Startup News & Analysis

Steve Baxter set to replace Mark Sowerby as Queensland’s chief entrepreneur

Angela Castles /

Shark Tank judge and River City Labs founder Steve Baxter.

Angel investor and Shark Tank judge Steve Baxter is set to become Queensland’s next chief entrepreneur, taking over the mantle from Blue Sky Investments founder Mark Sowerby.

Talks are underway for Baxter to assume the year-long unpaid appointment in October this year, becoming the second entrepreneur appointed by the Queensland Government to help deliver its Advance Queensland innovation agenda.

“Advance Queensland has been quite a good program and are getting a certain amount of momentum about them,” Baxter tells StartupSmart.

“Mark Sowerby has done a great job — I’m looking forward to getting in there and continuing that,” he says.

When asked how he would juggle the new position with his Shank Tank commitments, Baxter replied, “poorly and frantically.”

Baxter recently celebrated the fifth birthday of his Brisbane-based co-working space River City Labs, and says he is looking forward to further supporting the Queensland startup ecosystem in his new role.

“I’m passionate about entrepreneurship and people taking their future into their own hands,” Baxter says.

He believes “getting out there and being able to tell stories” is key to building a successful ecosystem, and hopes to encourage “a lot more [entrepreneurial] activity outside the south east corner of Queensland”.  

“There’s lots of gaps in the market in Australia in general and in Queensland,” Baxter says.

“If we look at it in a pipeline sense, we need more startups and more people trying [entrepreneurship]. We need a better regulatory environment to make that easier … we need smarter investors, more investors, we need angels out there to allow businesses to flourish.”

“Self-sustaining” ecosystems needed

Queensland is not the only Australian state to lend government support to startup initiatives, with governments in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia also continuing to devote funds to the sector. However, Baxter hopes to see ecosystems benefit from this funding in the short term, while eventually becoming self-sufficient in the long term.

Ultimately these things have to get a life of their own,” he says, noting that “government assistance is short-term.”

Instead, Baxter recommends we look at the startup hubs and programs which are becoming “self-sustaining” to replicate and develop these models in the future.

“In the medium-term we need these various sectors to support themselves and keep going [autonomously],” he says.

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Angela Castles

Angela Castles is a Journalist at StartupSmart with a keen interest in the legal issues startups face. In her free time she can be found eating sushi and seeing live music.

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