Today you’re going to hear the story of the Startup Xpress. Here’s the itinerary for today’s journey.
First, as we head off, we’ll meet the man whose idea it was to put the key in the ignition of the Startup Xpress.
Then we’ll meet the organisers who pulled everything together and the organisations who have come along.
We’ll take a pitstop and meet some of the founders and hear about one of the main objectives and most valuable aspects of the Startup Xpress.
Then before we meet the politicians at parliament house we’ll talk about the changing Hunter region.
Then after parliament house, we’ll tour Sydney Startup Hub and talk to the startups again and hear how the Startup Xpress has impacted them.
Welcome aboard the Startup Xpress thanks to the Business Centre and Hunter iF. Let’s hit the road.
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Adam: Do you hear that?
That’s a bus full of more than 30 people. From innovators and startup founders to support organisations like the Business Centre and Hunter iF and they are representing the very best of Newcastle and The Hunter Region.
We’re about to set off on a journey down the m1 pacific motorway from Newcastle to Sydney’s Parliament House, Sydney Startup Hub and Launch Festival.
We’re also on another journey. A much larger journey and the Startup Xpress is simply one part of that journey. A journey similar to that of other regions around Australia, a journey into the future.
The Hunter is also benefiting in some respects from necessity to adapt and change and for people to create their own work and find their own opportunities, because there has been a lot of transition, particularly over the last 20 years.
As we approach Sydney on this trip we’ll hear more about that journey, but why are we even doing this?
We’re here to try and score some customers. We’re here to open doors. So familiar yourselves with each other. Talk to everyone you can. If those people that you speak to can’t open doors for you or are not customers for you, if you know they can help someone else, please refer them to someone else. We want these three days full of opportunity. We did it last year, we had some great times and we opened some amazing doors. We need to do it again!
Alright, here’s the itinerary for today’s journey.
First as we head off, we’ll meet the man whose idea it was to put the key in the ignition of the Startup Xpress.
Then we’ll meet the organisers who pulled everything together and the organisations who have come along.
We’ll take a pitstop and meet some of the founders and and hear about one of the main objectives and most valuable aspects of the Startup Xpress.
Then before we meet the politicians at parliament house we’ll talk about the changing Hunter region.
Then after parliament house we’ll tour Sydney Startup Hub and talk to the startups again and hear how the Startup Xpress has impacted them.
Welcome aboard the Startup Xpress thanks to the Business Centre and Hunter iF, let’s hit the road.
Hi, I’m Adam Spencer and welcome to day one, where we go back to the very beginning to share the stories of incredible Australian startups and the organisations that support them.
Today is a special episode about a program called the Startup Xpress.
S-T-A-R-T, U-P, X-P-R-E-S-S. Did I spell that right?
We’re now into the Startup Xpress’ second year. There isn’t a single person who could be more proud of its success than the man whose idea it was. I’d like you to meet Gordon Whitehead.
My name is Gordon Whitehead, I am from the business centre.
I love Startup Express we did it last year, one of the major things is about introductions, introductions to people we’ve never known before or we’ve chatted online and we can now actually start those personal relationships, so we can expand our networks, and expand our networks from the Hunter to the Sydney market but also internationally hopefully.
Gordon was a huge advocate for the Startup Xpress back when it was just an idea, he lobbied to make it happen, in his words, pestering then CEO Pierre Malou and COO, and current CEO, Steve Wait to make it happen.
Steve Wait, CEO of the Business Centre, a not-for-profit organisation that’s been working in the Hunter with start-ups, growth businesses for about 34 years.
The start-up express began like many things, with a small idea about how can we better get an appreciation of what type of innovation we witness and see everyday in our region. But, Connecting that innovation and those innovators up to what we have to acknowledge are the more sophisticated capital markets and research capabilities that do exist in metropolitan centers, but by reverse to also attract some of those investors and people that support innovation back out to the opportunities of the region as well.
Before we take our first little pitstop at the twin servos on the m1 I want to introduce you to all the organisations and people that made this possible. These first 3 people that I want you to meet have been instrumental in organising the Startup Xpress in 2019. Stephanie Moscovis.
Hey, my name’s Stephanie Moscovis. I’m the marketing manager at The Business Centre.
