Sam Birmingham


Pollenizer launches an online community to help entrepreneurs connect

6:45AM | Tuesday, 24 June

Pollenizer has officially launched a new online community, called the Pollenizer Guild, which is designed to help startup entrepreneurs connect with one another.   The free online community offers a weekly newsletter, a range of startup tools, private discussion forums for members and free eBooks.   While the Guild officially launched this week, Pollenizer’s Sam Birmingham told StartupSmart the service will remain "in experiment mode for quite a while yet”.   “We have a collection of hypotheses to test. If we can learn more about what makes entrepreneurs tick; the problems that they need solved to increase the probability of their startup succeeding,” Birmingham says.   “[If we can] help them share a bunch of stories with their entrepreneurial peers then that would be a pretty good outcome.”   Birmingham says the online community is aimed at entrepreneurs at all stages of their startup journey, from "cubicle escape artists" to seasoned entrepreneurs with a startup that is scaling and everyone else in between.   “They don't have to be a ‘big name’ mentor or investor – in fact, often I have found it better to connect and share war stories with other startup-pers who are bumbling their way along, just like me,” he says.   Birmingham believes there are other important benefits for entrepreneurs in sharing their failures and learnings.   “[Starting up] can still be a lonely journey, and we don't always know what the final destination is and, sometimes more importantly, if we're going to make it there,” Birmingham says.   “The more we can do to connect people and help them share those stories, the better, as far as I'm concerned.”

Sick of being the team’s “weak link”, this founder is committed to learning how to code

4:49AM | Tuesday, 1 April

Sam Birmingham has played a key role in developing the Perth ecosystem, and a couple of startups, so far. And this month, he’s going to learn how to code come hell or high water.   He’s picking a project, making a plan and calling for similar-minded folk to join him on the journey via this Pollenizer blog post. Over 20 people have already joined with similar plans.   Birmingham told StartupSmart he’d been aware of the benefits of technical experience but was inspired to launch this initiative when a friend of his tried something similar recently.   “I got a bit tired of my general suckiness at all things technical. I’ve been exposed to techy people through Startup Weekend and many of my friends are pretty damn talented devs so I decided to fix that.”   He adds his lack of technical understanding has occasionally made him feel like the weak link in teams.   “A lot of non-technical people underestimate how much their peers bring to the table,” Birmingham says. “Especially when it comes to discussing product iteration, often it’s the non-technical ones who slow it down.”   While he hasn’t worked out exactly what he wants to build or which language to build it in yet, he says it’ll be a web app and possibly built using the Ruby on Rails language.   Birmingham says the first week will probably be reading up and watching videos on the language he chooses before he starts coding his project.   “It’ll be about identifying the different component parts and working out how to do them individually with how-to videos and hacking away. Further down the track it’ll be about working out how to connect tit all, breaking it and fixing it.”   He has his first mentor catch up today and will begin coding on Tuesday April 1.

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

3:15PM | Monday, 10 March

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.

App to manage crowdfunding supporters wins Startup Weekend Perth

2:52AM | Monday, 24 February

A pledge management system that helps people coordinate their crowdfunding supporters after they’ve hit their financial target has taken out top honours at the Startup Weekend Perth hackathon over the weekend.   Crowdcontrol co-founder Ross Currie came up with the idea after raising $70,000 through Kickstarter for SquishyFort, a pillowed fort building kit.   “Kickstarter campaigns are so intense and are a bit of a nightmare. Then once you hit that goal, you think you can relax but it’s only the tip of the iceberg,” Currie told StartupSmart.   The planned app will enable fundraisers to stay in touch with their supporters and manage their delivery of the promised incentives that drove donations.   “Kickstarter’s backend has some tools, but they’re too basic and don’t allow you to do add-on sales. But you’ve got this great list of customers who are willing to spend on your product, so you can use them more wisely,” Currie says.   The team of seven, formed last weekend, are having a week to relax and re-assess if they want to be involved before they continue to develop the app.   The pitches were judged by a five-man panel including venture capital investor Matt MacFarlane; Health Engine chief executive Dr Marcus Tan; Pricewaterhouse Coopers partner Justin Scanlon; Atomic Sky co-founder Andy Lamb and tech consultant James Bromberger.   Startup Weekend sponsor and Spacecubed founder Brodie McCulloch told StartupSmart he was excited an idea tackling a big emerging market won.   “The judges said they were looking for someone at the front of the wave, and CrowdControl was exactly that,” McCulloch says. “There’s nothing wrong with ordering coffee from the iPhone but this batch were engaging deeply with their environment, seeing big problems with big markets and realising start-ups can tackle them.”   Startup Weekend Perth coordinator Sam Birmingham told StartupSmart he had decided to cap the group at 70 this time, which had boosted engagement.   “The good things with this cohort were more than 50 participants were new and that means our ecosystem is growing. And we had a much higher student and female participation too, which added to the wisdom and perspective of the event,” Birmingham says.   FixMyTown, an app to report issues directly to local councils, was awarded by Pricewaterhouse Coopers Digital award.

Judge reveals why iConnect Catering won Startup Weekend Perth

3:24AM | Wednesday, 13 March

Pollenizer co-founder Phil Morle has revealed the reasons why iConnect Catering was named the winner of the latest Startup Weekend Perth, highlighting the growth of the Perth start-up scene.