The fledgling Canberra start-up scene is set for a boost with the city’s largest employer, the federal government, set to shed 12,000 public service jobs in line with Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott’s election cost-reducing promise.
Rory Ford, chairman and co-founder of Canberra’s largest co-working space Entry 29, told StartupSmart the scene was taking off and about to get bigger as highly skilled locals go in search of new opportunities.
“There is more awareness of start-ups as an opportunity and career path, and now there is a possibility there will be a lot of people leaving the public service, the largest employer in town, so there are more people checking it out now,” Ford says.
In the Entry 29 founders series, several of the start-ups involved have said their first customer was the federal government.
“Canberra has a long history of enterprise start-ups that get their first customer as the first government. So if you’re coming out of there, you’ll know how government procurement works and some of problems facing the public service and therefore you may have an advantage over those from a more traditional start-up background,” Ford says.
Timothea Horn, a committee member for local university backed start-up program InnovationACT, told StartupSmart the community was growing and was likely to continue to grow.
“Here in the ACT, we’re lucky enough to have the perfect conditions for innovation because we’ve got academics at the pointy edge of tech, and we’ve got a small community who are well connected,” Horn says.
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“The program has been running for five years, and we’re seeing more and more of our winners from the previous years choosing to stay here and launch their start-up from the ACT.”
Ford says since Entry 29 launched, the events are increasingly popular and now selling out. He has recently launched an online, collaborative list to gather information on active tech start-ups working out of Canberra.
“We’re really in early stages for Canberra, there is a lot of opportunity for us to grow over the coming years,” Ford says, adding that an incubator or accelerator program would catalyse the community and propel it forward.
“The pieces are there, there’s leadership in place so it’s all about building momentum now,” Ford says.