6 / April / 2018

Connecting the dots: startup mission brings home bright ideas


Posted 6 April 2018

From flexible co-working spaces and shark tank-style pitch events to housing the headquarters of tech heavyweights Google and Facebook, the United States is taking the lead on startup culture and innovation. 

So, what does this mean for up-and-coming entrepreneurs and SMEs here in the Moreton Bay Region?

Last month, Regional Innovation Coordinator for Advance Queensland’s Advancing Regional Innovation Program (ARIP), Steve Butler, was chosen to attend a Startup Catalyst Community Leaders mission to the United States.

As part of the cohort for regional Queensland, he travelled to Denver, Boulder and San Francisco to witness first-hand the fast-paced startup culture and ecosystems in place.

Now back on home soil, and spearheading ARIP under new initiative ‘Innovate Moreton Bay’, Steve shares some highlights and insights from the trip.

Steve Butler enjoys the sights in San Francisco on the Startup Catalyst Community Leaders mission

Startup Community Leaders Mission

In total, 20 participants took part in the Startup Catalyst Community Leaders Mission from 11-18 March, 2018.

This included 14 people from 11 different regional towns in Queensland, three from Brisbane, one from Sydney, one from Adelaide, and one from New York.

“The key objective of the mission was to be exposed to different models, programs and spaces used overseas for providing support to founders, entrepreneurs and startups,” Steve said.

“It was also about building global awareness, discovering international best practices, and learning about the latest trends,” he said.

Why Boulder, Denver and San Francisco?

San Francisco and surrounding Bay Area is home to Silicon Valley, the epicentre of startup activity. It plays host to an estimated 27,000 startups and 15,000 investors, in addition to some of the top startup accelerators, incubators, co-working spaces, maker spaces, investor spaces and founder support groups.

Boulder (Colorado) is home and birthplace to top seed accelerator, Techstars, and has one of the highest per-capita rates of startup participation.

According to Steve, the trip was a whirlwind of more than 30 official events and meetings across seven full days on the ground, which saw the group attend co-working spaces, accelerators, university start-up hubs, maker groups and pitch events.

These included: Galvanise (co-working facility), Boomtown Accelerator, TEEM, CU Boulder Startup Hub Spark, Thrive Workplace, and the San Francisco Australian Landing Pad.

The Startup Catalyst cohort visiting '500 Startups' - early-stage venture fund and seed accelerator

Some of the highlights from the trip

‘Founders first’ mentality

When it comes to the question of just how America is paving the way for entrepreneurs and startups so successfully, Steve says it all comes back to the ‘founders first’ mentality and effective collaboration.

“One of our key observations from the mission was that individual founders, as opposed to entrepreneurs or startups, are the central focus,” he said.

“Everything they do circles around providing opportunities for founders, which is something we could adopt here in the Moreton Bay Region.

“Building strong founders builds strong core skills for startups, and this sort of thinking appears to contribute to their high-level of success rates among new businesses.”

He added that there are multiple accelerator opportunities in the United States compared to Australia and that entrepreneurs and co-working spaces are seen as a “cultural norm”, with strong backing from corporates right through to universities.

“Boulder, San Francisco and Silicon Valley have very established ecosystems. It was clearly seen that their innovation ecosystem is far more developed to what we currently have here in Australia.

“Everyone is willing to help everybody, and things happen at a much quicker pace, and on a much broader scale.”

Along with a ‘can-do’ mindset and distinct founder-focus, Steve says that Australia could learn a lot from America’s optimistic attitude towards startups and fresh ideas.

“We need to start celebrating our successes more, and highlighting our achievements.”


Innovate Moreton Bay

Drawing on his experiences in America, Steve will now apply his insights and connections to his role as Regional Innovation Coordinator for the Moreton Bay Region.

Thanks to $500,000 in funding secured over the next three years under ARIP, Innovate Moreton Bay will facilitate opportunities for founders, startups and local entrepreneurs.

This will be achieved through collaborative opportunities, partnerships, and local events (like upcoming tech expo Myriad and the 2018 Moreton Bay Region Business Excellence & Innovation Awards) – it’s all about ‘connecting the dots’.

Find out more

For more information on how you can get involved, or how Innovate Moreton Bay may be able to help you on your entrepreneurial journey, contact Steve Butler at Moreton Bay Region Industry & Tourism (MBRIT) on steve.butler@mbrit.com.au or 0412 911 546.

Learn more about Startup Catalyst on their official website, and check out some video highlights from the US Mission to Boulder and San Francisco at Beach City.

EVENT: Lessons in startup community building from Boulder and Silicon Valley, Thursday, 19 April at The Precinct, Fortitude Valley.





Thank you to the Queensland Government and Advance Queensland, and Startup Catalyst (facilitator of the US Startup Community Leaders mission) for the opportunity.