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Incubator for 100 Aussie start-ups opens in Brisbane

Date

Sylvia Pennington

Microsoft Australia's State Director for QLD Sharon Schoenborn.

Microsoft Australia's State Director for QLD Sharon Schoenborn. Photo: Liam Kidston

The Australian start-up scene looks set to receive a further boost with the opening of the country's first Microsoft Innovation Centre in Brisbane yesterday.

The software giant will invest $3 million over the next three years in the centre, and team up with local incubators and universities to accelerate the growth of software start-ups and small businesses in the state.

Microsoft state director for Queensland and NT Sharon Schoenborn said the project, headed by program manager Emily Easterby, hoped to help up to 100 new ventures get off the ground by 2015.

Encouraging them to do so hand in hand with Microsoft is a priority for the software vendor and the innovation centre program has proved an effective marketing strategy elsewhere in the world. While the Brisbane facility is Australia's first, Microsoft has 100 similar centres globally, the bulk located in Europe and North America.

"It's about enabling creativity around the Microsoft platform," Schoenborn said.

"Microsoft has always had a strong desire to help foster innovation and a strong partner network of businesses that develop based on our platform."

The Brisbane centre aims to help early-stage entrepreneurs develop technical and business skills and create networking and business development opportunities for themselves.

Microsoft had chosen to open the centre in Queensland, rather than the southern states, because of its strong base of start-ups, Schoenborn added.

Brisbane is home to a number of private incubators including iLab, a joint venture between the state government and the University of Queensland's commercialisation arm, UniQuest. The recently opened River City Labs already has 20 fledgling businesses working out of its city fringe premises.

The founder of the specialist systems integrator Mexia, Dean Robertson, is an alumnus of the iLab program, after spending 18 months under its auspices growing his firm to seven staff and revenue of $1.5 million.

Mexia would have stagnated, Robertson says, were it not for the incubator and the business expertise he acquired via its mentoring program.

He says the Microsoft centre should act as an 'aggregator' for existing players in the start-up arena.

"They have enormous marketing power...they have a huge number of networks and contacts into other businesses that have succeeded," Robertson said.

Allowing start-ups to tap into the global Microsoft network would be the biggest benefit the new centre could offer, River City Labs technology evangelist Colin Kinner said.

A lot of informal collaboration and business networking already occurred within the tight-knit Brisbane scene and the opening of the new centre was "another piece of the puzzle", he said.

"There's a lot is going on in Brisbane but there's not much maturity in the market – it's a year or two behind Sydney and Melbourne."

Chair of the Queensland branch of the Australian Information Industries Association Maree Adshed said many tech savvy young players lacked the business nous to crack the corporate world without a little help.

"This will bring them together and introduce them to the right people and help them to make something out of what they've built. It's a great thing for Brisbane. Looking at it from the perspective of the AIIA and as the co-founder of a young start-up, I know the difficulties of reaching out and knowing where to go."

Commenting on the Microsoft initiative, recently appointed Queensland ICT Minister Ros Bates said ICT had the potential to create thousands of new jobs in the next decade.

"Microsoft's investment in this innovation centre will significantly advance our efforts by expanding the IT skills of our local workforce, giving local companies broader access to innovative technology and cultivating greater market opportunities for new business," Bates said.

Launch partners include Lean Market Research, QUT Innovation Space, IdeaNetwork, River City Labs, Sales Monkey and Australian Capital Investment.

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9 comments

  • Good of Microsoft to try and help start ups, but it is more about finding new ways to use its current Corporate products, which have been a bit slow to cater for change. Microsoft stifled corporate ICT departments work well enough but are never innovative, that is for the open sourcers and coders on sites like GitHub.

    Commenter
    Mr Pod
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    May 23, 2012, 2:00PM
    • Wow, very encouraging.

      Commenter
      Wal
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      May 23, 2012, 2:02PM
      • I am highly suspicious of Microsoft. I would prefer to be with Linux, Google, Apple and other open minded developments, which are proven to become large industrial successes to build quality communities and careers.
        As a previous Microsoft partner (I see no further value in the exorbitant membership fees), I can tell you the corporate style is a nightmare compared to other IT companies.
        Let's build our industry with forward thinking companies with a far better ethos.

        Commenter
        eiger3970
        Location
        Gold Coast
        Date and time
        May 23, 2012, 2:56PM
        • @eiger3870 Agree but Apple have the same Microsoft tendency. This incubation offering is Microsoft trying to come up with new ideas to invigorate their old corporate offerings. Open Source has drives innovation, not Microsoft.

          Commenter
          Biggles
          Location
          Brisbane
          Date and time
          May 23, 2012, 3:42PM
        • Linux isn't really a company!

          Commenter
          Gerson
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          May 23, 2012, 4:53PM
      • Thanks Microsoft! I wish your program was in Melbourne too.

        When we were building our product years ago we had the support of Microsoft's database gurus in Melbourne and Sydney. The Sydney visit involved a full day of David Lean's time - for free - but so valuable to us.

        Commenter
        Yours Truly
        Date and time
        May 23, 2012, 5:23PM
        • Start up funding in Australia is desperately needed because for every start up that heads off to the Valley, that’s one less Australian business participant in the new economy. However saying that beware of Greeks bearing gifts. What might be a lot of money today could in 5 years seem like peanuts. Before speaking to any venture partner get your legal and financial team together first. They can help with agreements, business plans and perhaps more importantly funding too.

          Commenter
          DC
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          May 23, 2012, 10:27PM
          • This is a typical lock in strategy by Microsoft. By finacing startups using Microsoft Software the startups will be dependent on Microsoft later, and will have to continue to purchase Microsoft software. In short it's a typical Loss Leader, that will ultimately stunt the growth of the majority those Aussie startups.

            If those startups were to base their software stack on Linux and Free Open Source Software, as did Google, Facebook, Twitter and a host of other majorly successful companies did, when they were startups, and continue to do now. Those Aussie startups will stand a much better chance of joining the big players.

            Commenter
            tracyanne
            Date and time
            May 25, 2012, 9:13AM
            • microsoft?

              Commenter
              tinny
              Location
              melb
              Date and time
              May 31, 2012, 11:41AM
              Comments are now closed
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