Richard Christian from Hunter iF.
Richard Christian, Project Coordinator for Hunter iF.
And last but not least, Lena Vestad Hansen.
Hello, my name is Lena Vesta Hanson. I work as a business advisor and project manager at the business center in Newcastle.
It takes a lot of work to pull something like this together and it is…
…an absolute beast, is what Steph and I call it. It takes many, many hours, and it’s because we need to engage with the startups beforehand, before taking them aboard. It’s just a lot of small details, dealing with all levels of dealing with all the other service providers and get them on board. Get buy-in from them, and then engaging with the startups and then also of course the politicians and getting them to meet us.
Ok, it’s time for a little bit of fun with Gordon Whitehead. So let’s meet some of those service providers that Lena was speaking about. We need to hurry though, our first pitstop is coming up where we’ll grab some snacks and hear from some of the startups on the bus and what they’re looking forward to today. Over to you Gordon.
So what I’ll do is I’m going to introduce all the key stakeholders now, I’ll go through what they like.
So Richard Christian from Hunter iF, if Richard can come down.Now Richard used to work at Newcastle Now and Hunter iF. So again, something he likes, cheap beer. So Tooheys XXXX is good for him.
Hunter iF is a relatively new organization, for those of you who haven’t heard of us. Hopefully you have now. We’ve been around since October last year, we received some funding from Jobs for NSW to support innovation throughout the Hunter.
So from a Hunter iF perspective, this trip’s all about trying to provide as many opportunities for the startups that are on board to connect with people that can provide mentoring support and perhaps some capital support to their ventures. So we’d really love to see some solid runs on on the board and some really positive outcomes for all the startups on board here.
So I encourage you to just be a little bit extroverted perhaps and courageous and introduce yourself to people in the room because you never know what may come of those connections.
Now, so the next person is [inaudible 00:06:54] Steve Wait from CEO of The Business Centre. Now if you want to buy him a drink, a [inaudible 00:07:03] is very expensive, but unfortunately he actually comes from Scotland, so VB will do. So welcome Steve.
It’s wonderful to be here with you. I’m just going to speak briefly about The Business Centre, for those of you that don’t know about The Business Centre.
The Business Centre is a great place to come if you need to define a bit better about what it is that you need to do with your business idea, your concept or your product. And it’s a place that’s been in existence for 34 years. So we’re about longevity and we’re about staying with you on the long journey.
Because the road can be long and winding when it comes to business, and there are many ups and downs and all of us that offer advice at The Business Centre or people that have been through business. All of our advisors, all of our team, understand the journey of trying to execute on a business idea and try to get to market.
Okay. Next up is Tim Cotter. Now, he’s from Aus Industry, he’s also a director at Hunter iF. Again, if you see him around, he’s a government official so we can’t buy him a drink. So water or if you must, sparkling water with a slice of lemon.
Spot on Gordon. Yeah, I’m not a coffee drinker, or a drinker drinker. So a San Pelligrino with a little bit of lemon would be just fine.
So Aus Industry is a division of the Federal Government department. So without boring you to death, myself and my colleague Natalie, what we try to do is be one of the connectors, one of the linkers towards funding. The innovation community in the Hunter is a particularly warm and welcoming one, and I’m sure you found even this morning that we’re all warmed up and we’re all been, well, welcoming so far and we hope to continue to do so in the next couple of days.
We deliver programs that might support you with your R&D, with your innovation, with your commercialization. We can match you with investors and match it with some of our team of advisors.
One word that Richard used this morning was to show some courage. You’re having a crack and doing something that other people don’t do. So show that courage over today and tomorrow. I wish you all the best. Thanks Gordon.
Next is Gunilla Burrowes, from Eighteen04, chair of Eighteen04, but also Hunter iF board. She’s pretty expensive wine, grain hermitage. She does like the vintage from her year of birth, so a nice 1990 bottle.
I’m here with two hats on, so I’ll get going. First on, the Eighteen04 hat that I wear. Eighteen04 was really created to support new companies, jobs, growth, in the clean tech and Smart City area in the Hunter. And it was really formed to try and get entrepreneurs out of the garage, both in terms of a physical space. So we created a coworking space as well as incubation. That mental, you know, mentally getting out of the garage.
