By Ian Williams
Adelaide’s New Venture Institute is helping South Australian entrepreneurs shine on the international stage.
Two companies – Drones over Water and GoGo events – have taken out top prizes at this month’s South by South West (SXSW) Interactive festival in Austin, Texas. A third company, VoxieBox, came fourth in its category.
All three organisations are graduates of the NVI’s 12-week Venture Dorm program and won scholarships for a US tour to meet other entrepreneurs and potential business partners. A highlight was the opportunity to pitch their ideas at SXSW Interactive.
“We were really rapt to not only create an opportunity for the teams to pitch at the world’s largest startup festival, but also for the amazing results they achieved,” said NVI director Matthew Salier.
An initiative of Flinders University, the NVI is proving an ideal entry point for South Australian startups trying to gain a foothold in the commercial world in the critical early stages.
Turning a great idea into a successful business venture is hard, with most budding entrepreneurs abandoning their dreams. Of those that reach the startup phase, about 90 per cent will fail.
It’s a depressing statistic that the NVI is determined to improve. Based at the university’s new $120 million Tonsley campus, it provides support for students and young entrepreneurs to develop new innovations, and is also open to other small businesses that are already in operation.
“University’s are big organisations with a great deal to offer, but we can be difficult to engage with and to navigate to find the right people,” said Matthew. “The NVI is a focal point, a front door to university capability with a large pool of mentors and advisers.”
Since it was launched just over two years ago, 114 startups have joined the program and 65 are still in operation. While it’s still early days, that’s a great deal better than the usual success rate.
NVI’s Venture Dorm program is run four times a year and helps entrepreneurs build a viable business model for their ideas. The most promising startups are then in the running to win a Gold eNVIe Award and a trip to the US.
For winner Daniel Squire, the inspiration behind Drones over Water, the US trip has already led to a promising business lead. His innovation using drones to collect and test potentially hazardous water samples has sparked the interest of Texas Water Management Solutions which has invited him back.
“NVI made all the connections for me and set up some key meetings,” said Daniel. “I still have a fulltime job so trying to fit everything in to get the business off the ground is challenging. The support from NVI has been invaluable.”