Blokes About Town
The Sunshine Coast is fast becoming known as a leading hub for startup businesses. I recently caught up with a few key players who are spearheading this cultural shift and discovered what an important role the Innovation Centre has had in helping these businesses to flourish.
You only have to look at the number of young entrepreneurs who are making their mark in business on the Sunshine Coast to realise why we are fast becoming known as the startup region. There is a real buzz in our local economy of late, with the recent redevelopment of the Ocean Street precinct including the Big Top and a number of new startup businesses in Nambour, thanks to the likes of Cameron Scott, who is just one of a bevy of young, forward thinking trailblazers who are creating their own destiny and leading the way in driving the new small business economy on the Coast.
Thanks to huge advances in technology and the explosion of the internet, gone are the days when work or business prospects are limited by your location. In fact, the undersea internet cable proposed for our region will connect us directly with global communication systems. Its impact is expected to inject an additional $700 million into the Coast’s economy every year and a staggering $1.1 billion annually to the Queensland economy.
The Sunshine Coast Innovation Centre has played an integral role as an innovation hotspot for our region. Since it began in 2002, it has become one of the best places to start or build a smart business. I had the pleasure of catching up with a number of business owners who are based at the centre over a delicious lunch at the Creek Tavern recently. Hosting the lunch was my partner in crime and head of Think Speakers and Events Gerry Morris. Gerry is well known for bringing top notch speakers to the Sunny Coast and is passionate about helping businesses connect and learn through the inspiring networking events he delivers.
Joining us was creator of Generation Innovation, Ted O’Brien; Craig Josic, CEO of Schoolzine; Dan Mckinnon, managing director of the APPfactory; Luke Humble, creator of Italic Creative Design, recent South African expat Francois Joubert, CEO of TruTeq and David Chamberlain, business manager with Think Publications.
The business culture in South Africa is very different to Australia. There is something very unique about the Sunshine Coast and the Innovation Centre, it allows you to mix in circles that are conducive to being very creative. We have the best of both worlds here on the Sunshine Coast. Yes, there is that laidback lifestyle but it also has a touch of the ‘Silicon Valley’ approach to life, encouraging virtual businesses and people who focus on startup businesses. I think everyone around this table are dragon slayers. While big companies have a role to play, new economy must be driven by companies with less than 50 employees. The country will fall behind if they don’t support them because that is where your accelerated growth will come from and that is what the Innovation Centre is about. The approach to business at the Innovation Centre, especially around collaboration, is unique to me and very instrumental to growth. We have more than 30 companies under one roof, we drink coffee together, we talk, we exchange ideas, it’s a fabulous environment.
I left home when I was 16 and bought my first house at 20 and I have always had the entrepreneurial streak. I believe you are who you associate with, I have always surrounded myself with successful people. I work with a number of people at the table here. We leverage off each other. People are learning to have a different mentality and to give back, that is what the Innovation Centre promotes – collaboration. We are proud to be Sunshine Coast-made. We want to articulate to our neighbours just how innovative we are. Business owners are going to start to think ‘hang on, rather than being stuck in traffic for two hours in the big smoke, we can base our head office here in paradise (the Sunshine Coast) and build from that’. The high speed cable is going to be phenomenal.
I like to say I am part of the innovation sector. Innovation has been somewhat of a subculture of the Sunshine Coast and our job collectively is to make it mainstream. A lot of that comes down to timing and almost a cultural shift but I think it’s already part of our DNA as a region. We are such a small-business-oriented community. It’s not just the IT section either that is having massive growth, if you look at the Hinterland, some of the most exciting innovation that is happening is in the oldest sector – agriculture. We have the hard infrastructure here, a great university, close proximity to Brisbane, wonderful high schools, etc. What we need to work on is our soft infrastructure, collaborative groups like this one becoming more mainstream, clusters, hubs, it requires a shift in mentality. Those who get it are taking leaps ahead. The only thing that changes culture is leadership and we need individual leaders to drive that – you can’t wait for government. Look at Currie Street in Nambour and Ocean Street in Maroochydore. It’s people saying we are going to control our own destiny, we are going to put our head on the chopping board.
I grew up in New Zealand and went to uni in Brisbane before moving to London and then Sydney. My wife and I were living in Bondi in a tiny apartment with a two-year-old child and another on the way and we just couldn’t continue to live that way. My wife is from Redcliffe and we wanted to give the Sunshine Coast a crack. I discovered the Innovation Centre was all about incubating and helping businesses, especially with a focus on technology. I got in touch with the CEO Mark Paddenburg three years ago and talked to him about getting involved and it’s been really great for us as a business. We have gained lots of clients and contacts and made some great relationships. It’s nice to have access to others because as a small business you need people to bounce ideas off. You end up talking to people in the kitchen and making connections and collaborating. I find people who open businesses on the Sunshine Coast are people who are driven to make their own way, they are those who want to live here for the lifestyle. It’s just a matter of switching your mindset and thinking outside the square.
I have been in the design industry since 1999. I love building things. I call myself a Lego man. I have always been involved with startups. I have also worked with Ted and I’m a mentor at the Innovation Centre. I am originally from the UK but I absolutely love Australia. I wish I had come here sooner. I love the mentality. In the UK it’s a rat race and everyone is running on the ‘SAD syndrome’. In Australia, people are doing things to enjoy their lives and better their experiences. The connections I have made at the Innovation Centre have been massive. Ordinarily in business you might have a business across the road you could collaborate with but it’s not generally the mentality. Business is about sharing and leveraging off each other. It’s about getting rid of that stigma and helping each other. I love the fact that you can be anywhere at anytime doing anything. We are at the forefront of that explosion. You can have a business on the Sunshine Coast and still be global. Our previous generation didn’t have that choice. I think the fact we are choosing our destiny both personally and in business is fantastic.
THE CREEK TAVERN
The Creek Tavern has taken pub dining to a whole new level. Centrally-located on Karawatha Drive, Mountain Creek, the spacious, modern venue boasts a comprehensive four-page menu, with something to suit all tastes and appetites. With a new cosmopolitan setting, the comfortable dining area seats up to 140 people and is perfect for a business lunch, a catch up with friends or a great family-friendly night out, with face painting on Saturday nights and a large-screen TV to keep the kids entertained while you enjoy your meal. It really appeals to all ages.
The blokes about town and I were lucky to sample the vast menu at the Creek Tavern during our recent lunchtime visit and it didn’t disappoint. Needless to say with such a wide choice on offer, it took some time to make our selections, with many of the delicious meals vying for our attention. Opting for a lighter option, I decided on the Thai salad with salt and pepper prawns. Cooked to perfection, the crisp salad really hit the spot and was the perfect complement to the deliciously seasoned prawns. Other popular choices included the Char Sui pork belly, beef curry and of course juicy steaks from the grill.
Serving sizes are more than generous, and judging from the clean plates around the table, everyone enjoyed their meal as much as I did. The Creek Tavern really does offer so much more than your average pub. The top quality meals, coupled with personalised attentive service makes it stand out from the crowd. I know where we are heading for our next outing with the kids.
Phone: 5478 1333
BLOKES ABOUT TOWN SPONSORED BY
Think Investment Realty
Phone 07 5451 1080