Entrepreneur of the Year

A few weeks ago, at the 30th Incite Awards (WA’s long-running annual IT Awards) I was awarded the Entrepreneur of the Year, one of the honorary awards handed out at the end (the other being Achiever of the Year).

This was very humbling, and quite unexpected, as I was also co-MC’d the event, and all the organisers had managed to keep this a secret from me (which was well done by them.)

Now, I’m not some great entrepreneur billionaire or anything, and there are plenty of entrepreneurs I look up (Michael Malone and others) who have done far more impressive things than me, but it was nice recognition for the 20+ years I’ve had in the local tech/startup scene.

I’ve been a tech founder, made all the mistakes, got the badge, got the T-shirt. Somehow, our little tech startup made it through its early months and years, had a 10-year history until being acquired in a nice friendly takeover. I got a good exit, and all my staff got jobs with the new organisation.

Trying to keep control as MC, with Lisa Smith (left)

While I was with them, around 2012, the local ‘tech scene’ started developing here in Western Australia. There had been no co-working spaces, investor groups or accelerator programs when we set up out in 1999.

Spacecubed opened that year (2012), and the first Startup Weekend was held there in September. I went along as a mentor, feeling beholden to give back to the next gen of startup entrepreneurs. What I saw blew me away.

From an idea on a Friday night, most created finished tech products (websites, apps) by Sunday, and some had revenue (sales) – Incredible!

Over the past 9 years, I have been to many Startup Weekends, angel pitch nights, been a mentor on many accelerators, visited incubators, funding meetings, and worked with many tech companies, including on the federal government’s startup funding program, Accelerating Commercialisation.

I’ve invested in a couple of startups recently, and am involved in two potential new funds that should be able to provide cash and advice to talented local startups, who have global aspirations.

It was a nice touch to be presented the award from Matt Mckenzie from Business News

Along the way, I took over the running of Startup News – a site that has published 1,600+ articles on local startups over the past 8 years – and set up the Startup West podcast, which I co-host.

This year, I am back in startup land again, as Managing Editor of The Property Tribune, a brand new Australia-wide property news site, set up and run out of the Living Online offices by my good friend Evan Cunningham-Dunlop. (Who is just plain awesome – as are his staff.)

I’m as excited about the future in WA startups, tech and entrepreneurship as I have ever been, and while WA still has its issues, it is developing apace. It’s a stunningly great place to live and work, people ‘give you a go’ here, and there’s a culture of being isolated yet connected to global markets, and you can do anything.

So, for all the local entrepreneurs – especially the female founders, who have it even tougher than men due to all sorts of systemic reasons – I salute you, and I would like to share this award with you all.

I’d also like to thank all the many mentors, advisors, investors and individuals who helped me along the journey. Could not have done it without you. You know who you are.

Because, if an economics teacher from England, with no local contacts, no experience in business, tech or real estate can set up a property website in 1999, and run it through to a successful outcome, then, well, quite frankly anyone can do it!

About the author

Charlie has spent more than 20 years in Perth’s tech and startup sector, firstly as a founder himself, through to exit, and more recently as a writer, advisor and investor. Originally from the UK, Charlie worked in Singapore before arriving in Perth in 1997 to do an MBA at UWA. Graduating as top student in 1999 he set up online real estate business aussiehome.com, running it for 10 years before selling to REIWA, whereupon Charlie ran reiwa.com. In 2013, he moved to Business News to lead their digital transformation as CEO, and then worked for the federal government’s Accelerating Commercialisation program, funding pre-revenue startups and innovative businesses. He now works in an advisory capacity for multiple tech and other businesses, is managing editor of Startup News and co-host of the Startup West podcast. He also writes a column for Business News on startups. Charlie sits on the advisory boards of WA Leaders, TEDxPerth, WAITTA, the Perth Symphony Orchestra, and the full board of Rise Network.

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