We’re in the middle of ‘startup week’ in Perth, with an incredible array of start up events, conferences, hackathons, demo days, meetups and even reports being published (one is already out.) The media, MPs and Ministers are all over it. There’s a bit of ‘bandwagon jumping’ going on, but that’s OK, as long as something now happens to solve the problems inherent in the sector, which have prevented many startups being funded and scaling up.
Perhaps for the first time, you can sense a growing appetite and attention for the sector.
It all kicked off on Thursday night at PwC in the city, where Techboard (the local startup ranking site which, of course , is itself a startup) held its first ever meeting (see photo above), attended by 100+ people listening to a panel of startup folks talking about publicity and promotion. I spied local MP Peter Tinley plus our wonderful Chief Scientist Prof Peter Klinken in attendance, the latter getting up to say “What an amazing sense of relief has come over the country recently… (since our change in Prime Minister)… now everyone is talking innovation”.
Friday night was a get together of the recent Startup Weekend crew, and tonight it’s the pre-OzAPP/West Tech party down in Nedlands at Larry Lopez’s house.
Monday is the full day, of West Tech conference incorporating the OzAPP Awards. Silicon Valley types who love to kite surf have winged their way to Perth and brought with them a bit of Californian fairy dust and cool, with various panels and keynotes on stage at the Perth Town Hall. The ever effervescent US Ambassador (who famously welcomed people last year at the historic building with a cheerful ‘Welcome to Hogwarts!’ line) will be taking centre stage again this year with a whole morning session entitled ‘The Ambassador’s Innovation Roundtable’. In the afternoon the final 5 in the Asia-Pacific wide OzApps comp will pitch to the judges (including me) and a winner will be announced at the after party that evening.
As if that is not enough, Tuesday heralds a Unearthed demo day showcasing great ideas for the mining industry, which the WA Premier Colin Barnett will be attending and that night is the mass gathering (350 are expected) at the West Tech Assemblage at Government House ballroom, which brings together (for the first time) eGroup, WAITTA, Australian Computer Society and OzApps. I’m privileged to be MC’g this event, with Liberal State Attorney General and Minister for Commerce Michael Mischin addressing the throng, as well Opposition leader Mark McGowan, Chief Scientist Peter Klinken and others. That very night, there is also an Innovation Bay pitch night and dinner taking place.
It’s still not over, because on Weds, Startup WA will officially publish their new report into WA’s startup scene, which will update the excellent report produced by Boundlss (who are also producing this one) in 2013.
And after a week of events, Startup WA have the Assistant federal Minister for Innovation Wyatt Roy over in Perth on 15th December for a Q&A session with Senator Linda Reynolds and Matt Taylor. Wyatt Roy is not just a seriously cool name for a politician, but he is also the youngest ever MP, having won election in 2010 when he was just 20. The ‘baby of the House’ is seriously interested in tech startups, and it’s good to have someone like him so close to power at the top levels in this land.
You can sense that startups and tech and innovation are the flavour of the month, and one wonders if politicians and leaders can grab this opportunity. Will the drastic shortage in funding for the sector be significantly eased? Will we see some tech success stories emanating from Perth? Will would-be angels and investors take the sector seriously and start loosening their pockets?
Can we create a place where people flock from around the world (tick), get funded (errr…) and then see us develop a regional centre of excellence for tech and innovative companies? Maybe this week will be an important step in the road… let’s hope so.