This week on the Startup Genome Highlights video series we feature Adelaide, Australia. We’re joined by Shane Cheek (@cheekshane) the managing partner of Acumen Ventures and one of our curators in that community.
Geoff: Welcome back to the Startup Genome video blog. Each week we talk with various community builders in their own cities around the world about what is working in their community, what makes their startup community unique. This week we’re talking about Adelaide, Australia and we’re joined by Shane Cheek. Shane, what is it that makes Adelaide such an interesting place?
Shane: Hey Geoff. Thanks for having me on. I think what makes Adelaide fairly unique is the ecosystem here is entrepreneur-led rather than seeing government or investors trying to lead the charge here. We are seeing the entrepreneurs really starting to hustle and get things done. We’re also seeing a lot of entrepreneurs giving back to the community. So investing their time and resources into putting events on, helping other companies, and also probably really importantly, we’re seeing some successful entrepreneurs now who have exited their companies come back and obviously invest and recycle capital back into the sector. And some of them are now starting to set up their own incubators and accelerators and programs to help companies as well.
Geoff: That last point is really interesting. I think that’s the dream in lots of building-startup communities is that people do come back and reinvest. Can you talk a little bit about those activities?
Shane: Yes. I guess that’s what I’ve been looking at for a long time. It’s taken maybe 12-13 years for that cycle to really kick in. We’ve had a couple of successful entrepreneurs, guys like Simon Hackett who locally sold his company out and he’s now building a tech incubator here in the city. And a number of other guys who are now actively investing as angel investors and also putting money into funds like ours.
Geoff: That’s great. You mentioned events, as well. What are the best events in Adelaide right now?
Shane: Yes, so we’ve jumped on the Startup Weekend bandwagon, as well. There’ve been three of those held so far. Usually attracting about 150 people to those events. There’s also a tech focused co-working space setup in Adelaide called the Majoran Distillery. Those guys behind that put together a conference here called SouthStart, which was fantastic. That was end of last year and attracted about 400 people to the event, including quite a few interstate and from overseas as well. We realized that we’re a small city, we’re about a million people, we’re the 5th largest city in Australia. So we’re putting a lot of effort into reaching out into the broader community. Not only into Australia, but also into southeast Asia as well.
Geoff: Oh wow. If I was going to visit Adelaide, is there one place that you encourage all people to go to meet the startups? Maybe a coffee shop or bar or co-working space?
Shane: Yes, I always recommend that people go and check out the Majoran Distillery, the co-working space, which is right in the city center. Great space to go and check out what’s happening. And the community also put up a website Startup Adelaide, which basically maps out the ecosystem and lets I guess new people into the community understand the events that are going on, where the sources of capital are, where the other entrepreneur focused programs are as well.
Geoff: That’s great. We’ll be sure to link to that in the post. What would you say the biggest issue is facing Adelaide today?
Shane: So, I think, a couple of issues. One is always I think a common complaint of entrepreneurs is a lack of capital. Acumen Ventures is the fund that I run here. We’re just now starting to get up now and get running. There are a handful of active angel investors. But, we need to get other successful business people interested in investing into the tech sector. And the other thing is also, I think helping youngsters who are going through university and might be finishing their studies can’t realize that startups are a viable option for them and that they can go on and do something really interesting in a startup that they might not get the chance to do if they go and work in a more traditional corporate-type job. We also have a big mining boom here in Australia so lots of people go off into engineering roles in the mining sector and I can’t forget [information and communications technology].
Geoff: Very interesting. We don’t necessarily have the mining issue in the city I live in but getting young people interested in startups is a common piece, I think. We like to keep these short so I’ll end with this question. What can our other Startup Genome curators and community builders who watch this video do to help out Adelaide?
Shane: I think, reach out, say hi, drop us a line. Although we are spread out all over the world, the more we learn from each other the better. I’m really keen to hear how other curators, what they’ve done maybe to increase the awareness amongst young people to get involved in startups. What they’ve done also to activate the universities, maybe get the universities closer to the startup ecosystem. So those sorts of things would be really helpful.