Brisbane’s River City Labs had some special guests over the weekend, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and federal MP Wyatt Roy paying a visit to Startup Weekend Brisbane.
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The event saw 120 budding entrepreneurs formulate ideas and discuss these on Friday night, build tech platforms and a business plan, and eventually pitch the 22 startups to a panel of esteemed judges on Sunday night.
Abbott and Roy visited the event on Saturday, and River City Labs general manager Peta Ellis says this was a positive thing for everyone to see.
“It was great. None of the participants knew they were coming,” Ellis says. “The politicians were amazed, I think they were quite blown away to see that many people working on the weekend.
“It let them really get into the engine room and see how startups begin,” she says.
Roy says he enjoyed the event, and was glad he was able to bring Abbott along.
“The whole weekend was fantastic, and the pitches on Sunday night were really impressive,” Roy says. “It was very exciting to take the PM to the event. He is starting to immerse himself in the startup culture.”
Roy’s favourite startup from the weekend was ShareBoat, an online platform to connect boat owners and people wanting to go fishing.
In an address to the LNP State Convention on Saturday, Tony Abbott spoke about the importance of the event.
“It’s in places like River City Labs that the battle for our future is being won,” Abbott said. “That is where the future of our country is being secured, by our best and our brightest coming together to test each other, to stretch each other and to make it happen.”
The eventual winner of the Startup Weekend was PowerDialer, a cloud-based auto-dialling platform, and Ellis says they deserved the top prize.
“They had the best tech, and they developed it all on the weekend,” Ellis says. “They found a problem and worked out a solution.”
Other highlights included meVu, an online eSports betting platform for the gaming industry, and Eat It, which aimed to develop a sharing economy for authentic home dining.
The Startup Weekend is designed to allow everyday people with other jobs to experience the startup world and accelerate the development of their ideas.
“The idea is for people who may be working in different fields to dive into the startup world for a weekend and see if it’s for them,” Ellis says. “It fast-tracks the experience of what’s involved in getting a startup up and running, and all you have to commit is a weekend.”
“From there they’ll know if startups are for them or if they want to go back to their corporate job,” she says.
Alumni and past winners from River City Labs’ Startup Weekend include FunCaptcha, which transformed the spam-filters into games and now has over 30,000 websites using them, car pricing platform carvalues.co, and Churn, a video channel platform.
Events like the Startup Weekend are crucial for fostering creativity and innovation, Roy says.
“If we are to have future prosperity for our nation and our jobs, we need to be more innovative and entrepreneurial,” he says.