Aussie tech entrepreneur to launch Startup House

Australian tech entrepreneur Elias Bizannes is preparing to launch his latest project, Startup House, which allows start-ups to cohabitate as they develop their ideas.

In addition to founding Silicon Beach, an online network for tech start-ups, Bizannes is also the brain behind the Startup Bus competition.

Now its second year, the Startup Bus was last held in March, featuring 150 tech enthusiasts grouped randomly into 38 teams.

In a 48-hour period, the teams each had to devise a start-up and create a website for it, all while on the road. The results were presented to a six-strong judging panel comprising entrepreneurs and investors, with the aim of turning the winners into real businesses.

The competition was designed to coincide with the SXSW festival – held in Austin, Texas – which showcases innovations in the tech, business, film and music industries.

Bizannes has now turned his attention to Startup House, which is tipped to become one of the largest co-working spaces in Silicon Valley.

According to Bizannes, the Startup House will be “like [start-up funding firm] Y Combinator and American Idol in a blender”.

“It’s a 36,000-square-foot space in the heart of the start-up district of San Francisco’s SoMa [district] that is to be transformed into a hub for technology entrepreneurs encompassing a co-working space, cafe and start-up house – a hostel for entrepreneurs where they will live, breath and eat start-ups for the duration of their stay,” Bizannes has said.

Bizannes says he thinks of himself as part of the “Australian mafia” – a group of Australian entrepreneurs based in Silicon Valley. It’s believed a selection of these people purchased the Startup House building as a joint project.

According to Bizannes, connections are the key to success in Silicon Valley, hence the decision to open the Startup House.

Bronwyn Clune, customer development manager at Australian incubator Pollenizer, describes the concept as fun yet worthwhile.

“It will probably shed a lot of light on start-ups… Living in a start-up house is certainly one way of proving your dedication. If it can educate people about tenacity, that’s a good thing,” Clune says.

The Pollenizer team recently tested a similar concept, sharing a house for two days to work on concepts for companies. Clune says the experiment was beneficial.

“It was a really interesting way for us to work alongside each other and bounce ideas off each other,” she says.

Phaedon Stough, co-founder of investment network Innovation Bay, says he has seen a rise in the number of incubators who regard co-sharing and co-location as “a really big thing”.

“Elias has taken things to another level, essentially developing a frat house scenario. I imagine it would be pretty intense; I’m not sure how it will go,” he says.

“Building a start-up is so intense – how do you get downtime [if you’re living together]?

“It will be interesting to see what Elias does around timeframe. How long will people live in the house before they get kicked out?”

According to Stough, the Startup House concept is more likely to appeal to a younger audience, which he said could be its downfall.

“That’s where it will fall down – older professionals are not going to go into a share house. The target demographic is very niche,” he says.

“Having said that, there are not enough entrepreneurs coming out of Australian universities, so a similar concept here could act as a feeder.”

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