The startup scene is booming in Australia.
Hundreds of startup events, tech incubators and co-working spaces compete for the attention of entrepreneurs.
With bipartisan political support, innovation is the new catchphrase and startups are framed as the answer to an inflexible economy.
You could be forgiven for thinking that it’s all just hype and distraction.
But innovation is important. We’re too dependent on mining and agriculture. Our economy needs to diversify and startups provide growth and employment in new industries. Businesses less than five years old contribute 40% of job creation in Australia and startups make up most of this growth.
But building a business from scratch isn’t easy. The process of entrepreneurship is one of overcoming barriers – to funding, knowledge, skills and motivation.
In 2014 I launched The Pulse meetup group for entrepreneurs. It grew into one of Australia’s largest startup communities with over 6000 members in six months.
There is an enormous appetite in Australia for forums where entrepreneurs can meet, learn and share ideas. Nearly three quarters of startup founders attend at least one event each month.
Startup events come in various forms: panel discussions, pitch competitions, “hackathons” and fireside chats with founders. Startup communities get people thinking, imagining and innovating.
Entrepreneurship is often a lonely road. It’s difficult to do what you believe in and work on something that isn’t proven. But the more you meet and talk to people about your business, the quicker you can receive feedback and refine your strategy.
Some events allow startups to pitch to an audience and test the market for their product. Others help entrepreneurs meet investors and potential cofounders.
Ned Dwyer and Pete Murray teamed up at Startup Weekend in 2011. They created Tweaky.com, a marketplace for web developers. Tweaky won first prize at the two-day event, and went on to raise $450,000. The business was sold to US domain registration giant GoDaddy earlier this year.
Larger startup events attract founders with years of experience and advice.
At SydStart, Australia’s largest event, Jane Lu delivered a powerful keynote. She shared her frustration with a corporate career and “being stuck in that boring grey cubicle”. After quitting her job, Jane spent 6 months out of work until she came up with the idea for ShowPo, an online fashion store.
She bootstrapped the business and grew it into one of Australia’s most successful e-commerce sites. These stories are important for entrepreneurs, because you can’t build a startup until you believe it’s possible.
Startups will strengthen our economy. They will help us innovate in existing industries and build entirely new ones. But we must create a vibrant startup culture in Australia.
Startup events bridge the daunting gap between a good idea and a successful business. They motivate and inspire founders to follow their dreams and have a go.
Kyri Theos is the Regional Director of Asia Pacific at Freelancer.com