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STEPHANIE PALMER-DERRIEN / Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Startup Smart: NT startup community gets a boost as Darwin Innovation Hub welcomes first ever incubator cohort

The Darwin Innovation Hub has welcomed the first-ever cohort into its Incubator Scholarship program, with program director Wendy Pech pledging to boost the community spirit among Northern Territory entrepreneurs.

Six entrepreneurs will complete a three-month program of workshops and one-to-one mentoring with entrepreneurs- and experts-in-residence helping them get their ventures off the ground.

Participants include EV2GO, a hire and sharing startup for dockless electric mopeds, pool temperature monitoring system startup Aquasense, and HYRA, a community peer-to-peer rental platform.

Speaking to StartupSmart, Pech said there’s no real focus on sector or a certain type of technology here. In fact, the first cohort of entrepreneurs were selected with diversity in mind.

“People feed off each other”, she says.

“The ideas that they share, and also the feedback they get from the various member of the group, should be really beneficial,” she adds.

The startup news cycle is typically dominated with stories from Sydney and Melbourne, however, according to Pech that’s not because of a lack of activity up north.

“There are lots of innovative people here in Darwin,” she says.

This program is part of a drive to showcase and connect some of those people, and their businesses, she adds.

“There are a lot of good news stories that are not shared with the rest of Australia and it’s important to tell those stories.”

She’s only two months into her role at the Darwin Innovation Hub, but Pech has already clocked “exciting businesses and opportunities”, coming from the universities and the industry.

But, at the moment, there’s not as much of an ecosystem, or a community connecting entrepreneurial minds.

“It’s about identifying and learning more about what they’re doing, so we can link them into the right support networks,” she says.

“The people are here. It’s just about collaborating with the universities, with industry, government and business to really support entrepreneurs and innovative people to really build on that ecosystem,” she adds.

“We’re building that community.”

In 12 months time, she expects the Darwin Innovation Hub to be a completely different space. It’s growing and evolving quickly, she says, with applications for the next incubator program already open.

The Northern Territory startup scene will soon catch up with the likes of New South Wales and Victoria, Pech boldly predicts.

“That collaborative spirit will be very strong in the Territory,” she says.

For budding entrepreneurs thinking about taking the leap into the startup like, Pech’s advice is simple. Just reach out to someone, she says. There’s more support out there than you may think.

“There are so many supportive people,” Pech says.

The state government, and Innovation NT, provides startup support programs and has grants available, and there are “lots of other avenues for support and monitoring, and supporting people who can help”, she adds.

“Start by having that conversation to find out where it’s going to take you,” Pech says.

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