The second hat I’m here for is the Hunter Angels. So the Angels are a group that have of about 25, 30 individuals in the Hunter than have come together about 10 years ago to support startups in the Hunter with their own money.
So we are keen on seeing you scale beyond Newcastle and the Hunter to international space and have connections around that as well.
Thanks Gunilla. And next is Siobhan Curran. Siobhan Curran’s from I2N and the University. Siobhan likes Bollinger Maui.
Hi everyone. So my name’s Siobhan Curran, I’m from the University of Newcastle’s Integrated Innovation Network or I2N.
So, we are a network of three hubs. We have one located at Hunter Street, which is our main hub. And then we have another one at Muswellbrook, the upper Hunter hub and one at Williamtown. And at those hubs we deliver a range of programs for entrepreneurs from all sectors. We’re industry agnostic and at every stage as well.
We have partnered with several programs, one of which is the CSIRO ON program. So we have a couple of startups today here who’ve gone through that program. Diffused Energy. Rapid Phenotyping. We have graduate startups as well. So Elite Robotics is here today. And then we have another program that we partner with, which is Slingshot’s Icon program of whom we have several participants here today. CompEAT Nutrition, Cake Server,
And then we have incubation at our hubs as well.
We’ve got Pete Tippett from CyberBUND who’s one of our coworkers on the bus today as well.
Thank you very much. Next is Mickey Pinkerton from Smart City and Newcastle city council.
I’m with Siobhan, it’s the champagne please. So I’m from City of Newcastle. I’m in the Smart City team and that’s a bit different. It means that we look at how we can support startups, in terms of broader economic and development aims.
Thanks Mickey. Thanks Newcastle City Council because they’ve been a big driver in the ecosystem. Last two minute goes to Tony Chadwick.
It’s great to see you all. So I’m the Economic Development Manager with Singleton Council and there’s one of me in every council in the Hunter region. We all have our different take on what is economic development, but a big part of that is business support, which is the space you fall in.
The other thing we do is, you know, we spend a lot of money locally. So Singleton, it’s about 63 million a year we spend on the local economy, and that’s a good way for any business to tap into. We might not be a traditional place to start with small business, but we might offer more than you think. Thank you.
Thanks Tony. Right, next I’m going to hand over to Steph.
This is about community network and making sure that we represent the awesome region that we have, and help it to continue to grow.
All right, thanks everyone, and enjoy the ride. We’ll be arriving at the Central Coast Twin Servo stop shortly.
Alright, we’ve arrived at our pitstop.
Let’s hear from some of the startup founders and find out exactly what they’re expecting from the Startup Xpress. Then later on we’ll come back and reflect on the trip and hear about some of the big wins or connections they’ve come away from the Startup Xpress with.
My name is Susan, I’m the CEO and founder of Uukoo, and we’re a web based mobile app for people with dementia and other cognitive disabilities. So what that means, in short, is that we’ve built an app that helps people communicate with their family and loved ones to keep them connected and so they’re not feeling lonely and isolated.
Yeah. I didn’t have any expectations, because I didn’t know what to expect. If anything, I thought it was just going to be a bus trip and a bit of media attached to that, but my expectations were really just blown out of the water.
I am Seth Williams, the founder of MySequester.
MySequester is a community-based, carbon-offsetting platform that allows anybody to earn money by planting trees.
It’d be really good to be inspired to the next level of … Okay, how do I step up operations or what’s something that I can do to really push MySequester to the next level and get people excited about it, business excited about it, potential partners excited about it. Help it fulfill what its mission is.
I’m Tyler. I’m the founder and CEO of Orchard School Systems. What we do is we help schools improve results by providing a platform for student engagement.
From Startup Xpress I wasn’t really expecting much being it’s my first major convention outside of Newcastle. But from what I experienced, from the people I met, from the conversations I had, it blew me out of the water with how many talented people there are even in Newcastle that I have never heard about.
James Bradley, co-founder from Diffuse Energy.
So we are in the throes of raising money so this trip’s actually fairly pointed in looking for some opportunity for investors.
Hi, I’m Mark Dujmovic. I’m the chief pilot at Hover UAV.
