Startup Weekend Tablelands ran over the weekend 1-3 May 2015 and we had a number of firsts and key differentiators.
The first ever Startup Weekend in the Tablelands (the size of Tasmania but with a population of just 45,000, of which 67% are working age). Over the 54 hrs we had about that many people of all ages and backgrounds came together in a church auditorium (another differentiator) to hear from Steve Baxter from Shark Tank Australia. Steve is a rural Queensland born multi-millionaire with a passion for turning small ideas into big business. The crowd quickly drew silent and became glued to the skype screen as Steve chatted freely with the group in a Q&A session. “Owning a bunch of small businesses can be like having a bunch of stubbed toes” Steve said, acknowledging the hard work it takes to run small businesses and encouraging participants to aim high and dream big.
Some other interesting facts are that we had a participant who travelled about 1000km to attend (from Mackay). Our demographic was probably the oldest in SW history (average age of 43, youngest 17 and oldest 75, with 14 born before 1970).
22 ideas were pitched on Fri, with 6 teams forming and 5 going on to pitch on Sunday.
The pitches on Fri ranged from a rural hack for meetups to innovative uses for buildings, promoting the arts to hardware for reducing farm injuries to 3D printed habit bracelets. The winner Fresh2U, was a group that designed an online marketplace for distributing the vast amount of fresh produce that goes to waste on farms all over Australia. This pitch hit all the key elements that our Rural Innovation edition hoped to - emerging tech, agriculture, reducing waste, reducing transport and helping to improve efficiencies.
What makes this Edition interesting?
Most SW events are urban, the challenges in rural areas with small populations and large geographic areas are a key issue that makes us very different. One of the younger participants summed it up very well in their pitch of Tee-Up. She moved here from Brisbane and found it really hard to relate to people (like a culture shock) but didn’t know how to even start networking as the standard social media platforms don’t have enough penetration. So as the judges said for this app and other projects “if they can get [Tee-Up] to work in our difficult situation they can get it to work easier, anywhere.”
Our edition also probably had the least proportion of developers. This is probably underscored by the fact that the top 3 teams had a person from a local tech firm. For example, one team that was trying to create opportunities in the art-space needed a lot of help just sending emails for surveys and creating a basic presentation.
A school principal who attended and many of the organizers agree that our next event should be focussed on the youth. Probably SW - Highschool edition where students are encouraged to attend and some of them are also asked to work on teams lacking key tech skills. Participants may even camp out to attend and be invited from an even larger rural collector area.
Apart from a couple of teams that are going to take there idea forward into incubators, we have established a weekly co-working Thursday, monthly pitch nights and a closed FB group for continued collaboration.
Anything we should know about your event that’s not already in your story (contest entry)?
Some of the best quotes…
- "It all starts from here"
- "I learnt more over the weekend about starting up an enterprise than I have in 12 months of study. Absolutely wonderful, rich and empowering weekend"
- "The weekend was awesome! I was challenged, confronted and at times overwhelmed but learnt so much! in 54hrs I learnt more than I have in 10 years!"
- "If you have ever wanted to start any business...ever...GO TO A STARTUP WEEKEND!!!"
”I know my Tablelanders, they are innovative and motivated. But I rarely see Tablelanders being as inspirational in a group as I saw on the SWT weekend. Hats off to Tablelanders’ willingness and ability to dig deep, work hard, be flexible, learn new tricks! You are a kick ass crowd---and in the nicest possible way!” Christine Doan.
Bronwyn Voyce said “Organising an event of this scale was no mean feat and congratulations go to the organising committee, sponsors and community for getting behind the event.”
Press release (official)