A look back at Innovation Bay’s biggest year yet!

This year marked the 15th anniversary of when Phaedon and I co-founded Innovation Bay. We started it with the sole purpose of helping other founders be successful and to build a strong startup ecosystem in Australia. It’s been quite a ride from those initial gatherings of a few people in a nightclub bar in Darling Harbour, to now a growing national community of over 3500 members, $35M+ raised by startups pitching at our dinners, hundreds of events hosted, and the growth of the IB team.

2018 was a year of firsts for us. We often forget to stop, take a breath and appreciate our accomplishments, but looking back, 2018 has been our biggest year yet.

2018 in numbers

New Pathways for founders

This year saw the commencement of our first founder education program: Pathways to Investment in Victoria, supported by LaunchVic. The program is designed to equip founders with the knowledge and networks to effectively engage investors and achieve greater fundraising success. Each program brought together a group of early stage founders, with expert advice, guidance and support provided by a range of investors, experts and mentors to to better prepare founders as they raise their first significant round of funding. It was an impressive group of young startups who I’m sure will continue to do great things in 2019.

Program 1: Bring Me Home — Jane Kou, Colleago — Adrian Di Natale, MUVi — Michael Dean, Personifi — Brett Joffe, Postie — Pete Davis, Reputationaire — Andrew Hine, Risk Dynamyx — Luke Percy-Dove, ShiftSimple — Kas Taleb

Program 2: CyclePort — Al Reid, Ecango — Victoria Tran, Ohm Power — Matthew Race, Portfolio Cloud — Simon Cunnington, Smart Paddock — Darren Wolchyn, Style Sourcebook — Lisa Cousens, Zero Impact — Max Middleweek

For any Victorian founders, applications are now open for Pathways 3! Apply here: https://www.coventured.com/programs/view/170

Pathways 2 (From left to right), Max Middleweek (Zero Impact), Justin Williams (Melbourne Ambassador), Peter Van Den Berg (Viridi), Ivan Shaw, (Ecango), Lisa Cousens (StyleSource), Darren Wolchyn (Smart Paddock), Sian Priest (IB General Manager), Al Reid (CyclePort)

More startups than ever!

This year’s Startup Muster report revealed a drop in startups compared to 2017, however at Innovation Bay we received more startup pitch applications than ever before. In addition, the calibre of companies we reviewed was at an all time high, with more founders focused on solving real-world problems using some of the best tech-driven solutions we’ve ever seen.

For our first vertical-specific dinner we partnered with CSIRO’s ON Accelerator, which fast-tracks science and technology research into ventures that will shape our future. The Deep Tech Founder Dinner featured 5 innovation projects coming from of Universities and CSIRO which included Diffuse Energy, Hyperdrive, GroverCloud180Cam and NoisyGuts.

Samuel Evans (Diffuse Energy) pitching at the DeepTech Founder Dinner

In July, we hosted our largest investment dinner to date, this time fintech focused. KPMG High Growth Ventures reported a five-fold increase in the number of fintech startup companies in Australia over the past 5 years, and the quality of our applicants paralleled the incredible growth of this sector. On the night, guests were treated to pitches from Waterfind Australia, Easyshare, Biza•io, Incent Loyalty, and Portfolio Cloud — all disrupting facets of the financial industry.

We also want to shout out all the other fantastic startups that pitched in 2018! AgUnity, Beam, BreezeDocsGeoSnapShotGoFARInkerzInspaceXRInstatruck, Iron Matrix, LaconikNeighbourlyticsOurSayPokitPalProjectPaySwoop AeroSymbiotTanNinety, and TieUp Farming,

If you’d like to apply for one our Founder Dinners, applications are open for next Melbourne and our AI-focused happening in early 2019.

Recap of events

We kicked 2018 off with a panel featuring some of Australia’s leading accelerator operators: James Tynan (Startmate), Julie Trell (muru-D), Karen Lawson (Slingshot) & Toby Heap (H2 Ventures). We’ve seen Aussie accelerators play a pivotal role in supporting local startups so we asked the panelists to break down their USP, the successes and lessons learned from previous programs, and talk about the future role of accelerators in our ecosystem.

We also hosted a number of brilliant speakers:

A room full of founders (and incredible sunset) at the Jane Martino Focus Dinner in Melbourne

Some other noteworthy speakers at our events included: Craig Davis (SendleJustin Webb and Kevin Baum (AgriWebb), Luke Anear (Safety Culture), Natalie Nguyen (HyperAnna), Rob Loewenthal (Whooshkaa) & Terry Agnew (RAC).

Venture Capital invested in Australia hit a record $1 billion in 2018 according! This maturity in local venture sparked the discussion at our final our Year in VC 2018 panel. We were joined by over 200 community members to hear from panelists, Daniel Petre (AirTree), Niki Scevak (Blackbird), Tony Holt (SquarePeg Capital), and Katherine McConnell (Brighte) who looked back at this record year and discussed their predictions for 2019. Each placed a strong emphasis on providing more value to founders than just ‘money and cheerleading,’ and stressed the need for immigration in attracting top talent.

