Queensland startup coach Aaron Birkby
Starting a business can be a difficult and lonely journey at times.
Taking a product from an idea to a prototype requires more than just an entrepreneurial skill set, but a network of support to help fill in the gaps, connect with investors and help secure their first customer.
All that needs to be done before beginning to generate enough sales to support a real business which is why business incubators, angel investor networks and community services are so important to a region’s innovation ecosystem.
Few people in Australia understand this better than Aaron Birkby, one of Queensland’s most experienced startup coaches.
Aaron currently works as an Entrepreneur-In-Residence at SplitSpaces, an organisation that supports MIW regional entrepreneurs on their start-up journey.
Innovation ecosystems are designed to help entrepreneurs develop new products and services, but Aaron says the pandemic has changed the types of people looking to develop their own business.
“Since the workforce has taken a hit, we’ve seen a more diverse group of people looking to create their next opportunity or steer their business through the pandemic by starting a new venture.
“I’ve worked with a hairdresser who created an online training course to help parents cut their children’s hair at home, personal trainers to create online programs and tech startups building new software applications,” Mr Birkby said.
“Innovation ecosystems are about helping all types of businesses from fresh ideas to mature companies.”
Aaron started his career in corporate Australia before pursuing his passion for startups. After a string of ventures, he founded a successful software company called Arinda Internet which he eventually sold in 2012.
“At that point I saw an opportunity to pay it forward by teaching other founders how to grow their own business,” Mr Birkby said.
A large part of Aaron’s work is helping entrepreneurs build the right mindset. Aaron believes there’s no shortage of talent in the region, but thinks a lack of community among the region’s entrepreneurs is holding it back.
“Founders in Mackay believe they need to be in Sydney to find a customer. Someone in Sydney thinks they need to be in Silicon Valley.
“People, products and capital move freely, especially now due to how quickly digital communications have been normalised, so the need to physically be somewhere else is not as true anymore,” Mr Birkby said.
“A strong appreciation of what’s being done in the community is an essential feature of some of the world’s most successful innovation hubs, so we need more storytelling from the region’s entrepreneurs to show what can be achieved with the right mindset.
“This helps activate business owners to support their community and encourages more people to try it for themselves,” Mr Birkby said.
An increase in government funding means there are now more small business services available in regional Queensland than ever before but, according to Aaron, a network of successful entrepreneurs that support new businesses is essential.
“Business owners want advice from someone who has walked the path and who understands them, so it’s important to have local entrepreneurs mentor new founders from their region and lead facilities like SplitSpaces.
“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, we just need to activate the community through storytelling, create a culture among entrepreneurs of paying it forward and build more partnerships with industry, education and government to provide the resources needed,” Mr Birkby said.
The Transformation Region platform is accelerating innovation in the Mackay, Isaac, Whitsunday region through storytelling and collaboration.
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