In Arts + Entertainment

How Adelaide Became Australia’s Secret Start-Up City

The start-up scene in Adelaide is growing, and fast. New tech festival Hybrid World proves the state is serious about embracing small business start-ups.

The start-up scene in Adelaide is growing, and fast.

The South Australian government’s support towards innovation and entrepreneurship has allowed more bright sparks to make a mark at home and resist the eastward brain drain. The state’s conservative attitudes and regulations have soften, and along with cheaper rent and living conditions that other cities, created the perfect breeding ground for new tech operations.

From October 4-8, Hybrid World Adelaide – a new technology festival – will debut. The festival will include a conference with tech leaders and innovators, with immersive zombie runs (yes, really), coding and drone workshops, and indie developer showcases.

Investment in start-up culture

adelaide tech start-up

Adelaide has the perfect mix of attributes for tech start-ups.

You don’t have to look far to see how the city has set the scene for start-ups.

The city’s start-up community is strong, illustrated in an ecosystem map – with more than 100 organisations that run events, deliver training or provide funding. Adelaide’s three universities have all implemented start-up initiatives and formal education programs.  The government has eased the liquor licensing process, prompting a slew of new small bars and cafes to open.

The festival and events culture instilled in Adelaide’s identity, and slowly, the city is breaking free from its conservative reputation.

Sydney and Melbourne are well documented as two of the most expensive cities in the world. It makes sense that Adelaide – where the word hip is being thrown around more and more – has become more attractive to young people.

Adelaide proves smaller can be better

Adelaide’s smaller footprint means businesses find it easier to communicate and things move faster. There’s a community-minded spirit that’s unmistakable. People want to help each other, backing fellow Radeladians to ‘make it’.

The city’s small enough to have not too much competition, but big enough to make fiscal success viable.

So many business ideas are technologically-focused; these operations may form at a small scale but they are going big, to a global audience.

Just look at James Stewart, who has formed two start-ups, both launched and based in Adelaide.

Steward worked for three years growing Kick.it, a health technology start-up to help people quick smoking.

His new venture, Coinstart, offers online courses and personalised support for Australians getting started in Bitcoin, Ethereum, Alt-coins, and other Cryptocurrencies.

Stewart stayed in Adelaide for a few reasons.

“Adelaide’s small ecosystem works to my advantage. People in the scene are really supportive and it’s a cheap place to live. While it’s still a conservative city, things are changing – particularly with government doing bigger things, like the Tonsley Innovation Centre.”

adelaide tech start-up

The Playt app. Photo: Playt

Playt, is a mobile app that lets users find recipes from third-party websites – such as food blogs, cookbooks and meal plans. Once a dish has been selected, Playt ships the ingredients straight to the person’s house (or they can be picked up at their nearest Woolworths supermarket). Users can also add other items to their ‘shopping list’ that aren’t food-related.

Playt’s Co-Founder and CEO, Nicole Henderson, believes the success of her start-up comes down to the location.

“Adelaide is very supportive of low-income earners. Rent is affordable and living standards are high. I would have never been able to survive in Sydney and build a business. Start-ups are uncertain, risky and stressful. Environment makes a big difference,” says Henderson.

“People here are supportive of each other. The state is doing a lot to back us entrepreneurs, too. It’s a lot more competitive in Sydney and Melbourne and there’s this hustle that goes on.”

adelaide tech start-up

A screenshot of the Beer Pal app. Photo: Beer Pal

Another young company in the food and drinks sector is Beer Pal. Also a mobile app, Beer Pal, searches over 5,000 liquor stores and pubs websites every day, delivering best price beer deals to its users.

Recently on Shark Tank, the guys behind this app believed Adelaide to be an underdog.

“There’s a great community in Adelaide. Six years ago when I came back from living in the UK, it felt very isolated, I must admit. But now, there are more opportunities available through grants, both from the private and public sector,” according to Sam Davies, one of Beer Pal’s partners.

“Adelaide’s size is a good thing. It gives us room to move outside the spotlight. Over the next few years, I think the eastern states will be looking over here in shock with what we have achieved.”

adelaide tech start-up

Skeletal imaging through the Voxon VX1. Photo: Voxon Photonics

Voxon Photonics, another Adelaide start-up, are creators of the Voxon VX1. It’s the world’s most advanced 3D volumetric display. The technology brings digital content to life and empowers people to visualise, communicate, learn and have fun.

Will Tamblyn, the inventor and CEO, leads a team of seven people, from the Flinders University New Venture Institute.

There are many more success stories of start-ups who have launched and, just as importantly, based in Adelaide.

After Adelaide’s economic lull with car manufacturing slowing since 2013, the state’s Premier Jay Weatherill switched focus to tech and innovation. $38 million was channeled toward innovation in South Australia. Elon Musk’s recent announcement with his plans to build the world’s biggest ion storage battery to power to the state is evidence of the city’s reinvention and determination.

While the rest of Australia might still snicker at the “city of churches”, people in Adelaide know what they’ve got. The prevailing attitude around the city is pride and confidence, not scepticism.

Published 12 September, 2017