From hackathons to startup weekends, innovation announcements and big precincts, it’s been a great week in Melbourne for entrepreneurial culture

Those of you who were lucky enough to be at Inspire9 on Friday morning would have seen Philip Dalidakis (the Minister for Innovation and Small Business) and heard his $60million LaunchVic startup announcement. Along with this big news, which will be spent on startup programs, infrastructure and more, Philip spoke about why startups are an important part of society. As you’ve heard (or read) me say, the startup ecosystem is massive in Melbourne! With this allocation of funding we all hope to see the economy of tomorrow built today as well as the jobs of tomorrow created now. Both Philip and Pradeep empathised the importance of collective intelligence and how we are all in this together:

“what we do matters, and what we do collectively matters”
“the world is ours for the taking, we either take it together or not at all”
“things flourish if we get the right environment and culture”

It was fantastic to hear Philip speak and to have all the things we’ve been striving towards reiterated. Not only did Philip launch the new fund, but he also said they are “walking the talk” by opening a logo design competition for the new initiative. “BB-8 came out of a startup” so why can’t we do this too? It is great to see the big time ministers giving startups the lime-light in this way.

Philip Dalidakis, the Minister of Innovation and Small Business announces $60 million LaunchVic fund
Philip Dalidakis, the Minister of Innovation and Small Business announces $60 million LaunchVic fund

Oh and as a side note – the Minister congratulated MAP on being ranked the 8th best university accelerator IN THE WORLD!!! This is a massive achievement, to have Australia’s number one university accelerator ranked so highly on a global scale.

Fast forward now to Friday night, where NewsCorp opened up their API for the first time ever at Carlton Connect and LAB-14. The HSCodeFest became a huge hit with startups. A mix of participants came from students to industry, from those with a fully formed idea ready to inject NewsCorp, to those with no team, no idea and no clue as to what they were getting themselves into for the weekend. It opened with Chris from HWT talking about how we wanted to see how far “you can go as an entrepreneur” in a single weekend. Philip made another appearance and again spoke about celebrating the ecosystem of Melbourne, its creativity and innovation. He hammered home the usual “fail… fail fast and learn from it” line informing us all that failure shouldn’t be seen as a huge setback. Failure is only a setback if you don’t learn from it. You’re a winner if you learn from it and move on. And if you do learn and you do move on and you win… CELEBRATE! “Yell from the rooftops”. I would also add that we should celebrate together and marvel in each others’ successes. This is something I frequently do. Whenever one of the MAP teams gets a new investor, sells something or hits a milestone, I jump up and down with joy. A win for them is a win for us, but it’s also fun to celebrate with people.

The CodeFest hit it off nicely after this. Teams formed up and started planning, coding and hacking away. I think everyone was thoroughly impressed by the food this weekend. Andrew and the team from LIME catering did an amazing job! We even had a table setup like school camp on the Saturday evening for dinner. It was great fun and felt like everyone was having a great time together. One thing I always find so awesome about hackathons is that everyone is competing for the prize money but everyone is also so willing to help one another out, give advice, fix up bits of code and be testers. This is exactly what the startup scene is like. No one is out to get anyone else. It’s not a dog eat dog world but instead a healthy competitive, collaborative ecosystem. It is this kind of healthy culture that drives startups forward (very similar to sporting competitions I find).

Having some fun at CodeFest! It's like school camp in the events room.
Having some fun at CodeFest! It’s like school camp in the events room.

Anyways, back to the CodeFest. After many long hours (some teams were here most of the night) it finally came to pitch time on the Sunday afternoon. There were some great ideas pitched including news automatically read to you, automated twitter feed for news, games, advertising, coupons, restaurant reviews, monetising businesses, sentiment prediction and creating user defined categories for news. Teams were judged by Peter Clark the EGM of NewsCorp, Rohan Workman, the head of MAP, Nigel Dalton the CTO of REA and Laura McKenzie CEO of Scale Investors. They were tough on the teams but there was certainly a clear winner. Viral Krill with their sentiment analysis data took the cake (and the $5000) by a mile. Their solution was flawless and it was truly amazing what just two people came up with!

Viral Krill, with Leon from IBM celebrating with their novelty cheque
Viral Krill, with Leon from IBM celebrating with their novelty cheque

Back to work and come Tuesday, we have the Chancellor’s Circle with a theme on innovation and startup. The basement of LAB-14 was once again transformed from a run-down old ballroom into a fantastic cocktail party with live jazz band. Charlie Day, the Project director of Carlton Connect spoke about the significance of the site we are on, the Royal Women’s Hospital. It’s a site of “great joy and sadness for many women in Victoria but also a site of great innovation”. He spoke about the vision for the new innovation precinct and how it creates, and is already creating, a vibrant community for things to just happen. One thing I also found really interesting was the “disruptive innovation war” which (from my understanding) is a phenomenon where knowledge is shared but there are so many creative and talented people that there is a huge competition for them. On the other hand, those talented people like to work in creative spaces and often like to do their own things (hence the massive shift towards the startup community).

Chancellor's Circle takes over the underground ballroom at LAB-14
Chancellor’s Circle takes over the underground ballroom at LAB-14

It was fantastic to also see creativity in action with Avargadi (remember them from Future Assembly?) showing off their lights to the guests. They were part of the “magic” Charlie was talking about. Magic, creativity, excitement and innovation is happening on a global scale… and we need to be part of it! Glyn Davis, the VC of Melbourne University expressed his excitement in the project and again congratulated MAP on their world ranking. He also mentioned Science Gallery and that it looks like its Australian home will be here in Melbourne! Super awesome!!!

Taking the spotlight at the Chancellor's Circle
Taking the spotlight at the Chancellor’s Circle
Now they're on my desk!
Now they’re on my desk!

Well it’s been a hectic week of events surrounding innovation… it is Innovation Week after all. If you want to know what’s happening for the rest of the week, check it out here: Innovation Week.
Check back soon for more great write-ups on all things hackathons, startup, innovation, culture and entrepreneurs.

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