Top 10 start-up meet-ups in Australia

By Oliver Milman
Thursday, 10 November 2011

The demise of start-up networking group The Hive after nearly four years of facilitating socialising and guest speakers across Australia shouldn’t be concerning for budding entrepreneurs looking to meet like-minded souls.


After all, as Hive co-founder Ross Hill pointed out, there are now plenty of meet-ups that are aimed squarely at start-ups.


Regular events are held at co-working spaces such as The Hub, while start-up hothousing get-togethers such as SydStart, Startup Weekend or Innovation Camp Brisbane are essentially lengthy networking sessions.


There are also plenty of online tools to connect you to the right gathering, whether that’s Meetup or industry-specific destinations such as tech network The Fetch.


“When you find an event that has some really awesome people who you resonate with, ask them what other great events they have been to recently,” advises Hill.


“That will lead you to the best ones for whatever industry you are in. But also (use) the internet. There are great videos on YouTube, and podcasts on iTunes. If you find a great one, buy a ticket for next year.”


But where to start? We’ve compiled a list of 10 of the best start-up meet-ups across Australia.


1. Silicon Beach


Where? Sydney, Melbourne and Gold Coast


A pioneer in Sydney’s start-up scene, Silicon Beach has become the group that any self-respecting tech start-up has to attend at least once.


Launched by Bart Jellema and Kim Chen, the group started off holding drinks every Friday in Sydney, a tradition that continues to this day. Expansion has been rapid, however, with networking events now held in Melbourne and the Gold Coast, along with the addition of a podcast and a jobs board.


Silicon Beach has even got political, lobbying the Government to invest more in Australia’s tech industry and railing against the proposed internet filter.



2. Sustainability Drinks


Where? Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart


Launched in 2008 by sustainability network the Shaper Group, Sustainability Drinks is now a monthly fixture in every state capital bar Perth.


Created to facilitate discussion about sustainability, the events have a distinct business edge to them, something that is set to become more pronounced following the passage of the carbon tax.


Speakers at the events have included ABC presenter Tanya Ha and Bruce Jeffreys, co-founder of GoGet Car Share.



3. The Churchill Club


Where? Melbourne


Formed in October 2005 by Brendan Lewis, Dr Terry Cutler and Peter Lewis, The Churchill Club describes itself as “Victoria’s largest community of technologists, entrepreneurs and innovators, whom share ideas, wisdom and experiences”.


The club, which charges for tickets, manages to attract some heavy hitting entrepreneurs to talk on a range of topics, including sourcing investment, sales and marketing.



4. Jelly


Where? Sydney, Wollongong, Central Coast, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide


One of several overseas networking ideas to emerge in Australia, Jelly was set (sorry) in 2006 by two New Yorkers who realised they liked working from home but missed the brainstorming and camaraderie of a traditional office.


While the gatherings attract many tech types, Jelly is open to anyone with a creative bent, from cooks to photographers. Ideas are bounced and collaboration is fostered.


Fans of free-formed, innovative groups should also check out Melbourne-based ideas factory Trampoline.



5. Ignite


Where? Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne


In 2006, Americans Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis came up with the idea of snappier form of presentations, interspersed with some valuable networking.


Calling itself a “geek event” that now spans 100 cities across the world, Ignite guarantees five-minute presentations by allowing only 20 slides per speaker, which automatically change every 15 seconds.

6. FastBREAK breakFAST


Where? Sydney


On the last Friday of each month, young “innovators , change-makers entrepreneurs” swarm around Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum to discuss the five Cs of innovation: creativity, connection, collaboration, commercialisation and community.


Experienced business heads also make an appearance at the $10 event, which starts at 7.45am with breakfast, followed by speeches and then networking.


Young entrepreneurs have a healthy choice of options if they aren’t in Sydney, with The Entourage and student start-up group Agents of Change stand-outs.



7. Business Chicks Breakfast


Where? Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide


There are several entrepreneurship meet-ups aimed at women, but Business Chicks Breakfast probably gets the nod due to the calibre of speakers it manages to attract.


In recent years, the networking group has featured speeches from the likes of Sir Richard Branson, surfer Layne Beachley and Li Cunxin, author of Mao’s Last Dancer.


For your $99, you are one of around 1,700 attendees, so if you are to track down the right contact for your business, you will have to be speedy.



8. Startup Club


Where? Adelaide


Those who thought that South Australia was a start-up backwater have been made to look rather silly recently. The famed TechStars incubator model will be applied to an Adelaide company, while an SA innovator has managed to get his invention into US superstore Wal-Mart.


The next big Adelaide success story is probably lurking at the city’s 800-strong Startup Club, which offers beer and dinner for “highly motivated entrepreneurs, technologists, internet marketing consultants and future thinking professionals”.


9. Mobile Monday


Where? Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane


One of the leading industry-specific networking groups in the world is Mobile Mondays, which was spawned in Finland in 200.


Now present in 140 chapters across the world, the group, unsurprisingly, meets on the first Monday of the month to talk all things mobile.


The aim of the group is to foster innovation and link start-ups to the big industry players.



10. Port80


Where? Perth


If you’re a fan of “no long speeches, no admission fees and no forced networking” then you will appreciate the mantra of Port80, a group for WA tech entrepreneurs.


While physical meetings are the first Wednesday of each month, the group is also in regular contact via an online forum. Port80 is currently looking to expand its brand to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane.

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