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The world is flattening. Entrepreneurs and companies with global ambitions are popping up in cities far from the tech capitals of yesteryear. And in case you’ve been asleep for a few years, Adelaide is 120% on the map.

Last week, SouthStart’s 2021 festival showcased ideas, technology and people driving the future, from an oft-overlooked corner of the world. Our team came away with a feeling of optimism, excitement and pride for what’s happening down South.

At Investible, we love a bit of healthy geographic competition. Just ask our Singapore-based colleague Reena how seriously we take localised Zoom backgrounds. So, when we get a front row seat at a buzzing hub for innovation—especially here in Australia—we put aside our Sydney pride. We love to see it.

Here are five of our takeaways from SouthStart 2021.

South Australia is serious about innovation

It’s no secret that a strong startup ecosystem requires fuel from a variety of sources. The united front of public and private sector players in South Australia are ensuring the region will be taken seriously in the years to come.

The state has famously maintained a clear focus on renewable energy for years. This steadfast commitment has demonstrated just how innovative the region has become. More industries are finding very strong footing in recent years. 

The state has doubled down on more key tech segments including cyber, agtech and space. Alongside the Australian Space Agency headquarters in Adelaide, space-tech companies like Fleet, Neumann Space and Myriota are making big waves.

George Peppou of Vow Foods and Michael Fox of Fable Food Co.

George Peppou of Vow Food and Michael Fox of Fable Food.

Impact investing is no longer charity

It’s become clear that purpose and profits are more aligned than ever. Founders and investors alike are doubling down on commitments to solving real societal and environmental issues.

Health, education, equality and especially climate change are monumental issues, and the world of technology and venture capital are committed to solving them. Australia has a big role to play here as a well-connected, respected and balanced ecosystem.

The environment and climate change were top of mind at the conference. Even businesses that weren’t directly involved spoke about the topic with urgency. Creative entrepreneurs from all over the map are laser-focused on making the world a better place. We can’t help but be optimistic.

The SA government is front and centre

The Premier of South Australia, Steven Marshall was a regular face in the SouthStart crowd last week. He turned up four times in five days, speaking passionately about companies, people and the community. Public sector leaders with an eye toward the future play an important role in nourishing the ecosystem.

Lot Fourteen is a tangible example of the coordination and commitment. With over $700 million in government funding, SA is definitely putting skin in the game. The new innovation-themed precinct promises to make a “global impact by accelerating innovation, entrepreneurship, research, education, culture and tourism.”

The Lot Fourteen innovation precinct in Adelaide

Last month, Google joined Amazon as a physical partner in the high-tech precinct, indicating that the momentum is anything but slowing. This project is proving that bringing people and opportunities together creates huge promise for a city and a region.

Investment opportunities are positive-sum

Over 40 investors and VCs were present in Adelaide last week, converging as part of the Venture Downunder program alongside SouthStart. The organisation, designed to foster and improve Australian and New Zealand investor relationships continues to make it clear: Finding and backing high-potential founders—and their ideas—is good for everyone.

A strength of the Investible investing model lies in harnessing this strength in numbers. We engage a global network of investors to source, secure and scale startups globally. Due diligence, co-investment opportunities and anything that helps ensure the cream of the crop surfaces? It’s all part of the positive-sum game of early-stage investing.

When we see the same energy in the community, we know good things are coming.

Australia, we’ve still got work to do

The Australian tech ecosystem has come a long way in the past 15 years but we still have structural challenges to address. We remain a small market spread out across a big space. 

As Matt Ridley details in his recent book, “innovation flourishes in cities. Places where ideas meet and mate to produce new ideas.” It’s clear that density helps build successful companies, and though our capital cities are thriving they can still only take businesses so far. If startups wish to change the world, they have to get to bigger markets. When it comes to exporting ideas and technology, there’s much to be done.

That said, the successes we’ve had from many years of hard work have started forging a clearer path. One supported by great people, and heaps of momentum. SouthStart reminded us just how excited we are about the next ten years.

Thanks to Mick Liubinskas and Trevor Folsom for contributing to this report.

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