Accelerator program Slingshot has launched its first travel-focused regional accelerator, welcoming 12 Queensland businesses with a passion for supporting the state’s tourism industry into its three-month program.
The Horizons accelerator will see two cohorts running consecutively, one in Brisbane and one in Cairns to better support regional entrepreneurs. Slingshot co-founder Craig Lambert says the decision to offer the accelerator in North Queensland will be a boost for regional entrepreneurship in the area.
“Talent is everywhere, not just in the capital cities,” Lambert tells StartupSmart.
“We thought, ‘how can we help the talent in regional areas be prepared to follow an ever-growing entrepreneurial pathway?”
Horizons is the first accelerator program Slingshot is running as part of a three-year engagement with the Queensland Government’s Advance Queensland initiative. It was the government’s desire to stimulate the startup community in the tourist hotbed of Cairns that led to the accelerator finding a home up north.
“The long-term plan is working with government to establish Queensland as a global hub for potential tourism and travel startups,” Lambert says.
The Cairns cohort will be run out of co-working space theSpace Cairns, and Lambert says working among a community of like-minded entrepreneurs is crucial for regional startups to looking to grow.
“One of the biggest challenges for regional entrepreneurs is probably access to other startup founders,” he says.
“If you look at the big cities and the sheer amount of people involved, in regional areas they don’t have access to those [startup communities].
“It can be quite isolating, but the great thing about the Australian startup community is it is very collaborative and supportive … it’s all about creating cohorts and bringing people together so they can learn from each other.”
Slingshot has previously run accelerators in regional areas like Newcastle, and Lambert is keen to replicate the success of the Newcastle program with the Horizons cohort.
“We firmly believe we can go into regional areas and give them access to funding and programs,” he says.
“We can do our bit to help grow startups from everywhere … we’ve found some amazing startups out of regional areas like Newcastle that have gone on to become high growth.”
Lambert says relocating to regional areas is also becoming a more attractive option for entrepreneurs tired of the high rents and daily grind of working in a big city.
“Lifestyle is becoming more and more important, work-life balance, family and affordability are becoming more important, and this all plays really well to giving regional centres,” he says.
“While access to customers at the early stage is always a challenge [in regional areas] … once you’ve got product market fit, you could be sitting on a boat in Cairns and still be delivering to your customers,” he says.
“Why wouldn’t entrepreneurs go to a regional centre for all the benefits it gives you?”
The 12-week program, which kicked off three weeks ago, will be facilitated by Startup Onramp founder and Queensland local Colin Kinner, and partner with Amadeus and Brisbane Airport Corporation to provide advice and mentoring to the chosen startups.
Selected startups will receive funding from Slingshot’s Venture Fund, and the amount invested in the startups entering the program differs from startup to startup, Lambert explains, as does the equity taken out of each startup.
“Our model is based on need — we’ve invested in some of the startups with different deals depending on where they are at [in their business] and some of the startups we’ve invited to the program with no funding and no equity,” Lambert says.
Two of the teams Horizons has taken on without any funding or equity stake in the business are Indigenous Tour Agency and Reef Restoration Foundation, which are not-for-profit organisations that will be supported and mentored throughout the program.
Meet the Horizons cohort
Rewildin: This startup describes itself as the ‘Airbnb for private camping, glamping, ecolodges and nature workshops’.
Tripshare: Tripshare is a collaborative holiday planner that allows friends and family to plan their holidays.
Jesi: Jesi offers journey management software to keep track of travellers and make sure they are connected and safe at all times.
RoomRanger: RoomRanger is a hotel management platform enabling boutique and independent hotels to deliver personalised guest services.
InnovaReviews: InnovaReviews helps manage guest reviews in a mobile-friendly platform.
EventDuck: Billed as the ‘Uber for travel agents’, EventDuck is designed to increase the efficiency and convenience of booking.
Transfer Buddy: This startup creates an app targeted at assisting travellers transiting through airports.
Wifi Palm: Wifi Palm is a pocket Wi-Fi rental service for overseas travellers.
Pelagic Dive Travel: This startup provides a booking platform for tourists looking to scuba dive.
Reef Restoration Foundation: The Reef Restoration Foundation looks to recover damaged tourism reefs using offshore coral nurseries.
Indigenous Tour Agency: This company provides Indigenous tours and activities to local and international tourists.
Local Tourism Network: The Local Tourism Network provides an online marketing solution for tourism businesses with the goal of driving customers.