Brisbane’s startup ecosystem

This article was written in cooperation with QUT bluebox in preparation of Startup Ecosystem Ranking Report 2019 that ranked Brisbane in spot 87 out of 1,000 cities.

Click here to view Brisbane’s Startup Map

Located in the northeast of Australia, the state of Queensland is building a startup ecosystem that soon could resemble the one in Sydney and Melbourne. In recent years, a large amount of resources and effort has gone into activating and building the ecosystem. As a result, the region, especially the state capital, Brisbane, is now seeing a lot more activity. Dozens of new accelerators, co-working spaces, and investors are providing strong support for entrepreneurs.  

In the past 5 years, Queensland had very strong momentum. Thanks to the Government of Queensland that dedicated $500m for programs fostering the local startup ecosystem. Among the government’s initiatives to develop and support innovation, there is Advance Queensland. It aims at harnessing the opportunities available in science and innovation to grow our economy, create jobs and secure our long-term financial future; Startup Queensland funding helps build capability within the Queensland startup community; The Artist in Residence Science Program supports creative collaborative residencies by connecting artists and scientists, and the ICT and digital initiatives

Queensland is home for several successful startups that are a real source of pride for the local ecosystem. Among those, Go1, one of the world’s largest onboarding, compliance, and professional development platforms. Go1 received $43.7M in funding over 6 rounds and got SEEK’s (one of the first Aussie unicorns) interest to take a stake in the company. And Brisbane born Tanda that provides an end-to-end workforce management solution in the cloud.

What are the relative strengths of Brisbane for startups? 

Busy Queensland’s riverside capital city is located along the ocean and covered by national parks. It is a very liveble place known for arts, culture, and dining. The cost of living, if compared to other places, is reasonable and great weather attracts not only tourists but digital nomads as well. 

Additionally, Brisbane startup ecosystem regularly fuels up with a strong talent pool from prestigious universities, including the University of Queensland, QUT, and others. In addition to that, numerous accelerators, co-working spaces, mentors, and investors are there to ensure a consistent startup journey: from idea to the end-product. It is important to mention that local and state governments are participating in the startup ecosystem development. They offer grants for the most notable projects. Also, encourage innovation by creating programs to foster the local startup community.

Brisbane has all the right ingredients to continue creating its unique startup ecosystem:

  • Strong talent pool
  • Fantastic lifestyle 
  • Robust startup support from the government, universities, etc.  
  • Affordability 
  • English speaking country
  • Well located between Asia and the US 
  • Strong number of startup programs and activities (accelerators, incubators, etc.) 

Lack of investors and success stories is the biggest weakness

Every startup ecosystem is challenging and deals with constant obstacles. Brisbane is not an exception. Despite the fact that it has great potential to become a strong startup hub, the region struggles to overcome some problems. 

Essentially, access to investment money is still limited. There are not many angel investors and VC firms. Hence, startups are often forced to raise money elsewhere in Australia, like Sydney or Melbourne, or even look for funding abroad. As a consequence, the city lacks success stories that could inspire and incentivize more founders to take the leap of faith. 

The major players in the ecosystem

  • Currently, among the biggest ecosystem players, there is QUT bluebox. It runs several accelerator programs every year, as well as startup contests with significant cash prizes. They were among the first ones to recognize the importance of building a startup ecosystem in Brisbane.
  • Another accelerator program worth of mention is River City Labs created by Steve Baxter that also boosts with co-working space and access to quality mentors. 
  • On the list, there is also FishBurners that unites Australia’s largest community of scalable tech startups with 337 companies and 728 members on board, as well as 500 visitors on a weekly basis. 
  • Creative Enterprise Australia helps start, grow, scale and connect creative companies like Australia’s leading creative accelerator and investment fund.
  • Also, iLab accelerator runs for six-months each year and offers a $20,000 equity-free grants. The program includes workshops, mentoring, partner deals, desk space and introductions to investors.

To sum up, Brisbane has a great potential to become a strong startup hub. It has all the benefits of a large city, while still being affordable and convenient for a startup.  We’re already seeing large success stories coming out of Brisbane and we are confident that with continuous support the ecosystem will keep flourishing.  

QUT bluebox created its innovation arm back in 2014.  Since then, we ran 8 startup accelerators and 5 Challenge Competitions, each awarding $100,000 cash prize to the winning teams. We have supported nearly 100 ventures and more than 200 founders.  In 2017 we created QFI, a $3M co-investment fund which to date has already invested in 21 ventures. The ventures that received our support have created in aggregate more than 500 new jobs.