Regional Victorian city Geelong is set to host a new startup conference later this year, thanks to $175,000 in new funding from LaunchVic to encourage entrepreneurism in Geelong.
Pitched at local government and other people working in the local area, the annual event will be geared towards growing startup activity in the community.
The two conferences will run in conjunction in December, with the Thrive event running the day before the 2018 Pivot Summit, which has been extended to two days for the first time this year, and is expected to draw 1200 attendees.
Peter Dostis, founder and chief executive of Geelong-based startup accelerator Runway, tells StartupSmart the event will act as “a bit of a showcase”, raising awareness of Geelong startups among local government and proving that “regional Victoria has the capabilities to support startups”.
The funding from LaunchVic, the Victorian state government agency responsible for supporting startups, will also go towards other events designed to promote innovation and entrepreneurs in Geelong.
It follows a $2.4 million pledge from LaunchVic earlier this month, to accelerate startups based in regional and outer-metropolitan areas of Victoria, funding 15 projects across 26 local government areas, including bootcamps, workshops and hackathons.
Runway is also expanding its focus to other regional areas in Victoria. In March, it launched a new incubator in Ballarat, where Dostis says it is “unearthing startups and scaleups already”.
The accelerator is also running programs in the Warrnambool, Casey, Dandenong and Wyndham areas.
“The startups are there, and we’re showing that we’re getting the engagement in Geelong [and] seeing the same thing in Ballarat,” Dostis says.
However, Geelong is “probably the fastest-growing startup region” in Victoria, outside of Melbourne, Dostis says.
It’s gaining traction as a startup hub, and Dostis puts this partly down to a community that’s receptive to startups and innovation.
“Because Geelong is effectively a big country town, the community aspect is very tight,” he says.
“It’s easy to engage businesses and mentors who are more than willing to support startups.”
Runway participants have had local businesses as first customers, or as trial customers, and many continue to support the startups after the accelerator program, Dostis says.
However, he also believes the startup sector in Geelong is becoming increasingly strong because of the type of founders the area attracts.
Runway looks for founders that are “very committed to their particular idea”, he says. But, while 60% of Runway applicants come from outside of the Geelong region, by the bootcamp stages that figure is flipped, with 60% from the region.
Of those that get into the program, 77% are from the local region.
Having looked at the profiles of these startups, Dostis found they all “have the ability to execute, and the commitment to their idea”, he says.
“Startups from regional areas probably face a bit more adversity and less choice; they’re driven to make their particular idea succeed,” he adds.
Founders living in Geelong can benefit from the culture and community, while also maintaining a work-life balance that would be difficult if they had to travel to Melbourne.
“It seems to me that it does stem from the fact that they don’t want to drive to Melbourne,” Dostis says.
“That’s the motivation to drive them towards really backing their idea.”