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Adelaide: the start-up capital of Australia

Education

WHEN Lonely Planet listed Adelaide as one of the top 10 cities in the world to visit in 2014, people started to sit up and take notice. 

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The New York Times Magazine later agreed, suggesting tourists give Sydney a miss and fly south to the centre of the country's coastline because the city's revised liquor laws had seen “a boom in boutique bars.”

But look beyond the city's gin bars and you'll hear the hum of an innovative start-up scene that's been growing steady momentum in the last few years.

In the last five years, Adelaide has seen 116 innovation programs, including 18 co-working spaces and 13 incubator programs emerge, resulting in a rich entrepreneurial ecosystem that's lured entrepreneurs from both interstate and abroad.

Emil Davityan and Filip Eldic, co-founders of GPS software company, Bluedot, were accepted into Adelaide's ANZ Innovyz START program, designed to help start-ups, existing businesses and entrepreneurs commercialise their ideas and grow..

Davityan said the main motivation to start in South Australia “was a really comprehensive accelerator program that included mentorship and a range of other supporting services” in Adelaide.

“The mentors, advisors, business people, and investors from around the Adelaide ecosystem was fantastic,” he said.

The program introduced Davityan and Eldic to their very first investors, a move he recalls showed a lot of faith in them and their future business.”To be honest I don't believe the company would be here had we not participated in the accelerator program.

“We just wouldn't have had guidance or understanding to be able to pivot from our original idea to a much more scalable and globally relevant idea,” said Davitay.

Today, Bluedot is based in Melbourne and San Francisco and their success since leaving the program has been “meteoric,” said Innovyz director Brett Jackson.

Bluedot's story is one of many on a growing list of tech companies starting up in Adelaide and exporting new technologies around the globe.

Adelaide based 3D printing software company, Makers Empire, are just shy of celebrating their second birthday and are exporting their educational software to schools and colleges around Australia, the US, Hong Kong, Korea and India.

Co-founder Roland Peddie attributes the rapid rise of the company to the on-going support of mentors they met in Adelaide during the same three-month business accelerator program.

He said given the competitive nature of developing an idea into a viable business, the network that exists for entrepreneurs in Adelaide is uniquely open.”People are willing to share their experience and knowledge without necessarily expecting anything in return,” he said.

In the last five years Innovyz has assisted 51 companies raise more than AUD 27 million dollars.

“We look for global innovation that transforms industry sectors and hand in hand with that, what we look for in founders is trust, coachability, a willingness to share equity in their business with investors and just real passion for what they do,” said Jackson.

Jackson has recently been spruiking Adelaide's start-up success in Hangzhou, China.

He said, like Adelaide, Hangzhou offers entrepreneurs a huge range of accelerator programs.

“They have 100 incubators in one city, but they just don't have DNA skillsets or the ecosystem that we have here in South Australia,” he said.

The wave of networking events, start-up weekends, incubator programs, and co-working spaces emerging in Adelaide prompted a coordinated approach to how entrepreneurs were accessing these services.

In 2012, Paul Daly, now the Adelaide City Council's innovation and entrepreneurship advisor, was tasked with the challenge of mapping Adelaide's entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“There was just so much happening, and I think partly because we had mentors working across programs they were creating a level of awareness of what else was happening in the ecosystem,” said Daly.

He began mapping the university programs, meet-ups groups and events through to the accelerator programs, government grants and venture capital funds.

“We tried to put the categories in some kind of order that made sense for someone entering into the ecosystem, but the reality is that people come in at different points and jump around all over the place.”

What's been powerful in mapping Adelaide's entrepreneurial ecosystem is the way it has helped raise awareness of the support available.

“For others, in the ecosystem, it gives us a way of seeing what's missing, what's working and who should be collaborating with who,” said Daly.

There's been a lot of international attention on the map in recent years and reaction of people overseas has been one of envy.

“People say 'oh this is fantastic, we want one of our city',” but there isn't any great science to the map, he said.It's has been the level of discussion, awareness and collaboration that has happened as a result of the map that has differentiated the space in Adelaide.

“The visibility of the map has helped us to have a level of coordination that isn't matched anywhere else in Australia, and probably few places in the world,” he said.

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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