Year in VC Panel. (From left to right), moderator Ian Gardiner (Innovation Bay), Tony Holt (Square Peg Capital), Katherine McConnell (Brighte), Niki Scevak (Blackbird) & Daniel Petre (AirTree)

Our partnership with national startup conferences exposed us to even more brilliant people in the ecosystem. At Blackbird Ventures’ Sunrise Island, we had the chance to speak with amazing keynote presenters including: Laurie Yoler (Zoox), Cedar Anderson (FlowHive), and Tobi Pearce (Sweat). Check out the Sunrise Island podcast specials here: Part 1 and Part 2.

Similarly, we spent a few days in Perth in early December for WA’s West Tech Fest, where again we mingled with the local community and chatted to fantastic keynote speakers such as, Marvin Liao (500 Startups), Olivia Humphrey (Kanopy), Larry Lopez (Accelerating Commercialisation) and Silicon Valley VC Bill Tai — podcasts to be released in the new year!

In total, we hosted 40 events in 2018 and shared the stories of exceptional founders and investors across Australia.

Venture Downunder

Our most ambitious events to date was our conference for ANZ’s growing VC community, ‘Venture Downunder.’ We brought together 45 local and international venture capitalists, and 12 growth stage founders to the stunning and remote Lake Ohau in New Zealand for 3 days of talks, designed to strengthen relationships within the VC community and showcase . Shoutouts to Amit Verma and the New Zealand Trade Enterprise, KPMG and Gilbert + Tobin for partnering with us on such a stellar event. Read our #VDU2018 wrap!

Benjamin Chong (Right Click Capital) moderating a panel with Judy Hsu (Gilbert & Tobin), William Deane (Exto Partners) and Hein Vogel (Investec Australia) #VDU2018

Team IB

Big year from the team; Phaedon played a major role in KPMG HGV’s Founder Program, sharing his wealth of knowledge for attracting talent and building successful teams with growth stage founders. Sian successfully conceived and ran our first two successful Pathways to Investment Programs, Leo joined as our Event Manager and newest addition to the team, and also, in case you hadn’t heard, after 4 wonderful years I moved on from my job at AWS to work with Jelix Ventures and more closely on Innovation Bay (I wrote all about it here). The team is as dedicated as ever to having a positive impact on the national ecosystem and if you’d like to join us, we’re looking for a Community Engagement Manager, get in touch to [email protected] if you love startups and are interested in joining our small but mighty team.

Phaedon, Leo, Sian and me at NZ’s spectacular Lake Ohau

2018 #startupaus highs

A real positive was the emergence of startups hubs like Sydney Startup Hub and the Goods Shed in Melbourne. As evident from other global cities, the clustering of startups has a positive impact on bringing all the players in an ecosystem together — so it’s great to see it happening in Australia, and to be a tenant of Fishburners at the SSH. I’m looking forward to seeing the new startup hub coming to Adelaide old Royal Hospital site and further announcements for the Startup Precinct at Central Station in Sydney next year.

The conversation around founder health and wellbeing was much needed. KPMG High Growth Ventures released a Founder Study that reported a significant increase in mental health problems within entrepreneurs vs non-entrepreneurs, as well as a link between founder wellbeing with business performance. Similarly, Alex Scandurra, CEO of Stone and Chalk also wrote about the toll of starting a business, impacting not only one’s mental health, but also emotional, spiritual and financial health. I’m glad we are starting to have an open and honest discussion about this issue.

2018 #startupaus lows

Sadly Federal Government continue to miss the mark when it comes to #startupaus. The visa debacle preventing startups attracting top global talent continues — just 1 visa granted this year!

The Government’s crackdown on R&D tax incentives, and the recent passing of the disastrous AABill, an anti-encryption law which undermines the overall security of businesses and privacy of users, both pose huge threats to our local startups and Australia’s attractiveness to overseas technology companies, both make our industry weaker. I urge everyone to complete this StartupAUS survey and have your say on how this will impact your business.

What to expect from IB in 2019

If you thought 2018 was big, next year will be even bigger!

Coming soon, the Innovation Bay Hub, an online community platform to create greater connectivity and visibility across our membership.

A sneak peak of our new online community hub!

We’re launching a national peer networking group for growth stage startups called The Summit Club. The high-performance leadership program will help later stage founders develop the skills that needed to successfully grow their businesses.

And we’re bringing IB to Queensland! Save the date for our first Brisbane Breakfast in February, with Go1 co-founder & CEO, Andrew Barnes, and investor, Steve Baxter.

Plus, more industry-focused Founder Dinner’s (AI, AgTech, DeepTech, Property, Health), Venture Downunder 2019, and more bringing the community together to be learn, get inspired and network at our events.

None of this would be possible without the help from our incredible sponsors: thank you KPMG High Growth Ventures, Macquarie, AWS, and Commonwealth Bank, whose ongoing support of Innovation Bay has been imperative to us being able to support the tech industry.

Over the last 15 years we’ve seen the landscape for Australian startups ecosystem transform and we’d like to also say a final thanks to our loyal and remarkable members who remain at the core of our community. We’re grateful to everyone who has helped us in any shape or form this year, and we’re excited to have you all on the journey with us for 2019.

Wishing a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.

Ian, Phaedon, Sian & Leo