Adelaide is at the brink of change. It lies in a state with the highest unemployment rate in the country, but is turning to innovation and disruption to drive its economy.

One of the city’s focus is creating a conducive environment for startups to testbed their tech and scale their businesses. This is where Startup Adelaide, a non-profit that provides local startup support, comes in. “There is a lot of potential for growth” in small businesses, believes Jenny Vandyke, Managing Director at the organisation.

GovInsider caught up with her to find out how her team partners with government and industry to nurture these small businesses.

How does it help?

Startup Adelaide runs “Startup Weekend”, a series of events under Google for Entrepreneurs, where participants get the chance to launch their business under 54 hours. The event pulls together mentors from industries, developers and business managers to refine their ideas and present business models to a panel of judges by the end of the weekend.

“You’ve got clients, you’ve got money in the bank, you’ve got your website launched, you’ve got proof and concept within those 54 hours”, Vandyke explains. “It’s not just building a website or a prototype.”

Vandyke’s team has used the events as a platform to attract young talent, partnering with three local universities to tap into the student pool. Students can also join a tour that “takes school students around to visit co-working spaces and startups around the city”. It’s a “great” way for students to learn what it takes to launch a business before they start their own, or seek employment in an existing startup, she adds, “putting the equivalent of a year of university study into a weekend”.

The effort put into organising the events has paid off: ideas have been initiated and executed, and startup teams have been formed, Vandyke says. For instance, the team behind SouthStart, a startup conference business “was actually founded by co-founders who met at the second Startup Weekend”, she says.

Startup Adelaide also works behind the scenes, connecting business founders to media partners and making introductions to venture capitalists. For Startup Adelaide, “being a startup [themselves] makes a big difference” because they understand “best what startups need”, she says.

A community joint effort

Adelaide has “strong” collaboration and partnerships across industries, government and universities, relative to larger cities in the East Coast, Vandyke says. This has resulted in an abundance of programmes and initiatives designed by the private and public sector to support small businesses. “Three years ago we had 40 programmes in the ecosystem”, which has grown to around 140 this year, “really substantial growth”, she marvels.

The city bridges the gap between industry and government through an annual entrepreneurship forum, where both parties gather “to take stock of where the ecosystem is at and what can be done to help grow it”, Vandyke says. It’s been going on for three years, and she believes that this is how they’ve managed to provide expansive support to new startups.

For instance, the government offers funds to help small businesses tap into export markets, provides research and development tax incentives, and trains job seekers to become self-employed business owners. Last year, the South Australian co-working association, a state-based representative body, was set up to grow and sustain the state’s co-working scene, Vandyke notes.

To make it easier for aspiring entrepreneurs, her team has consolidated these services in an online interactive map so entrepreneurs can navigate relevant support easily.

startup adelaide map

Making a buzz

Vandyke believes that the government has played a huge role in changing the beat of the city. Over the last few years, the state government eased licensing for small bars, and as a result of that “we’ve now got this really fabulous network of laneway bars and rooftop bars, and with that comes a little microclimate of energy and vibe and buzz”. It “brings with it a melting pot of creativity as well, so it’s certainly having a positive impact”, she says.

In Australia, the Tall Poppy syndrome describes a phenomenon where the “laid back laconic Australian attitude is celebrated and people who boast and aim high aren’t appreciated”, she explains. “Don’t stick your head out too far or you’ll get your head chopped off”.

If Adelaide wants to thrive on the cutting-edge, that viewpoint certainly has to go.

Now read: Exclusive: Interview with the Mayor of Adelaide

Image from Startup Adelaide