Is Adelaide poised to become the mecca of start-ups?

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By Melissa Keogh

Adelaide’s talent pool of thinkers, its world-class universities and gigabit speed internet networks make it the ultimate breeding ground for start-up business and budding entrepreneurs, says TechInSA’s Dr Judy Halliday.

The director of industry development and Hybrid World Adelaide LAB mentor says the city’s small-town environment also works in favour of entrepreneurs wanting to connect with the right people.

“I think there are a number of advantages in South Australia,” says Dr Halliday who has been with start-up support agency TechInSA, born from the former State Government’s bioscience agency, since 2016.

“There is high quality talent here as well as world-class universities, and there’s a lot of defence related work going on.

“Adelaide has that small enough but big enough thing going on … in the bigger cities it’s a bit more competitive.”

TechInSA’s Dr Judy Halliday.

Dr Halliday has more than 25 years’ experience working in technology commercialisation and innovation and has helped raise millions of dollars for start-up businesses.

She says the gigabit speed internet networks – GigCity and Ten Gigabit Adelaide – are a huge advantage over other cities, particularly in the gaming and virtual reality (VR) sector.

“GigCity is really important for supporting start-ups and technology development in VR, AR (augmented reality) and the creative and gaming space,” Dr Halliday says.

“But also our universities are world-class and the biomedical precinct on North Terrace is a great aggregation of a lot of intensive, useful and really cutting-edge health sector related opportunities.

“There are many real strengths.”

Born overseas and moving to Australia in the 1980s, Dr Halliday built her career as an inventor, founder, investor, academic and industry professional in Brisbane.

Before moving to SA she was non-executive director of a company in the US state of Georgia, Que Oncology, which ended up raising $16m in a Series A round.

Dr Halliday says she was lured to SA by its burgeoning innovation ecosystem.

“I could see that there was a deliberate intention to support the innovation ecosystem in SA, and I thought that was a terrific opportunity,” she says.

“I was really attracted to the opportunity to be here and get involved very early on in the ecosystem in SA, which is world class.”

Thebarton-based TechInSA works with start-up companies and entrepreneurs to bring their innovations to global markets.

The agency provides grants, programs, business and marketing assistance, lab and office spaces and access to international networks.

Since late 2016, TechInSA has assisted more than 150 start-ups in business advice, networking, and marketing.

“TechInSA’s broad aim is to provide support for early stage commercialisation of technologies developed in SA,” Dr Halliday says.

“Recently we were involved in taking four SA founders to London Tech Week to help expose them to global markets.

“We’re there to support companies and founders that have a global intention … it’s about building sustainable businesses for SA’s future.”

TechInSA’s success stories include Adelaide space start-up business Myriota, which recently raised US$15m through a number of venture funds.

Dr Halliday says the support and services TechInSA provides helps fast track a business’ success.

“It’s really about getting more quickly to a point whether that be getting a product to a customer, getting an investor or supply chain partner, or in some cases it’s about knowing whether this idea, product or service is going to succeed or fail,” she says.

Hybrid World Adelaide creative director Robert Tercek on stage at the HWA conference.

Later this month, Dr Halliday will be involved in Hybrid World Adelaide (HWA), a digital entertainment and technology event that celebrates tech culture in the state.

As a HWA LAB mentor, Judy will assist 15 finalists in developing their projects, pitches and ideas.

The finalists, to be revealed next week, will come together over two days.

“It’s a fairly intensive opportunity to meet with many mentors who have experience in a number of different industries, to pressure test their idea, business plan or go to market strategy,” Dr Halliday says.

“It’s an opportunity to ask lots of questions and hear what is often confronting feedback from mentors to help them really make their business leaner and meaner.

“It’s not often that you have access to many high-quality mentors in a short amount of time.”

HWA runs from July 20-24. Click here to check out the program.

Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.

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