Brisbane set to become a new player in startup race

I’m not trying to start a fight here, I promise.

Since the dawn of the 1990’s, Australia’s young entrepreneurs and budding startup founders have looked to the country’s economic hub, Sydney, to begin their businesses.

It’s no surprise that Sydney ranks highest regarding new startups, with 35% of the country’s startup’s, followed by Melbourne at 14% and Brisbane at 9%, but it looks like that’s all about to change.

In recent years, Brisbane has seen the development of an impressive startup cohort in the city. Already home to a well-established tech community, the recent slew of new state-sponsored incentives, investment and funding programmes, as well as considered state government plans to make the city an international hub for tech and innovation, has meant  for a meteoric boom in Queensland’s startup industry, and there are no signs of it slowing down.

There has also been a sizable industry-wide push to make the state’s capital more tech-friendly.  Brisbane-based startup TravelbyBit announced a partnership with the Brisbane Airport in January of this year, declaring that the Brisbane Airport Corporation was “working with TravelbyBit to bring decentralised blockchain-enabled payments into its terminal shopping’.

River city lab, Stephen Baxter, brisbane

Stephen Baxter.

Several industry gurus are at the forefront of the state-wide shift, with River City Labs (RCL) Managing Director, Stephen Baxter, leading the pack. In conjunction with muru-D, River City Labs has opened applications for the RCL Accelerator program, providing a combination of large investment, seed capital and world-class training to young startups successful in the process.

RCL’s involvement doesn’t stop there, having recently partnered with Bank Of Queensland to provide even more opportunities for young startups to connect with more branches of investment, further strengthening Brisbane’s energetic startup community.

The existence of such influential programmes is a recent revelation, but one which is spelling large growth and encouraging a vibrancy in the startup community of Brisbane, the likes of which have previously only been in central hubs of Sydney and Melbourne.

Exciting things happening

The Queensland Government has injected the startup ecosystem with brand new initiatives and greater state-funding combined with the Advancing Small Business Strategy handing out 743 grants for new startups last year.

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With the help of brand new initiatives like the HotDesQ program, handing out a cool $100,000 to any new startups willing to relocate their business to QLD, as well as the appointment of an ‘Entrepreneur-In-Chief’ of the whole state, overseeing all things related to new startups.

The latest addition made to further bolster the startup community in Brisbane has been the opening of The Capital, a commerce hub now home to more than 200 home-grown start-ups, which came with a $5 million investment from the City of Brisbane as part of the Brisbane 2022 New World City Action Plan.

The creation of the state-wide tech-hub; The Capital, was a move welcomed by all in the QLD tech community, including the Little Tokyo Two founder, Jock Fairweather, stating recently that “The Capital has offered Little Tokyo Two the opportunity to provide what we thought was missing in the ecosystem – a space that could host scaled startups, venture capitalists, mentors and corporate innovation teams in a space that is conveniently co-located with startup innovators”.

Ex-Fishburners Chief Executive, Murray Hurps, also weighed in on Brisbane ’s developments in new tech and innovation infrastructure, expressing that Brisbane was the ‘ideal location for his company’s next Australian venture, outside of its base in Sydney’.

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In an effort to further increase the vibrancy of their startup community, the City of Brisbane has even taken to taking out government-sponsored bus shelter ads in other tech hubs around the country, with ads being spotted in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

Several other incentive programmes and schemes point towards a state-wide push to make the city of Brisbane a player in the global tech community.

The Advance Queensland Initiative is a sponsored funding programme which drives innovation and tech advances in the state, as well as being a platform for those in the startup community to connect and network with other industry professionals in promoting greater collaborative sector development.

Another great programme for young founders and entrepreneurs is the QLD Startup Events and Activities Fund; a state-sponsored investment scheme offering new business the chance to apply for upwards of 50% funding to total activity costs, with the aim to further strengthen Brisbane’s already brimming startup community.

Not all are sold on the status of Brisbane’s tech community, however.

Some remain skeptical of the breadth of talent and technical know-how available, like Brisbane’s own Damien Vasta, Founder of Sniip who  recently spoke to Smart Company; “I still think it’s not quite as easy to find the skill level of technical staff the same as you can find them in the southern states”.

Despite this, Mr Vasta remains optimistic, and not hard to see why. 

The prevailing mentality seems to be that the QLD startup community has a lot to offer, and the state-government appears more than willing to support its growth and development, through the generation of programmes and schemes aimed at promoting new and innovative ideas.

“Brisbane has a strong entrepreneurial spirit and has a track record of producing ground-breaking startups with world-changing ideas,” said Mr Hurps. 

With the level of activity in the startup ecosystem as well as inspired government efforts to support the community, it won’t be long before Brisbane goes from being an underdog to a genuine contender.

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Brisbane set to become a new player in startup race
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