What is an ecosystem?

Australia is a small place in terms of people, with a big geographic spread. So how should we think about a startup ecosystem?

✍️ Words by Phaedon Stough, CEO & Co-Founder, Innovation Bay

Image by Saidie Creative

What is an ecosystem? 

This week saw LaunchVic commence their campaign called Startups Start Here. We love LaunchvVc! They funded the start of our amazing Horizon (angel investor) community three years ago and without them, Horizon wouldn’t exist. But also because of how they think about, support and build an ecosystem. The campaign is all about drawing startups to set up in Victoria and it has uncovered some amazing stats, including:

We have also been lucky enough to partner with NSW Gov, who are amazing and take a long term view.  The investment that the NSW government is making into startups is truly remarkable and we work specifically with their international trade group, which focuses on helping startups scale beyond Australia. They also help and advise not just NSW based startups; they take a national view, which is inspiring. We’ve also worked with the QLD government and SA Government. But I think the benchmark is New Zealand. We have been lucky enough to work with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and wow…what an organisation. Not only the people they hire but also in the way they think about helping founders.   

This really got me thinking, what is a startup ecosystem? Australia is a small place in terms of people, with a big geographic spread. So how should we think about a startup ecosystem? Well of course I asked ChatGPT. Here’s some takeaways from it’s output:

A startup ecosystem is a network of individuals, institutions, and resources that support the growth and success of startups. It includes a range of elements such as entrepreneurs, investors, accelerators, incubators, coworking spaces, universities, government agencies, and other organizations that work together to create an environment that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship.

Overall, a startup ecosystem is a dynamic and interconnected network of people, institutions, and resources that supports the growth and success of startups and helps to drive innovation and economic development.

I then asked about the Australian startup ecosystem. What is interesting, Australia doesn’t really have a startup ecosystem, Melbourne/Victoria has one, Sydney has one, Adelaide, Brisbane…get my gist?

Australia has a relatively strong and growing startup ecosystem, but it is not currently ranked among the top startup ecosystems in the world. However, it is worth noting that Australia has made significant strides in recent years to support the growth of its startup community.

Some of the challenges facing Australia’s startup ecosystem include a relatively small market size, limited access to capital compared to some other countries, and a shortage of skilled workers in certain areas. 

And this is what I wanted to ask all of you….Should we be thinking of an “Australian tech ecosystem or is it all about regions?” Would Australia be better served from a Federal Government approach, rather than States? We’d love to hear your thoughts HERE

Here are my thoughts… 

We have an AIS, which seems to be a global example of how to centre a community and pool resources, but also leverage different localities. Is there an example of this work in tech in Australia?  

By creating regional expertise within a national context, would it not pool resources more effectively, eg. is Melbourne the MedTech hub of Australia? Is Queensland/Brisbane the Robotics Hub of Australia or is Sydney the Fintech Hub of Australia? In that instance, would there ever be a case where the NSW Government would fund a MedTech business to relocate to Victoria? 

One thing we do here at Innovation Bay is take a national view. We strongly believe that empowering founders to connect with other founders not specifically in their geography adds a tremendous amount of value. 

So…what does Innovation Bay do to help the startup ecosystem in Australia? 

  1. We don’t think about it in terms of regions, but rather a whole
  2. We drive capital into early stage founders
  3. We support founders on the journey to realise their dreams and ambitions
  4. We acknowledge, highlight and celebrate both success and failure
  5. We build communities that work collective for the betterment of the industry

That is pretty awesome. I feel very privileged to be working in this business. If someone said, you will be running a membership business, there is no way I would have thought it would align with my dreams and goals in life. Because, in all honesty, membership businesses are a bit weird.  They have this strange connotation about them, part ponzi scheme, part bullshit exclusive club…but that is not how I consider or think of this business. I think of it as a community – a bunch of really awesome people who come together, have a good time and share common passions and, in many ways, skills – such as entrepreneurialism. 

Our vision is indeed to help the ecosystem thrive, but unlike the Tech Council of Australia, which is all about being the voice of the ecosystem (which is so awesome and what a great organisation – pending podcast with the CEO), our future is about supporting individual elements (founders and investors) in the ecosystem to perform at a higher level. 

Sometimes it is simpler to say what we are not: 

  1. A lobby group for the industry
  2. An events business
  3. A professional sales network 
  4. A recruitment body

We are, and always will be, driven by the evolution of our society through adoption of innovative, disruptive technologies that enhance how we do business, connect, learn and grow as a supportive society. Technology, like everything in life, has the potential to cause great harm, as well as immense positivity, in medicine, education and our day to day lives. Our mission is to help those founders and investors who choose to be part of our communities to make better decisions, learn from each other, support each other and really at the end of the day, not to go off the deep end, because growing something from nothing is extremely hard and painful.

Want to be a part of our community? Drop us a line HERE.

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