.
Again, we’re doing quite well on this front with Silicon Beach Brisbane every 3 to 4 months, but we could be doing better. A monthly umbrella meetup would make it much easier to show newcomers or outsiders just how big the Brisbane scene really is.
It would also go a long way to forging connections between entrepreneurs in this city. We joke about Brisbane being a big country town, because of the surprising number of social connections between people here, but that often doesn’t translate into better connected startups.
Perhaps it’s because so many people who start a business in Brisbane weren’t born here, so they haven’t grown up with those local connections around them. Whatever the reason, we should certainly use Brisbane’s ‘big country town’ atmosphere to our advantage more often.
I realise free food and drink don’t pay for themselves, and finding sponsors for a large event takes time. I think the Silicon Beach team is doing a good job, and it may honestly be the best we can do right now.
Still, it’s important to remember what we’re aiming for. A regular meetup geared towards entrepreneurs who are new to Brisbane would be worthwhile. Or something Crowley is encouraging in Stockholm: startups holding open office hours each month, for people in the community to come in and connect.
This is just Part One of the story. Look out for Part Two, covering the rest of Crowley’s list of ingredients, tomorrow.