ilab director Bernie Woodcroft told Private Media that Cairns in particular has a burgeoning regional startup community, which is centred around Troy Haines’ theSPACE co-working space.
“There’s a lot of things that need to come together, but technology, thinking about new opportunities and models is not something that’s bound by geography. So our activities are about stirring the pot in places like Townsville and across Queensland,” Woodcroft says.
“We’re talking to people to see if there’s entrepreneurial spaces there. Cairns, especially, is a place where digital innovation is strong. We work with the universities and support the Startup Weekends.
“We’re a network facilitator that is linking south-east Queensland with the regions to expose the opportunities and try to find good candidates.”
ilab was established by the Queensland Government in 2000 to support early stage tech startups, and while it’s now an independent division of the University of Queensland’s UniQuest subsidiary, it still receives funding from the state government.
The Germinate program provides up to $20,000 in funding to successful candidates, and includes mentoring in a range of areas including marketing and sales, design, intellectual property issues, technology, legal agreements and investor expectations.
ilab is seeking applicants for its sixth program, with 30 businesses having already graduated, with Woodcroft saying it’s a good opportunity for inventors in regional areas looking to commercialise their ideas.
“ilab is a good place to start. What we try to do is get them out of the garage and get them into lean thinking. To get them to test products and be entrepreneurs, which can be hard to do in the regions,” Woodcroft says.
“With the NBN rollouts, connectivity is often better in regional areas than it is here, and especially in Townsville with the rollouts.”
“We try to sponsor travel arrangements so they can participate at the start of the program so everyone can get to know who they are. From there, they can use Skype, Google Hangouts or whatever works for them for meetings and sessions.”
“We had Why Not Tours, which aims to take the pain out of organising group travel. It’s founder, Sam Dorahy, is an ex-football player, builder and now entrepreneur from Cairns – he’s quite a character,” he says.
ilab is also making progress on establishing a $10 million venture fund with Artesian Capital, getting the agreement formalised earlier this week. Woodcroft says he expects more news on that front over the coming weeks.
Applications for the 2014 summer program close October 19. Click here to apply.