Sunday, July 12, 2015

How to Start a Business in Canberra

Recently I was asked how to start a business in Canberra and how to get funding. This should not be difficult, as we have a new local government/university joint facility in Canberra, specifically to help startups: the "CBR Innovation Network" (CBRIN). The hard part is understanding how it operates and all the start-up jargon.

For a start, what is "CBR"? This is the international code for Canberra's airport (just as "LAX' is the code for Los Angeles International Airport). The ACT Government decided to base its marketing of Canberra around use of this abbreviation. This seems a little odd as Canberra's airport does not have any scheduled international flights, so apart from a few plane spotters no one knows what "CBR" is. As a result I tend to spell out the name "Canberra Innovation Network" (and suggest the abbreviation CBRIN be pronounced "See-Brin").

CBRIN's strength is that it provides many start-up services in the one place, provided by specialist organizations. As a result it is very confusing for the novice entrepreneur to work out what are all the  services and which organisations provide what.

CBRIN has an office on the top floor of the ACT Heath building in Canberra's CBD. This is an excellent location, between the ANU campus and the corporate offices of the city, in the center of a cluster of computer companies, private education providers, research organizations. Most importantly, CBRIN is near good bars and restaurants (which research shows is important to the start-up process). However, if you go in the front door of the building you end up in what looks like a hospital waiting room (better to go in the side door and take the lift to the top floor).

CBRIN has:
  1. Events space: This is a large room where events and workshops are held. It can be hard to find, down a long corridor on the west dies of the floor (follow the noise to the function). Last week I attended Matt  Fenwick Life Without Lanyards. book launch and a workshop for the CBR xPS project in the CBRIN events space and the first monthly "First Wednesday Connect" last week. This is the way people are introduced to CBRIN.
  2. Co-working space: The co-working space is an open plan office with long benches for individuals and small groups to work on their start-up. The co-working space is managed by the non-profit organization Entry 29. This is where start-ups start, after being introduced to CBRIN. The co-working space is more than just a low cost shared office: the idea is to foster work relationships between the members. Entry29 members can use the co-working spaces in other cities, when traveling, such as Fishburners Sydney and Spacecubed Perth. (apparently it is obligatory for co-working spaces to have silly names).
  3. Incubator: The incubator is a step up from the co-working space, with each start-up having its own office area, but still located open plan with others. At this stage the start-up is expected to need more tailored and individual business advice. CBRIN's incubator is called "Kiln Incubator".
  4. Accelerator: The accelerator is a process, not a physical space.  A start-up in the accelerator program will most likely be located in the incubator space, but also gets expert help and funding for a limited time, in return for giving up a share of the ownership of the business. CBRIN has associated with it the Griffin Accelerator

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