Today, for myself and Hover UAV, we’re just hoping to make some really good contacts for Hover UAV. Collaboration has always been a big thing. I don’t think we would have got to where we are today without collaboration. And the Hunter offers some immense opportunities, in regards to that.
Ok, we’ve got to keep on moving, so back on the bus.
Our next stop is going to be Parliament House.
One of the main objectives of the Startup Xpress is networking and here’s why…
One of the biggest problems and I’ve been in the Hunter for 20 years even though my voice comes from a different place. We’re isolated, I always say equated to living in a goldfish bowl, so as a startup as a business its major components is about networks, for the last 20 years being in business, I feel that regional centers are disconnected, and sometimes we talk about a good game. So as a new startup one of the biggest things you need to get out there is going networks, and you can only do so much in Hunter Region, so at some point you need to expand, you need to talk to other people.
As Gordon has just pointed out how. Networking is really important for founders. Let’s hear from them and their thoughts on networking and relationships.
I’m Antony, co-founder of Hone.
Things like the Startup Xpress, going to events and putting yourself out there amazingly has been the way everything has ever happened for us. Yeah, I think if you don’t put yourself out there and make those connections, then there’s a whole lot that you will miss out on, that you might not have even known that you needed to know
I’m Jacqueline Garrett and I’m the CEO and founder of GGWP Academy. And that stands for Good Game Well Played.
Probably the biggest learning point that I have discovered in the last year, particularly in Berlin was the value of having that network. Your network can mean everything, it can mean commercial partnerships, it can mean your next investor, it can mean literally anything, even if it’s just another person to share and bounce ideas off.
My name is Sahil and I’m the CEO and cofounder of Elite Robotics.
Relationships, they’re the most important thing about business. Things don’t happen without people and groups of people. Building the right relationships with the right people is critical to your success. If you don’t have that, you’re not gonna make it as far as you can.
Here’s James Bradley from Diffuse, who we met earlier.
I think, just to build connections. So, for all of the things and programs and whatever that you do, it’s the connections that become the long-term value. Everyone knows someone who knows someone who can help and you can reach out to. Having all of that network around you just makes life way easier. So go on, build that network.
So we’re about half way to Sydney on the Startup Xpress where we’re going to meet some politicians, tour the Sydney Startup Hub and be part of a pitch night where we’ll have the opportunity to mingle with some investors. And we’re probably about half way on our other journey too. Our journey as a region, our journey of transformation. Brad Feld, the guy behind the Boulder Thesis, I recommend you checking that out if you haven’t already, there will be a link to it on the Startup Xpress post on welcometodayone.com. Brad has said it’s a 20 year commitment that you must renew everyday to build a thriving startup ecosystem. It’s hard to say exactly where we are on that journey, we’ve done a lot of good work, but there is still a long way to go, so what are some of the challenges ahead?
I think our challenge is in defining what it is that we offer. There are many regions that I’m aware of, that I’ve read about, that I’ve been to nationally and internationally, where they kind of got this edge. They’ve been able to etch out some sort of edge that says, “We’re a unique place, come do business here.”
What is the Hunter Region’s edge?
Beaches, lifestyle, it’s a good place to be as well given that you can do business anywhere in this sort of global era. You really can practice a business from anywhere.
Yeah. I actually grew up in my late teens, early twenties playing in a band around Newcastle. Reasonably successful, we toured Australia and overseas a little bit.
I guess, growing up, we always had the perspective that Newcastle was punching above its weight for creativity, and a lot of great bands were coming out of Newcastle. I think it’s a bit plugging into some of the same sort of creativity as we see the startup world kick off in Newcastle. Probably, the slowdown of steelmaking in the area is playing into that as well, where people are looking for different opportunities.
But, I think it’s more, yeah, coming out of that… I’m not sure where it comes from, but that base of creativity in Newcastle. Yeah, it’s a little bit cheaper than Sydney. It’s a little bit freer to live around here. You can get around. That sort of lifestyle tends to open itself up more to try new things, and that’s what a startup is.
Ok, we’re here. We’re just pulling up outside and we need to go through security to get into Parliament House. It’s pouring rain. There’s thunder.
Ok, I was kidding about the thunder, I thought it would be more dramatic. Too much.
