Denham Sadler
April 19, 2017

Banana benders on a talent drive

Startups

Banana benders on a talent drive

Holly Cardew: Bringing her San Francisco startup to Brisbane

Queensland Government policies aimed at luring tech talent from around Australia and across the world to the Sunshine State is proving fruitful, with members of the famed “Silicon Valley mafia” finally returning home.

Advance Queensland’s HotDesQ program has already brought 25 companies from Australia and globally to the state for at least 12 months, and an Aussie expat that has returned to take part in it said that it’s attracting much interest in Silicon Valley.

HotDesQ is focused unashamedly on poaching promising entrepreneurs and tech startups from other states and countries, and bringing them to Brisbane with the promise of funding, office space and networks.

The government offers between $50,000 and $100,000 to entrepreneurs with an existing startup based outside of Queensland. The equity-free grant also comes with six-months of free co-working space in a range of locations across the state.

The first round of the program is now halfway complete, with nine companies from around Australia moving to Queensland, along with seven from the US, three from London and six from other countries around the world.

“The talent pool we’re luring to our state through HotDesQ is truly world-class and includes expertise in artificial intelligence, mechatronics and robotics, and startups that are revolutionising tourism,” Queensland Innovation Minister Leeanne Enoch says.

“The entrepreneurial knowledge and nous that we have attracted is truly impressive. We have seen similar international programs deliver incredible results and we’re confident that HotDesQ will deliver great returns for our state.”

Pixc founder Holly Cardew entirely relocated her startup to Silicon Valley nearly three years ago to address a global market just six months after it was launched. Now, thanks to the government grant, she has returned to Australia to take part in HotDesQ.

She says she plans to establish a permanent presence for her content optimisation company in the Queensland following the completion of the HotDesQ program.

“I’ve always wanted to have a team or base in Australia. The grant has allowed me to make that decision and to have it based in Brisbane. We’re next to some fantastic universities which allows us to hire talent, and it’s more cost-effective than Sydney or Melbourne,” Ms Cardew told InnovationAus.com.

Ms Cardew has also been spruiking the grants program in Silicon Valley and said it has already attracted a lot of attention.

“I told eight people last week and one yesterday, and at least seven or eight of them are applying for it now. Initially they are a bit skeptical – why would you go to Australia for $100,000 when you can get that from an angel investor there?

“But the benefits of the lifestyle and building out a team are huge. You need to be in Silicon Valley for business connections and sales but you don’t have to have your engineers there,” she said.

The lifestyle benefits and lower costs are obvious for overseas founders, Ms Cardew said.

“In terms of building out a business when you don’t have a ton of funding, $100,000 can go a long way. And it’s a good base for people that want to test the Asia market. I want all the really good talent to move to Australia. Now I’m back here I really want them to move to Brisbane too. I want Brisbane to win now,” she said.

This is the main aim of the Queensland government through the program: to utilise the state’s lifestyle advantages and cheaper costs to lure some of the world’s best tech talent to its shores.

“It’s actually really working. It’s really interesting how people’s mindset changes so quickly. It’s fantastic what Advance Queensland is doing. They’re attracting talent from around the world,” Ms Cardew said.

Thanks to the grant funding, Pixc has already hired someone permanently in Brisbane, and Ms Cardew is now on the hunt for local engineers

“San Francisco is great but you can also get distracted by a lot of growth and what investors want you to do. Outside of that you can just focus on the company – there’s less noise,” she said.

To ensure that the local tech and startup community also benefit from the program, grant recipients have to gain 1000 “network points” through engagement with the ecosystem, and also submit monthly milestone reports. Successful recipients will also have to mentor two local startups through the program.

“You have to be actively involved in the community to make it worthwhile. It was a bit daunting in the beginning after being in America for two and a half years, going back you have to start again,” Ms Cardew said.

“But as soon as people hear about you, it cascades. Now it’s overwhelming - there are nearly too many things to do,” she said.

On their arrival in Queensland, the founders immediately receive 25 per cent of their grant funding, followed by five monthly payments of 10 per cent. After the six months of co-working space having concluded, the companies then receive the final 25 per cent, with the aim of this funding further growth in Queensland.

Applications for round two of the program are now open, with entrepreneurs based outside of Queensland with an existing startup and experience encouraged to apply.

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