TechEd startup panel sees improving ecosystem in Australia

Windows Phone developer Project Tripod upbeat on Nokia acquisition

Startups and incubators discuss the state of the startup scene at TechEd. Credit: Adam Bender

Startups and incubators discuss the state of the startup scene at TechEd. Credit: Adam Bender

Finding funding for startups remains a challenge in Australia but the ecosystem is improving, according to a startup panel at the TechEd conference on the Gold Coast.

“It’s challenging to get funding,” said George Slavov, partner of Nubis, a Brisbane startup that has built an augmented reality app showing the location of social media buzz. “You either have to go overseas for a large investment or you have to find a way to self-fund.”

Nearly 11 per cent of adults in Australia are involved in entrepreneurial work, but only 39 per cent of those individuals have access to investment necessary to make their ideas into reality, said Sarah Vaughan, Microsoft developer and platform evangelist.

Lawrence Fox, co-founder of Brisbane startup Co-opRating, agreed that finding money remains a challenge for Australian startups but said he is “feeling better and better about the funding scene all the time”.

Brisbane is a growing and “changing scene”, said Fox, whose startup is building a collaboration and skills search platform meant to compete with LinkedIn. “We’ve had some quite high profile exits”, including the recent acquisition by Twitter of music startup We Are Hunted, he said. He also pointed to a recent social innovation fund that has opened there.

“I really feel like we’re on the verge of something,” he said. “That’s what you need. You need a good exit, you need a good international story and you need the world seeing that we work hard and we don’t cost quite that much.”

Catherine Eibner, startup advisor at incubator Blue Chilli, also voiced optimism about Australia’s startup ecosystem.

Most early-stage startups are still self-funding or receiving investment from friends and family, she said. “But then at a later stage it’s corporates", including Microsoft’s BizSpark program, she said. Government incentives are also growing, especially in New South Wales, she said.

Eibner also praised the creation of StartupAus, a startup industry group led by Google, co-working space Fishburners, startup mentorship group StartMate, Southern Cross Ventures and others. The group recently announced a festival of startup events called Startup Spring.

“There’s some key spokespeople in the startup industry around Australia involved in that with the key goal of building global businesses based in Australia,” Eibner said.

Project Tripod is a photography app startup from Sydney that received €50,000 in corporate funding from Microsoft and Nokia. The company is working on an app for Windows Phone that uses software to mimic the effect of taking multiple photos over time on a tripod.

The company’s co-founder, Jordan Knight, said he’s upbeat on the recent acquisition of Nokia’s Lumia smartphone line by Microsoft. “For us it can only mean good things,” said Knight, cautioning that he hasn’t had much time to process the announcement. “We’ll just wait and see other announcements on CEO and things.”

Technology startups could provide the next big economic boom for Australia,” said Pip Marlow, general manager of Microsoft Australia. “We need to think about the future, what is our next resource boom and how do we think about the assets not below the ground but above the ground.

“Our number one asset in that side of things is our people, and the power and potential of the thought that we have.”

Adam Bender travelled to the Gold Coast for TechEd as a guest of Microsoft.

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Techworld Australia on Twitter: @Techworld_AU

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Tags AustraliabrisbaneSydneystartupsTechEdfundingincubatorstartup sceneBlue Chillistartup ecosystem

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