Growing businesses and jobs, part 1

Image Credit: City of Melbourne / That Startup Show / Photographer Wren Steiner

Image Credit: City of Melbourne / That Startup Show / Photographer Wren Steiner

This is part one of an edited version of an interview with Colin Graham of Causeway Innovation by Mike Sullivan, Editor of Business Acumen.

Lifestyle regions are attracting a new breed of residents

Many lifestyle regions in Australia are gradually attracting a new group of people who see the lifestyle attractions but also want to start or grow an ambitious business – often enabled by improved broadband connectivity.

“Traditionally, people have gone to places like the Sunshine Coast or Gold Coast for a holiday or to retire. People of all ages see the attractions of a lifestyle location: the outdoor life, lots of cafes and restaurants, it is a pretty cool place for many people. So, they like that atmosphere and also contrast that to what life can be like in a big city with long commutes. Some people are beginning to reject that big city lifestyle, take more control of their own life, and realise that with a bit of talent and technology, they can live and work almost anywhere.

Across the world, you can look at places like San Jose, California or Boulder in Colorado. 30 years ago, those places were certainly not the technology hotspots they are today. And, they are now hotspots partly because of that lifestyle drawcard and attraction. But also, they just begin to get a critical mass. You have to have a critical mass of talented people, whether they’re technology, creative, or whatever. And it’s much more difficult to get that critical mass in regions. Regional innovation is different to big cities.”

 Create your own networks and a density of talent

“In big cities, you can bump into a whole bunch of people every day. It happens accidentally. And, that’s why big cities are typically the top places in the world for innovation – places like New York, London, Toronto, Tel Aviv and of course Silicon Valley over the top of them. These are much more concentrated, dense areas. 

So, if you’re in a region and you are running a tech start-up company, you’re trying to get a bit of a move on and make things happen, I think it’s amazingly important to begin to gather other talented people around and get into some sort of network to 'create your own density' that you will not normally have in a regional area.”

In many regions, the new entrepreneurs have been ‘lost in the crowd’ of small lifestyle businesses and lose the benefits of interaction with like-minded people.

The key is to build a critical mass of talent and get those people connected to each other.

Teams, peers and mentors boost chances of success

“The research evidence suggests that having two or three people in a startup team is a big success factor. Startups need to get a team together, have a very clear vision and build some support around them in terms of other entrepreneurs, a peer group.

Going through the first three years or so of starting a business can be very tricky on your motivation, on your health sometimes. It’s a tough job, right? So, if you have a few other entrepreneurs around you who can know what you’re going through and sort of share that experience and give you a few tips, and on occasions give you a bit of a motivation ‘hey, keep at it mate’, well that’s very useful.

And also, start-ups can find mentors, and in many regional areas there are a lot of people out there who are happy to be mentors. And, if you can find somebody who has relevant industry experience, that you personally get on pretty well with, they can have a lot of advantages for you. They can open their networks to you, which may possibly include investor networks sometimes, but equally important, their client networks. So, in a lot of regional areas, there are a lot of folks like that around and – typically – they’re under utilised.”

Continues in Part Two. 

Colin Graham