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Silicon Valley mentor warns Perth start-up community to unite or collapse

Tuesday, 11 March 2014 | By Rose Powell

The Perth start-up community has welcomed a warning by leading international start-up mentor to unite or fail, saying they’re already collaborating well.


In an interview with Business News Western Australia, Silicon Valley-based Adeo Ressi said Perth has many things going for it in its bid to become a tech hub.


“I think Perth could go one of two ways. It seems to have a flourishing ecosystem, but the players within it need to make a choice – they either collaborate and grow or they will splinter and things will not develop so well,” Ressi says.


Ressi is the founder of global accelerator program The Founder Institute. Perth was the first chapter it opened in Australia.


He adds the risk of splintering is especially high when there is government money available, as competition between groups slows the pace of development.


“I urge those involved to get together and build the community,” he says.


Startup Weekend Perth coordinator Sam Birmingham told StartupSmart all small ecosystems risk splintering but his local one is fairly united.


“We have quite an established collaborative ecosystem. Spacecubed is the node of most of that. With all the events happening there we tend to all overlap and work with each other,” Birmingham says.


Not only do the Perth chapter of the Founder Institute and the Startup Weekend initiatives share mentors, Birmingham says they’ve developed a bit of a pipeline for the whole community.


“We’re all working together to nudge them in the right direction,” he says. “It’s all about getting them onto the band wagon so we can all roll forward together.”


Non-technical founders are directed towards a breakfast meet-up, Morning Startup, and technical co-founders towards Startup Weekend.


“There are always things that can be improved,” Birmingham says. “My instinct here is one part may grow faster than the other and you’ll end up in a bottle neck. We need to create more success stories so more people want to come in at the entry level and that’s what we’re really looking forward to.”


According to a report published in September last year, Perth now has over 100 tech start-ups and 2,500 people actively involved in the community.


The report found while private and venture capital investment lags behind the national average, it is taking off, largely led by federal government initiatives Commercialisation Australia and the Innovation Investment Fund.


Commercialisation Australia invested $12.6 million in grants in Western Australia last year, which amounted to 18% of their available funds. These funds were matched by $12.6 million in venture capital and private equity funding.


Report publisher Jonah Cacioppe told StartupSmart they were at the cusp of taking off.


“We’re like a baby that’s about to start standing soon. But what we do need is more access to money. Getting from the stage of mates working on an idea to being a funded company is still a tricky path in Perth.”


Perth recently hosted a national app development conference that attracted international investors.