There was still rain though.
And everyone had to get off the bus in the rain, so we could head into Parliament house to meet…
The Honorable Damian Francis Tudehope, the Member of New South Wales Legislative Assembly and Minister for Finance and Small Business.
Thanks very much and welcome to Sydney, and thanks for bringing the rain. It’s all welcome. And it’s great to have people from the Hunter in Sydney, so I’d like to just say thanks for coming and being part of the launch festival, which is part of, or taking place in Sydney over the next three days.
Damien has a background in business, running his own legal practice and having an interest in a number of child care centers. Damien spoke about the three components of starting a business in his opinion. They are the idea, the business centre can help you with that, finding people who are interested and access to capital. The minister also expressed his understanding that government should embrace startups and that small businesses is…
The backbone of why we do stuff, in many respects in New South Wales. We’ve got 760,000-odd small businesses in New South Wales and over 46% of the employment workforce is in small business.
Damien also spoke about the many ways in which government are working to help small businesses and startups by reducing red tape, stamp duty, payroll tax, workers compensation insurance premiums and making it easier for small business to contract with government and to get paid quicker.
So they are some of the structural things that the government can do to support small businesses and start up businesses. The start up hubs, in many respects, are the start of that process, and What you’re doing for the next three days in Sydney, and what you are showcasing from the Hunter in terms of small business is great for the Hunter and great for that region. And those six finalists, I thought, well, they are fantastic opportunities for you to be able to market the great things coming out of the Hunter, and the good opportunities which exist in the Hunter to do business.
Lots of the small business opportunities now coming out of Newcastle and the Hunter are probably some of the stuff that we ought to be a bit proud of, because it’s fantastic.
The people up there are saying that this is a great place to work, great place to live, great place to start a business.
So good luck for the next few days, thank you for coming to Sydney and being part of this festival
Ok, that was quick, we met some politicians, shook some hands, had some photos taken.
Let’s get going. All aboard the Startup Xpress and as Damien said…
The start up hubs, in many respects, are the start of that process…
And that’s our final stop, Sydney Startup Hub, where later tonight the startup founders will pitch their businesses and have the opportunity to network and meet with investors. But first we’re going to take a tour of the hub with Michelle Long from Jobs for NSW and acting director of Sydney Startup Hub.
So on level one, we’ve got this whole community floor which is just over 2,000 square meters. We’ve also got
We’re on level one plus DFSI, so Innovation New South Wales. Fishburners are on levels two and three. Stone and Chalk, four and five. Studio, half of six. Tank Stream, all of seven now and half of eight and then our corporates have really small footprints across the other levels, nine and ten. And then jobs and the transport accelerator program up on level 11. So, that’s your 1,600 people.
We’re nearing the end of our ride on the Startup Xpress, and as everyone is preparing for the pitch night at the Sydney Startup Hub, I’m standing here wondering how everyone has been going. At the beginning of our trip Gordon said…
I want to challenge, especially those people out of StartHouse, if you’re going to come here when I speak to you next, when we finish this down, these three days, I will ask you whether you actually got some doors or opportunities from these three days, and I expect that your least get three major opportunities.
So, what doors have we opened?
Let’s see, certainly, I met a lot of people. I’d have to say combining Startup Express with the Launch Festival was a great idea. I got a lot of new connections via the Launch Festival and the Startup Express people that were involved in that. Interestingly, a lot of the investors that I met at the Launch Festival were at the Startup Express pitch evening. They hadn’t come and talked to me, but when I’d met them subsequently, yeah, it was just a conversation point, and they’d already heard my pitch, and they were interested.
Yep, met a few people there that names might be, people might know their names but, yeah, probably, shouldn’t… mention their names.
Antony from Hone started conversations with investors, Seth Williams from MySequester made a quality contact and is starting to develop a partnership with Boatingo – the Airbnb for luxury boats. Jacqueline Garrett from GG WP Academy actually met an investor on the bus, Mark from HoverUAV made some great connections within the Hunter ecosystem and Sahil Harriram from Elite Robotics made some partnership contacts and had some really promising conversations
I got a lot of valuable feedback in terms of mistakes that I’ve made in the past that I can correct now, but also as well gave me some really good insights into how to more effectively go about the fundraising process.
