Most entrepreneurs learn the ins and outs of running a business by trial and error. But Colin Kinner is hoping to change that, recently launching Brisbane-based pre-accelerator program Startup OnRamp to give first-time founders a crash course on how to start a startup.
Having spent a fair share of his time in the Australian startup scene including being a volunteer mentor at Brisbane-based River City Labs, a mission lead for the Startup Catalyst Silicon Valley program, and an author of the StartupAus Crossroads report, Mr Kinner said it was increasingly frustrating to watch people with good ideas, but no clue on how to commercialise them.
“I’ve spent enough time working with startups and people who have ideas for startups,” Mr Kinner said.
“It has become really clear that there are a lot of people who have ideas but never actually make the leap to starting their startups, and that’s a real shame.”
He says the Queensland government shares a similar view, after Startup OnRamp received $25,000 in grant support under the Advanced Queensland initiative to help kick start the program.
The Startup Onramp program is expected to be expanded nationally, particularly into regional areas where startup are currently an “almost unheard of activity”.
“The plan was to always pilot this program in Brisbane,” he said. “If it seems to meet the need, we would like to expand nationally. In the last few months I’ve had some really positive discussions with startup hubs and co-working spaces in almost all capital cities and a few regional centres.”
Another core issue Mr Kinner is trying to minimise is the handout of bad advice, a common problem he believes that is spreading in the Australian startup ecosystem.
“If we were in Silicon Valley, any startup founder could ask five of their best friends what they should do; probably four of their friends would have previously had run a startup. We’re not in Silicon Valley,” he said.
“For most startup founders in Australia they can’t really ask the people around them what they should do, and most of the people they ask have no idea,” he said.
“But even if they have done a startup…they tend to cluster inexperienced startup founders together because of the nature of the Australian startup ecosystem.”
However, that’s not to say that startup hubs are extremely beneficial for companies just starting out, Mr Kinner said reassuringly that “clustering startups is important”, rather it’s a matter of making sure people outside of the startup ecosystem are aware of such support networks.
“To people who aren’t already in the startup scene, [the startup scene] has been opaque and difficult for them to see how they can be part of it.”
The first cohort of the Startup OnRamp graduated last month, and the program for the second cohort is currently underway. Mr Kinner said a majority of those who signed up were people with corporate backgrounds, currently with part-time or full-time jobs, looking not only for a way out of their everyday job, but to use their existing industry knowledge to come up with a new idea.
“Based on feedback from the first pitch night in the first cohort, people said it was really interesting because they said they had no idea that this whole [startup] scene existed.
“We had about 160 people in the audience from our pitch night; more than two thirds of them have never been into The Precinct.”