More Victorian startup founders will be headed to the library thanks to an entrepreneurial networking space created with the help of a $2 million donation from Melbourne businesswoman Christine Christian.
The State Library of Victoria (SLV) has today revealed plans to open Start Space — a dedicated hub for early-stage entrepreneurs that will provide free resources, events and training to those wanting to propel their business ideas into action.
Due to open in 2019, Start Space is also expected to include a paid membership or subscription based program for more established ventures. The centre is part of the state government’s $88 million ‘Vision 2020’ project, which involves a suite of redevelopment projects at the SLV.
Christian, a seasoned business executive and current director at FlexiGroup and ME bank, says she hopes the space will address some of the gaps that still need to be filled in the local startup ecosystem, including cross-pollination of ideas across sectors.
“The key here is this is not just for business entrepreneurs but for creative and social ideas. A very strong part of my motivations is that there’s no doubt that economics and business is important, they generate jobs and provide a healthy economy, but that is not limited to ‘business’ and technology startups,” Christian says.
While tech startups tend to form their own disruptor groups and networks, Christian says she’s excited to see more conversations between these businesses and other creative thinkers with great ideas.
“There are a lot of really exciting and worthy startups, in areas liken music and how you commercialise music, or ideas in the arts,” she says.
“[They are] all are very important parts of the ecosystem.”
Annual funding will also be available to one individual each year in the form of the Christine Christian Entrepreneur-in-Residence.
Pitching? Don’t miss this
As a startup investor herself, Christian says early stage entrepreneurs need the space to learn how to create a bulletproof business plan before they start pitching to others.
“I meet a lot of young entrepreneurs who are so excited about the new idea they have formed and can often be naively optimistic about turning that into some form of reality,” she says.
“The part that is sometimes missing is the commercial know-how of how to take an idea and bring it to life.”
There are plans in the works to develop a range of programming through Start Space to allow business veterans to tell their war stories, and Christian says that’s important because too many success stories end up camouflaging the skill and work involved in growing a business.
“We hear most of the success stories and they’re presented in such a way where someone had an idea, moved into their family garage and spend a couple of years tinkering around, then the next thing you know they’re listing on the stock exchange, and that’s often not the reality,” she says.
As an investor, there’s one thing that gets Christian excited: cold hard facts.
“I get excited seeing a strong business case and deep research. That’s what excites me much more than a hopeful entrepreneur who wants to work for themselves, for potentially the wrong reasons,” she says.
Christine Christian is a former board member of Private Media, publisher of SmartCompany.