Kyle Minors from AUGR, Augr is an amazing company.
I’m Kyle Minors, I’m the CEO of Augr. Augr is just an augmented reality company. We specialize in computer vision and image recognition. At the moment our first offering is targeting motion artists. So we’re bringing posters and still art to life.
Kyle had a number of wins, and Chad is going to tell us about one of Kyle’s wins in a second. Kyle is in early talks to collaborate with Nuts & Bolts Design with Kylie Burrett and has a couple of leads from the Google AR team and some links to VC’s in San Francisco!
This is Chad from Accessibility in the City
So my name is Chad Ramage and I’m the managing director of Accessibility in the City. And, I’m developing an online mapping platform using smart city data and talking to businesses and community members to contribute information to that map, to make getting out and about in our cities and communities easier for people with accessibility issues.
Chad tells me about a great win that Kyle had while in Sydney with the Startup Xpress.
I’ve been speaking to Kyle for a while about his startup and what he’s been doing and how it works. I’ve got another friend Deanne who’s got a fashion application called “Be Your Style”. We were just sitting around at the networking event Monday night discussing what each had to do, and Deanne said to Kyle I just wish we could have, like we could scan a dress or something, and it would show what you look like in it, in like an old minute reality fashion. And Kyle said, “Well, that’s exactly what I do.”
So through that conversation, just sitting around having a chat, they then figured it out what it would cost begin to do a proof of concept. Deanne ran it past her Board of Directors, and they’re going to look at how they can partner to embed that module in her application. So, without Startup Xpress that ability to network, to talk to each other, things like that, this wouldn’t happen.
Susan Ryan from Uukoo met…
Two very influential people, who I prefer not to name just now.
And because of everything that had been happening throughout the day Susan told me that she…
Would never have done that except for just, I would never had the courage, I guess, but just in that environment, with everybody really genuinely wanting to help each other.Adam:
James Bradley from Diffuse Energy made a lot of connections and some big wins in the form of investment interest both locally and potentially from the United States.
As James told me, a pretty solid and successful few days. All told James got about 10 hours sleep.
And we’ve come to the end of our ride. Time for everyone to catch up on a bit of sleep on the bus trip home and I hope you enjoyed the ride and we’ll see you next year on the Startup Xpress.
I think it comes out of the core character of the Hunter region which is, in my mind, it’s a very creative area. So, by default, I think being a successful entrepreneur requires a fair degree of creativity. It requires a bit of, like I was saying earlier, courage, a bit of have-a-go attitude. And the Hunter is really strong in that respect.
Thank you for listening to the Startup Xpress story. I hope you enjoyed it. Everything that was mentioned in the episode today is on the show notes page on welcometodayone.com
Coming up on Welcome to Day One the story of The Studio with CEO Chantal Abouchar.
Hi. I’m Chantal Abouchar, CEO and founder of the Studio.
So my background is 30 years in the media industry, in the very broad media industry, initially as a cinematographer. But it was really about the fact that I loved storytelling and I loved stories.
Ratings & reviews help to keep us going and they help more people discover our stories. You can rate the show on most podcast platforms by going to ratedayone.com. That’s ratedayone.com to leave a rating on the podcast.
And, Thank you for giving this episode of Welcome to Day One your attention. This episode was created by me, Adam Spencer.
Interviews conducted by me, Adam Spencer.
A big thank you to Hunter iF and the Business Centre for partnering with Welcome to Day One to make this story. Thank you to Stephanie Moscovis, Lena Vestad Hansen and Richard Christian for organising the Startup Xpress. Thank you to Steve Wait and Gordon Whitehead. And thank you to all of the startups who come along on this journey.
Thank you all for taking the time to be involved, the Startup Xpress exists for you. And I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the stakeholders who contributed. Thanks goes out to the City of Newcastle, Singleton Council, Jobs for NSW and the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, Ausindustry, Hunter Angels, Eighteen04, the Business Centre and University of Newcastle’s Integrated Innovation Network.
The script was written by me, Adam Spencer.
Music by Lee Rosevere, full attribution on our website welcometodayone.com
This episode was produced by Welcome to Day One and edited by Natalie Holland.
Thank you and see you next time!