Despite the uncertainties that Covid-19 brought in early 2020, Innovation Cluster was fortunate to forge ahead with delivering its 6 month CONNECT program to over 30 selected innovative and industry changing start-ups across three regions.
Now in its second year, CONNECT tackles the challenges of isolation and distance faced by regional innovators by bringing experienced mentors and expert facilitators to the regions to help grow their businesses through a 2-day business bootcamp and masterclasses covering digital marketing, cyber security, export readiness, financial resilience, online systems, capital raising and pitch training; and this year including business resilience for team culture, emotional resilience and thriving during a crisis.
Recognising that connection and collaboration are key to supporting and exporting WA innovation, CONNECT also comprises a number of events including our finale event, the Regional Innovation Showcase, part of West Tech Fest and aimed at connecting regional innovators with strategic partners, government stakeholders, industry leaders and investors to give the businesses access to new markets and funding.
This year’s Showcase was held at the Perth Town Hall, a stunning heritage venue kindly provided by event sponsors City of Perth, where the three regional CONNECT cohorts pitched and displayed their businesses to a crowd of over 150 guests.
MC for the event, Daniel Johnsen, who has worked with over 4,000 entrepreneurs in 20 countries to launch startups and grow existing businesses, was clearly experienced with pitch fests, engaging the crowd and focusing on the founder’s “ask”, even connecting founders on stage to industry stakeholders in the crowd.
Director for Invest and Trade WA, Chris Bandy, provided useful information on how the State Government can link regional innovators to global opportunities through their free service, “Since creation in 2019, we have worked with 200 West Australian businesses to develop their export marketing strategies and over 100 investors looking at investing into WA. Our network of international officers are spread across the globe and we will work with you to help bring your business case to international networks and we will find you the best fit. Our tip would be that you need the time to research the market prior to going there, you need the time to spend in the market, and time to develop your products so they are a right fit.“
After the pitches the historic hall buzzed with conversations between the founders and invited guests, and at the numerous business booths.
Innovation Cluster Managing Director, Tash Ayers, who has held a number of Perth events for regional programs said “Regional innovation needs to be part of the city agenda too. This networking event showcased the exciting innovations already happening in regional WA and the value of connecting businesses across the state and globally.”
Though the Showcase marks the end of the CONNECT program for this year’s participants they will continue to be supported through Innovation Cluster’s CONNECT alumni. Feedback from participants about the program list connections with like-minded businesses in their region as a major benefit for their business. Find out more about the 2020 CONNECT businesses here.
Sincere thanks to major sponsor Department of Industry, Innovation and Science who support CONNECT through Incubator Support Initiative funding as part of the Entrepreneur’s program.
We are excited to announce that CONNECT will be offered again in 2021. To register your interest in CONNECT fill out an expression of interest form here: https://bit.ly/3oo26JK
Photography: Dan MacBride Photography