19/02/2014 - 14:59

Nurturing local IT talent

19/02/2014 - 14:59


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Perth is a hotbed of IT and business talent, and there’s no shortage of courses and events to connect ideas with outcomes.

Nurturing local IT talent
GROUND FLOOR: Organisers Lainey Weiser (left) and Matt Pontel at the launch of Curtin University’s Just StartIT!, which has 40 participating schools, with mentors taking students through the various stages of creating a start-up. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Perth is a hotbed of IT and business talent, and there’s no shortage of courses and events to connect ideas with outcomes.

The proliferation of start-up events, education and accelerator courses in Perth points to the rising interest in the tech sector, but it also begs the age-old question whether this kind of entrepreneurship can be taught, and if so, how?

The epicentre of Perth’s start-up community seems to be the Morning StartUp talks that take place every second Wednesday morning at Spacecubed in the city. This is a free ‘meetup’, which has attracted more than 700 members over its 18-month life so far.

Together with other regular events, including eGroup, Silicon Beach, Port80, Rails Girls (an idea from Finland where women learn to program), this makes for a heady environment in which there are plenty of opportunities for like-minded start-ups with stars in their eyes to mix with investors, programmers and designers.

The schedule is becoming jam-packed. Take this week, February 17-23, for example:

• Monday: the annual OzApps Awards (last year Perth had three of the five national finalists);

• Tuesday: a high-profile pitch dinner, Aurelius Digital, for invited start-ups, where business angels get a first glance at some promising early stage businesses;

• Wednesday to Sunday: Bill Tai’s global Mai Tai event (bringing Silicon Valley investors over for a kite surf and a look at some early state ventures);

• Wednesday to Thursday: the annual Emergence Creative conference takes place in Margaret River; and

• Friday to Sunday: StartUp Weekend is on again (for the fourth time) in Perth – here 100 attendees get to pitch ideas in one minute, form businesses and build their offerings over 48 intense hours. Some have revenues by Sunday.

It’s going to be quite a week.

In addition to these meetings, courses are springing up that aim to teach how to set up a tech business, leading attendees through everything from idea creation to launch strategy. The focus is very much on learning by doing, as well as listening to battle stories from experienced start-up entrepreneurs.

Sam Birmingham’s PhDo kicked off late last year taking start-up ideas through all the stages of incubation to formation. Mr Birmingham is already involved with Sydney-based start-up studio Pollenizer, and last year brought CoderDojo to Perth. This eight-week out-of-school program taught budding teenage programmers how to code. Mr Birmingham is also the driving force behind Perth’s StartUp Weekend.

A new semester for Perth’s Founder Institute will be starting soon, with a new course called Profectus established during the summer for university students. Taking this to the school level, a new concept from Curtin University called Just StartIT! held its launch last week with a function in Forrest Place.

Coordinator Lainey Weiser, from Curtin University’s School of Information Systems, and her team have 40 participating schools and a series of mentors who will advise groups of children as they step through various stages, before the teams present their finished ideas to a judging panel in June.

Taking this process up a notch are ‘accelerators’, who invest time and money with the aim of accelerating their progress.

Perth is now hosting the first of these too. Curtin recently launched Incubate, which provides $5,000 in seed funding and takes the successful (four) applicants through its 11-week program.

Telstra’s muru-D is already doing this, having invested $40,000 for a 6 per cent stake in each of 10 companies over its six-month program. A new round of muru-D is taking in applicants over February.  Successful applicants have to relocate to Sydney to take part.

It’s clear there is no shortage of events and programs in Perth for those wanting to set up their own tech start-up. Looking on, however, it appears there are plenty of people handing out the shovels during the gold rush. This is all well and good, and a much required part of the evolutionary process.

The question remains as to how many of these businesses will make a real go of it, gain traction and provide the much-needed investor confidence in the tech sector and success stories that will herald a further flow of capital.

Can tech start-ups be taught? You bet. Will we see some notable success tech stories in Perth? Time will tell.

Charlie Gunningham is an internet entrepreneur and GM of Digital at Business News
Business News regularly videos the Morning StartUp talks and they appear on our Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/wabnperth
Twitter: @chazgunningham 


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