The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) has opened entries for this year’s Regional Online Heroes competition, which looks to uncover startups and small-to-medium-businesses (SMBs) across regional Australia innovating online.
Under a partnership with Google Australia, the program will see ten chosen finalists travel to Google’s local base in Sydney to attend a workshop on digital marketing, where they will have the opportunity to network and hone their online skills.
Opening the door to a range of businesses across Australia, RAI said it wants to encourage every type of “online hero” to the program, including bricks-and-mortar stores that have expanded online, and digital platforms delivering solutions to regional Australians.
To apply for the competition, regionally-based startups and SMBs with less than 200 employees are required to provide evidence of how their product has grown using the internet, how it helped them reach new customers, what types of technologies the business uses, and how the Google workshop will help benefit them.
A non-for-profit organisation established in 2012 to support regional businesses with seed funding from the Australian Government, the RAI launched the Regional Online Heroes competition in 2015, garnering over 330 entries into the competition over the years.
Among the previous finalists in the program are NSW startup The Rural Woman, an online networking platform working to break down the barriers for women in rural Australia starting online businesses, as well as Therapy Connect, a telehealth platform connecting remote users to therapy sessions online, such as speed therapy.
Out of the total finalists drawn over the period, the RAI reported that 80 percent have been women, with the regional “cluster” of Byron, Ballina and Lismore in NSW showing the one of the highest application rates, rivalled by Victorian regional areas such as Warrnambool.
Michael McCormack, Minister for Small Business and a returning judge for the competition, said, “The success of finalists from the 2015 and 2016 Regional Online Heroes programs demonstrates what can be achieved when regional small businesses turn their minds to developing new opportunities through clever use of digital and online technologies to grow their business and create regional jobs.”
Joining McCormack on the judging panel will be RAI CEO Jack Archer, Google Australia’s MD of marketing solutions John Ball, Birdsnest founder Jane Cay, TV presenter David Koch, and Indigenous scholar Dr Sandra Phillips.
Also extending its reach to regional startups is Beyond Bank’s Community Entrepreneur Program, which is set to wrap up applications for its grant program today.
Aiming to target both idea-stage and established startups in South Australia, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra, as well as the Northern, Hunter Valley and Riverina regional areas, the bank is offering $250,000 worth of grants to successful applicants.
Image: Regional Online Heroes 2015 Winner. Source: Supplied.