A vast coastal region in the eastern state of Queensland, Australia, the Sunshine Coast is one of the fastest-growing holiday and business destinations in the country. With stunning locations, pristine beaches, and moderate all-year temperatures for adventure lovers, this is one place where lifestyle choices are endless, and new developments and opportunities are welcome and encouraged.
Overperforming most other regional economies in its rate of growth, the Sunshine Coast is strengthened by 3.2 million annual visitors a year. It has also immensely diversified and evolved in other areas, such as healthcare, education, and business services, at an unprecedented pace.
This article will provide an overview of the Sunshine Coast startup ecosystem, explore insights from our recent StartupBlink Ecosystem Global Report, and provide an analysis of notable players and startups in the region.
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Overview of the Sunshine Coast Startup Ecosystem
The Sunshine Coast, a place true to its name, has retained its natural beauty and attracts millions of international visitors each year. Undoubtedly popular with beach and nature lovers, the Sunshine Coast is a place where the finer things in life are easily accessible, whether that is cruising past the stunning coastline, swimming in picture-perfect bays, or enjoying a picnic and the endless sun.
Bernard Salt, columnist with The Australian and Herald Sun newspapers, has observed of the Sunshine Coast: a region of “boundless opportunity for new businesses and the community.” Additionally, he states it is best-suited location in all of Queensland to start a new venture in the next 10 years.
Moreover, government schemes, grants, and newly introduced regulations on the local and federal government front have been steadily increasing. This is a positive sign for startup developers looking to base themselves in the area.
As a lifestyle and business hub, the Sunshine Coast ecosystem attracts a wide range of entrepreneurial people. The presence of newly relocated business developers, immigrants with global connections, and region-independent entrepreneurs with vibrant lifestyles, make the Sunshine Coast startup ecosystem an opportunity powerhouse. This high early-stage entrepreneurial activity is reflected in the number of events and networking opportunities in the region. It’s managed to bring together key players within a geographically vast area.
The infrastructure developments are another positive sign that will contribute to employment opportunities in the area and boost the local economy. In addition to the CBD (Central Business District), the beating heart and hub of activity across a wide range of industries, the Sunshine Coast has also invested in hospitals, universities, public transport. This includes the new Sunshine Coast Airport Expansion Project, completed in mid-2020, which will lead to an influx of international visitors and benefit export and trading prospects.
By 2041, the population growth is expected to more than double. Initiatives like the Sunshine Coast Mass Transit Project are already underway with ways to support the Maroochydore and other major business and tourism centers. Sustainable transport and prevention of green spaces occupation are some of the key aims of the project, as well as supporting local residents and creating employment opportunities within.
Insights From Data on the Sunshine Coast
The Sunshine Coast debuted in our annual Global Rankings Report this year and shot straight to place 259, as one of Australia’s fastest-growing and dynamic ecosystems. Compared to a negative momentum seen in some of the country’s biggest hubs, the Sunshine Coast claimed a spot in the Top 10 of Australia’s cities, in 8th place nationally. It is one of the highest new entries showing powerful momentum.
Overall, Australia is the leading startup ecosystem player in the Asia-Pacific region, ranking at 7th globally. The high exit ratio of successful Australian startups is an indication that global growth and scaling are easier achieved in places like Singapore or London, but returning entrepreneurs have a vast amount of knowledge and experience that can be used to mentor the new generation of startup founders. The Sunshine Coast is one of the locations where investors and mentors should aim to base themselves, in order to tap into the entrepreneurial talent pool and development opportunities.
Education and research – One of the most competitive verticals for the Sunshine Coast startup ecosystem, with nationally awarded universities, a growing international education market, extensive vocational education and training facilities, and a high performing school system. Ranked 3rd nationally after Sydney and Melbourne, this is one area where the Sunshine Coast has achieved tremendous growth, which is reflected from its position in global rank 116th from 1000 cities.
Energy and environment – Heavily committed to sustainable energy and environmentally-friendly solutions, with projects such as the Sunshine Coast Energy Transition Plan well underway, the regional council is an advocate of cleantech and carbon neutrality and aims to become the most sustainable region in all of the country. The Sunshine Coast Airport was the first to be awarded carbon neutral status in 2017. It is ranked 3rd nationally behind Sydney and Melbourne in rank 69, claiming a spot in the Top 100 startup ecosystems worldwide.
Food and agribusiness – Another highly overperforming vertical for the Sunshine Coast that has leapt to 55th global rank and third nationally as one of the most dynamic locations for food and agribusiness investments.
Notable Startups on the Sunshine Coast
Youi – is one of the most successful startups that is headquartered on the Sunshine Coast. A highly awarded national car and home insurer, and 2020 winner of the Mozo’s People’s Choice Awards for Excellent Customer Service and Outstanding Customer Satisfaction.
PointDuty – offers a range of specialised applications and software tools for data-driven industries.
Terragen Biotech – an agricultural biotech company that manufactures a range of biological products to offer sustainable solutions to farmers.
Alkira Software – builts powerful voice apps for platforms employing next-generation AI and conversation management platforms.
Important Players on the Sunshine Coast Startup Ecosystem
There are a wide variety of important players in the ecosystem as well as more than 10 coworking spaces and half a dozen accelerator and incubator programs. Here are some of them:
Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast – a major hub for entrepreneurial activity in the area that provides mentoring and support to mature and emerging startups and a collaborative environment where they can scale. Incubator and accelerator programs and a range of other high-end services available to members and stakeholders.
Sunshine Coast Council – Committed to projects that are fueling the culture of growth and innovation on the Sunshine Coast, especially recent infrastructure projects and specialist services that encourage new investments across the region.
Sunshine Coast Regional Innovation Program (SCRIPT) – is the largest statewide collaboration of partners working to develop a Regional Innovation Hub and connect players to facilitate business growth.
Startup Precinct – offers modern coworking facilities and a dedicated space for entrepreneurs. Want to combine work and a holiday, just think about it as a coworking holiday!
Spark Bureau – an affordable office and coworking space for solopreneurs, small businesses and digital nomads.
Business Mentoring Program – a non-for-profit program established with the SunshineCoast Chamber Alliance to support the development of small businesses on the Sunshine Coast and allow them to succeed.
Events – Sunshine Coast Startup Ecosystem
There is also a high number of dynamic networking and startup events available in the local community, that enable early-stage founders to find the support they seek. A community of like-minded and committed individuals is a key aspect of any startup ecosystem development process, especially in a place like the Sunshine Coast, where local businesses are complemented by an international pool of investors, founders and talent.
Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast – a fast-paced weekend-long event with a good mix of technical and non-technical background attendees, pitching their ideas, mapping customer needs and services and developing working prototypes to present at the end of the weekend.
Generation Innovation – empowers young entrepreneurs to pursue innovative ideas and offers the tools and guidance needed to succeed. Open to Sunshine Coast residents between the ages of 15-25.
Special thanks to our ecosystem partners, Sunshine Coast Council, for their invaluable insights into the Sunshine Coast startup ecosystem.
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