The Story So Far…
In 2012, Brisbane hosted Tyler Crowley as a visiting entrepreneur. Crowley was optimistic about the future of the Brisbane startup scene, and he gave a list of ingredients we would need in order to thrive. Two years on, this is a check up to see how we’re doing.
Some of the most useful connections are made organically, not at networking events. That’s why Crowley says it’s important to have “an official home for the community.”
This place can be an incubator, a coworking space, or an old garage, just so long as it’s somewhere people will naturally spend a lot of time. In my experience, a place with free WiFi and great coffee is halfway there, and it should ideally attract people with evening events.
Brisbane doesn’t yet have a clear startup hub, and this might be our biggest weakness.
We have venues that hold regular events, like River City Labs, iLab, and The Coterie. We have venues with space and resources that startups can use for free, like the Microsoft Innovation Centre and The Edge. But none of these are places people will often drop into during the day.
As an accelerator, iLab is open to the public for only an hour a week, The Coterie is focussed on startups in the creative industries, and most coworking spaces don’t offer you much unless you’re a member.
Little Tokyo Two at Spring Hill is probably the place with the most potential to gather Brisbane entrepreneurs around it. It’s another coworking and event space with all the mod cons, plus – most importantly – an attached café.
Successful startup hubs like Betahaus in Berlin use cafés as a kind of free membership tier to bring entrepreneurs in, hoping they’ll upgrade to a paid desk later on. It’s good business model and has the bonus of encouraging connections between members and non-members, newcomers and more experienced founders.
It remains to be seen whether any of our startup spaces can develop into such a hub. As Brisbane entrepreneurs, we should make finding, building, or frequenting one a top priority. In the meantime, closer collaboration between venues, including cross promotion of each other’s events, would bring people together better.
Whatever is happening in the Brisbane scene and wherever it is occurring, someone needs to be sharing it. Again, Crowley points out, having a dedicated source of news about local startups is good for informing people inside the community as well as those outside it.
Australia has a handful of startup news blogs, and Brisbane is well represented amongst them. TechTidal, and of course the Tech Street Journal, both began publishing shortly after Crowley’s time here.
And there’s a lot for us to talk about. It looks as if the one thing we certainly took away from Crowley’s visit was the need for more promotion of local startups.
But before I give myself the award for biggest self-congratulation, there’s more we bloggers can be doing to help the community grow, too.
First, as documentarians, our reporting can help to attract mainstream media to, and mainstream interest in, the local startup scene. I would love to see us collaborating with outlets like Brisbane Times, The Courier-Mail, The Financial Review, or The Guardian on articles about startups in Brisbane.
Raising the profile of the scene attracts new talent, investors, and ideas, and benefits everybody. This kind of profile-building is something I’m personally keen to work on.
Second, despite what I just said, startup bloggers also have a responsibility to be more than just startup groupies. It’s up to us not only to celebrate the local successes, but also to shed light on the opportunities for improvement. I covered this in a previous editorial, and it’s also something I’ll be working towards.
To end on a positive note, it’s worth remembering that while Crowley was here, he repeatedly praised the Brisbane City Council’s proactive approach to supporting startups. He described it as “unrivalled in my view, with the exception of London.” So we’re certainly doing some things very well.
He was also upbeat about our potential to grow even bigger.
“It’s those sorts of initiatives, backed by the organic growth the local industry has seen, that makes this place really exciting. I really won’t be surprised if Brisbane does beat Sydney at this game.”
At the risk of sounding like a State of Origin coach, that really is something worth working for.
This article is Part Two in a series. You can find Part One here.