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SouthStart talks up Start-ups

Technology heavy weights have descended on Adelaide to speak at the SouthStart technology and start-up conference, delving into emerging technologies and the humans set to redefine our future.

More than 1000 entrepreneurs, investors, technologists, creative and industry experts from a range of fields such as space and ag-tech converged to learn, connect and share ideas tasked from a world beyond our experience.

Start-ups operating in Australia’s burgeoning space sector were a focal point, with key industry experts saying they are well placed to secure global investment, as the country’s reputation for innovation in space continues to accelerate.

Speaking at the conference, Fleet Space Technologies founder Flavia Tata Nardini said Australian start-up companies were firmly on the radar of international venture capital (VC) firms, who were increasingly seeking to invest in space companies.

“I remember four years ago, when I came here, we were raising money … there were no space investments, no VC invested,” she said.

“Now, every single investor, big ones, has space investment now.”

Speaking as part of a panel session on space start-ups, Chief Executive Alex Grant from South Australian company Myriota, said there was no longer a need to set up base in Silicon Valley in order to attract investor interest.

“People asked me, back when I was involved with starting Cohda Wireless back in 2004, ‘why don’t all of you just go to Silicon Valley’?” he said.

“The deliberate thing was no we’re not going to do that, we know it’s difficult, but if I look back at 2004 to today … it’s a completely different environment.

“You have to engage with the global eco-system, but one of the things I really want to see is examples of stuff happening here that kind of legitimises us, and repetition of that legitimises – that’s what we’re seeing here hopefully.”

Representing the investor community, Horizon Ventures advisor Chris Liu said space was a global industry, in which start-ups from across the world could succeed.

“Talking to founders like Flavia, talking to founders like Alex, no one wants to move to the US for this because this is a really great place to be,” he said.

“Everyone wants to be here and I see this as a tremendous opportunity given where Australia is at, and the nascent space industry that is now forming, to be able to call in really large global investment into some of these companies.”

The week-long festival is sponsored by the South Australian Government who is actively attracting startups to Adelaide to help build a sustainable ecosystem.

The development of an innovation and startup hub managed by Stone & Chalk in the new Lot Fourteen neighbourhood was a key action in the Future Industries Exchange for Entrepreneurs (FIXE) Strategy launched by the South Australian Government in June.

Lot Fourteen aims to become the largest innovation precinct in the Southern Hemisphere and will also house a number of other local and international tech, space, defence and cyber companies and the Office of South Australia’s Chief Entrepreneur, Jim Whalley.

The site’s heritage-listed buildings have been marked for significant adaptive re-use onsite, which has been coupled with the construction of new commercial buildings to accommodate a variety of tenants including the Australian Space Agency, Australian Cyber Collaboration Centre and the Australian Institute for Machine Learning.