This month, I was given the opportunity to embark on a Startup Catalyst
mission. Hosted by Advance Queensland
and led by Eleanor Carey
and Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur Leanne Kemp
, 12 female founders headed to the UK for a jam-packed week of events and networking during London Tech Week
Startup Catalyst is an organisation that takes groups of youths, startups, investors, corporates and innovation leaders on missions to international startup hotspots. They invest in the people behind the brands to spark individual “fireworks” moments, opening doors to new opportunities so Australian businesses can compete on a global scale.
There isn’t a set of steps for building a business. You can reverse engineer what others have done before you, but success is always the result of the people driving it. The ability to turn a challenge into an opportunity requires an individual with a unique mindset. As an Australia focused business, the potential to scale is limited. But if you put 12 female founders at the centre of the biggest tech extravaganza in the world however, surrounded by like-minded, influential thinkers and doers, magic will happen.
In the Codebots Platform, we call this the ‘fireworks’ moment. That’s what I was looking for with Startup Catalyst; inspiration for a plan that would allow Codebots to realise new opportunities, and scale far beyond the scope of Brisbane, whilst staying true to our vision, mission and values.
We launched headfirst into networking on Day 1, kicking off at HuckleTree
, one of London’s many coworking spaces. Under the guidance of one of our tour leaders, Aaron Birkby
, we spent the morning honing our pitches, with a focus on getting deeper faster and letting people ask questions if they didn’t understand.Scaling up
was the theme of the week, a term used to describe startups that have gained traction and are ready to shift gears and launch double digit growth.
The London ecosystem is worth 44 billion dollars, and is home to more female founders than the US. There are 48 universities in London alone, so the talent pool and potential opportunities are immense.
Chris Milligan of Adepto
, who was on Startup Catalyst three years before us. Chris is a thought leader on the future of work, and explained that as founders, it’s not just our job to run the company, but to take our people on the journey toward the future we’re building. We heard first-hand the challenges of having a product and development team in AUS and a sales team in the UK. Addie Pinkster CEO of Adelpha Group
, shared a fast, straight-talking, insightful monologue about doing investment in the UK her way. She happens to have invested in Chris Milligan and connected the dots for me about that journey. They invest in 80% female founded businesses, not because they’re female, because they are quality. She had interesting insights on being a woman and how to get stuff done culturally in the UK. Her talk has changed the way I conduct myself professionally, write emails and hold myself accountable. Julie Hanna, Board Chair at Kiva, Advisor for Google X and previously Barack Obama.
Julie had some powerful insights around purpose and profit, and why the two should co-exist. The Q&A at the RSA (heritage arts building) was so on point. Julie covered my passions of culture, recruitment and mentoring. It confirmed some of my ideas and sparked new ones. I want to be Julie Hanna when I grow up!
Julie Hanna on stage with Sherry Contu.
Meeting the Everledger team.
We got a behind the scenes look at what it means to run a business and grow a global team. Calogero, Ehsa and Leanne were incredibly generous in hosting us and sharing both the highs and lows. They have a unique culture and approach and I learned a lot. We even got the opportunity to do a Codebots demo to their tech team.Australia House,
hosted a networking event complete with party pies and mini pavlovas and I got to catch up with Declan Healy, MD of Codebots UK and Eban Escott.
The next day, Queensland Chief Entrepreneur Leanne Kemp chaired a panel on connecting corporates and startups in the UK. The panelists included Lucy Demery
), Mark Evans
), Kaushalya Somasundarum
(Fintech Partnerships at HSBC
), and Aaron Birkby (Startup Catalyst). The panel focused on how to work with corporates, form partnerships and the importance of leveraging your networks.
Cricket World Cup Sri Lanka vs Australia hosted by London & Partners
. This was a truly unique opportunity to cheer on Australia as we talked business with founders, academics and partners and saw Finch hit 150 runs.
Talking mental health in a Blues Bar. Towards the end of the trip, the group tucked ourselves away in an airstream caravan, and got real and raw about mental health and wellbeing. We talked a lot about founder challenges, and the importance of having your own micro tribes to support you but also to help those around you. Pay it forward. It’s good for business and your mental health.
Returning to Australia, I truly believe that you can lead from anywhere, it’s about breaking the boundaries of what others are doing, thinking and making. London is a stage, London Tech Week was the show and our cohort were the actors. The trick is finding your unique voice, what makes you special and figuring out what you need, then asking for help to make it happen.
Without the Advance Queensland funding I would still be quite intimidated by the UK tech market. Physically going there, meeting potential Codebots customers and participating in the program made it real and feel achievable.
This reaction to Codebots in London has given me confidence that we are building something amazing, that there is a huge (and hungry) global market and that it’s time to scale up. We can’t do it alone, but with the support of our new network in London and our passionate community here in Australia, we are going to make it happen.
, co-founder of MyCall
, the next generation of umpire assistance technology in cricket.Morgahna Godwin
, founder of Manage Endo
, a holistic data-driven tool to manage endometriosis.Trish Mackie-Smith
, CEO & co-founder of inndox
- digital property logbooks for maintaining your house.Siobahn Whitehead
, co-founder Passport 360
, safety compliance for high risk industries.Julia Khalyavko
, founder of SmartSoil
, a for-profit social enterprise to empower small-scale local farmers.Yaz Grigaliunas
, founder World’s Biggest Garage Sale
, connecting communities to activate dormant goods for good.Sharine Duran
, founder of Adzurra
, a shopify sales channel for fashion boutiques.Katrina Donaghy
, Co-Founder and CEO of Civic Ledger
, an award winning civic-tech start-up.Vidya Nallamad
, co-founder of Net-Health
, a self health management platform for lifestyle diseases.Cheryl Mack
, NSW State Manager, Australian Computer Society
, Community Coordinator QUT foundry
, a university based incubator/co-working space.
A special thanks to the following for organising this mission:Breanna Barnes
, Operations Officer, Startup Catalyst. Helps with travel plans or any logistics queries.Jess Roberts
, Mission Scheduler for Startup Catalyst, she makes the tetris pieces fit.Aaron Birkby
, CEO of Startup Catalyst.
Mission Leader, Entrepreneur and crazy, inspirational adventurer.
If you want to know more, you can watch my London video diaries. Day 1:
Landing in London, the Mission begins. Day 2:
Cool stuff to share from another crazy awesome day in Soggy old London Town.Day 3:
Meeting Aussie startups in London, hanging at Everledger HQ with Chief Entrepreneur Leanne Kemp, investment advice, and an incredible Q&A with Julie Hanna at the RSA.Day 4
: Working with corporates, Market entry PR, straight-talking investment, the reality of being a first mover startup, and mental health in a caravan. Day 5:
The Future of Work Summit wasn't what I expected.