Look at the leading and rapidly growing startup ecosystems around the world, and you will find that they have at least one key thing in common: government support.
Routinely acknowledged as a leader around Australia is the Victorian Government, which has made good on its 2014 election promise to put $60 million towards the state’s startup ecosystem. The result is LaunchVic, an independent organisation working to support and highlight the work of Victorian startups.
Announcing its launch in 2015, Victorian Minister for Small Business, Innovation, and Trade Philip Dalidakis said the organisation aims to “provide the right environment for entrepreneurs to develop, incubate, and grow early-stage innovative businesses”.
At the helm of LaunchVic is Dr Kate Cornick.
Having worked in a variety of roles in organisations ranging from government to universities through to running HR tech startup Rision and helping it list on the ASX, Cornick said her work at LaunchVic brings together her “rather eclectic career”.
She said, “It brings together all those various parts into one role that is a combination of government, passion for the startup industry, and knowledge of the sector, while doing something to benefit a community. I saw it as a great way to be involved and contribute to the development of something that I’m really passionate about, and it’s not often you get asked to do that.”
A core part of LaunchVic’s work is administering that $60 million in the form of funding grants to innovative businesses.
With the first round of grants announced and the second coming early this year, LaunchVic is now in the process of developing its broader strategy.
It is this that Cornick will be discussing in a keynote at Pause 2017’s Tech Day, looking at the roadmap going forward for LaunchVic as it looks to make Victoria’s startup ecosystem a global leader.
“We’ve got grants and other programs, so what we’re thinking about now is, where should we be focused? There are lots of fabulous ideas out there, but what are the ones that are really going to make a difference, where are the market failures, what are we going to address?” Cornick said.
As well as supporting the key parts of the ecosystem, from coworking spaces, accelerators, incubators, meet ups, events, mentoring systems, and skilled founders that bring their experience back for new entrepreneurs, Cornick believes the tech and startup community must also address its marketing problem.
It’s no secret that the Federal Government’s ‘ideas boom’ campaign failed to take off; rather than booming, the innovation talk was overshadowed at last year’s Federal Election by other concerns.
As Labor’s Ed Husic, whose Chifley electorate sits in Western Sydney, put it during an election campaign debate last year, much of mainstream Australia thinks that innovation means the loss of jobs.
“This is about explaining to the broader community what is it we do when we champion innovation, what does it mean? We’re all excited about it, but people in the broader community aren’t; I represent an electorate 40km away from [the Sydney CBD], and if I went and had this debate in the Mt Druitt library, I don’t think many people would get what we’re talking about,” Husic explained.
Cornick agrees that this has been a problem, and it’s this she wants to help fix.
“This is about building community and the culture of our community, and I think we need to look at how we expand that. There’s a real concern among a portion of the Australian, and therefore Victorian, people that innovation is something to fear, that it means closure of the automotive sector, mine closure, disrupting jobs, creating a risk for future generations in terms of jobs, and so it’s been perceived as something that’s very negative,” Cornick said.
“We need to do things to turn that on its head and actually make the sector more inclusive and open so people aren’t afraid of innovation.”
In fact, Cornick believes that many of those who may be afraid of innovation as a disruptive force may actually be some of the most innovative people around.
“They’re the people in their garages on the weekend fixing things and building things, so we are a very entrepreneurial culture but it doesn’t necessarily translate to our jobs choices,” Cornick explained.
“We have a lot of people that can build things, but they’re not building them for their jobs, they’re building them for their pleasure, and they probably don’t think of themselves as an entrepreneur. We need to change that.”
A key way to broaden the community is through events, which is why LaunchVic has chosen to support Pause 2017.
“Given the sectors Pause 2017 is addressing, and in particular the way it brings together a diverse audience across the tech, creative, and business spheres, it’s a great opportunity for the community to come together and network, and we know networking is an important part of growing ideas and community,” Cornick said.
Pause Fest 2017 will take place at Federation Square on the 8th-10th of February 2017. Tickets can be purchased here.