A new incubator in Geelong is aiming to draw from national and global connections to put the local startup ecosystem on the world stage, on the back of a $1.25 million grant from the Victorian government.
Runway was the largest grant recipient from LaunchVic’s first round of funding, and the organisation is now planning to create 70 new companies and 500 new jobs at its regional centre over the next five years.
Runway CEO Peter Dostis says $250,000 of the funding will be going towards creating an agency dedicated to identifying local and global partners that can help boost Geelong’s business sector.
The incubator is also in talks with major partners, local councils and a “big” corporate to establish a Geelong headquarters by early next year.
“What we’re looking to do is not just attract Geelong startups, but anyone who has a good commercial idea anywhere within Victoria, and eventually Australia and globally,” Dostis tells StartupSmart.
“Geelong is a beautiful place to live.”
The incubator will open applications from February next year with the first cohort of about eight startups to commence in March.
Candidates will need to complete an online application and shortlisted applicants will be invited to present a 15-minute pitch before a judging panel.
Dostis says those accepted into the incubator program will receive guidance in setting up the right business structures, co-working space and access to critical services like legal and financial support including an equity-free upfront grant of between $15,000 and $30,000.
“We’re not aligned to any particular technology,” he says.
“It doesn’t matter what industry it is in as long as it looks like a good innovative idea that can be turned into a profitable business.”
Applicants with a sound understanding of the market they’re cracking and the potential value of their product or service will be highly sought, he says.
“They need to have sort of thought through some of the basic business plan,” Dostis says.
“To pick the right sort of startup, you need to have a good combination of someone who is highly motivated and has the ability to deliver.
“You need to find those hooks that have been standard across businesses that have been successful.”
Getting Geelong noticed on the global stage
Runway chairman Nick Stanley recently returned from the Maven Hypergrowth Retreat in San Francisco, which featured entrepreneurs from the likes of Facebook and Dropbox, and Dostis says he was able to promote the local incubator to some of the biggest names in tech.
“We were blown away by the level of interest in what we are doing in Geelong,” Dostis says.
“The startup culture is truly global and people from all over the world have been incredibly supportive of what we are doing – investors are genuinely chomping at the bit to see what we are going to deliver.”
He says there is even potential to link Runway with an internationally-recognised accelerator in the US.
“We’re not trying to build our organisation in isolation, we have spent a lot of time looking at global models and are looking to link into a lot of global partners,” Dostis says.