The Geelong start-up community – a year in reflection

startup-fundamental-elements-successA new year and the buzz within Runway is well and truly growing as we start to see our plans fall into place and we get closer to opening our doors to our first group of start-ups!

With a new year I always take the opportunity to reflect on what has happened over the previous 12 months.  This reflection gives me the chance to see what’s worked, what hasn’t, what I need to improve and how I am tracking to my goals.  Sometimes that reflection (as in this year) you get a “wow” moment!

In reflecting over the last year I realise how much activity is going on across Geelong in the start-up and entrepreneurial space and how this has accelerated over the last 6 months.

The focus of the start-up community is to attract and the support entrepreneurs with commercially viable ideas (i.e. there is a market that wants to buy their products or services) from ideation through to successfully launching their businesses.  At Runway our focus is on successfully launching scalable businesses that can grow across Australia and internationally.

The start-up community is by no means the only answer to job and business creation and there are many other excellent initiatives to create Jobs and support businesses in Geelong.  I focus on things I can impact and therefore the start-up community is where my focus is.

To have a successful start-up ecosystem you need five key elements:

  • A program to develop the start-ups skills in moving from ideation to launch of their business
  • Facilities to conduct training and give the start-ups a place they can work with other likeminded people
  • Mentors and coaches that can guide and support the start-ups
  • Access to capital for the start-ups
  • Launch and post launch support

Geelong has had a focus on start-ups and entrepreneurs for a while now with fantastic programs such as Upstart Challenge, Entrepreneurs Geelong and Small Business Smart Business that also have excellent mentors and coaches.  We’ve got Co-working facilities with Start-up Cloud, Codeacious and The Hive and we’ve got an event in Pivot Summit, which would rival any tech/start-up event in Australia.   Capital is available through Geelong Angels who also having funding links into other Venture Funds.

What is clear to me is how this transformation is accelerating at an exponential rate.   In the last 6 months alone;

  • Runway received $1.25M from the Victorian Government to fund the setup of an Accelerator program in Geelong
  • David Hamilton Group’s fantastic redevelopment of the Federal Mills is starting to attract a number of tech businesses and looks set to become a tech beacon for Geelong
  • Tribal announced their Asia Pacific headquarters would be consolidated from 3 sites across Australia to Geelong and to the Federal Mills
  • One10 launched their social enterprise accelerator in Geelong
  • G2 Innovations launched a small business focused version of their program called Destination Entrepreneur
  • GeeMap launched and produced a Beta version of their map of the Geelong start-up ecosystem (yes it’s fast becoming an ecosystem)!
  • Melbourne Businesses are starting to take note and closely following what is happening in Geelong as evidenced by Runway set to announce a partnership with a well-known incubator headquartered in Sydney.
  • The State Government and LaunchVic are actively supporting the Geelong Start-up ecosystem
  • Start-ups are taking note of all the activity as evidenced by Pivot Pitch which saw 50% of their 30 budding start-ups coming from Melbourne! Of the 12 finalists that pitched on the day, again 50% were from Melbourne.
  • Runway has had over 130 inquiries/expressions of interest into its program since September, with a number from Melbourne and this was with little main stream marketing and only social media coverage.

Looking back at all this activity over the past year you can see why I said “wow”.   There is a genuine excitement and belief across the community in what we are collectively doing.

Overarching all this is our Customer: the start-up; and like any good business we need to focus on providing the best products and services to our start-ups to make our start-up community competitive and differentiate it from other communities.  We need to do this by continuing to refine, pivot, improve, work together and maintain focus on our start-ups.

We still have a lot of work to do so if you want to get involved, find your niche or talk to someone in the start-up community and as my colleague and friend say’s, “let’s get &*%$ done”!

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