For the last 5 months, I’ve been living in Brisbane, Australia through the Queensland Government’s ‘HotDesQ’ grant initiative. As a part of their $420 Million innovation program, HotDesQ is a multi-million dollar initiative to aim to bring startup founders from interstate and overseas into Queensland for between $50–100k equity free.
Funding comes in monthly instalments, and is conditional upon adding value to the local startup ecosystem. This is measured through a gamified points system which incentivises founders to give back, through mentoring, panels, judging in competitions, speaking, writing blog posts (ahem), connecting local folk with others out of the state, advertising the program across social, and attending startup events… just being engaged. I love this model as a way of ensuring the value for the state is predefined and objectively delivered by participants, and I hope that it is calculated to drive significant value to Queensland’s ecosystem.
It’s a highly competitive program, with around a 10% acceptance rate. The cohort is strong and interesting and from all walks of life. But one thing in common is everyone is at the stage where they want to start giving back, and HotDesQ is an awesome platform to do that.
Throughout the program, I’ve learned that I really love mentoring. I don’t purport to know everything, but as a second time startup founder (one bootstrapped with a positive outcome, and one venture backed), it’s really exciting to step back and help people think through various early-stage problems that I have (and continue to) go through. Be it the older Uber driver who told me he was scared of driverless cars taking over his job and thus learning how to code but didn’t know how to commercialise it, to uni students like Bryce Thomas from TokenSpin who is focusing on a purely charitable crypto betting platform, there are folks from all walks of life who are keen to get moving and learning and bringing an impact on the world. It’s super exciting to see a city developing a drive for innovation.
Especially in a globalised world, hopefully Brisbane will be able to be a strong hub of its own. Brisbane has all the elements that a startup ecosystem will need. It’s got awesome coworking spaces like River City Labs, Little Tokyo 2, and Fishburners. It’s got multiple tech/science universities like UQ and QUT. Plus it’s actually got a number of investors and a few success stories in the making. The investors come from all walks of life themselves, and they all want to add value to see their ecosystems thrive (to bring more eventual deal flow, and of course good will), which become powerful sources of knowledge and information.
Last week, I went to an event powered by Chris Rolls who is an investor focused on the real estate space. I said it at the time, it was actually the best tech event I’ve ever been to… and I’m (not) proud to say it, I’ve been to a lot of tech events. It had an incredible panel, it was dynamic and funny, had a full house, and a fully engaged crowd. It was really fantastic to see, and be able to attend and learn from in a new city which I’d never equated with a startup scene before.
Finally, the alumni network and their personal Brisbane networks have been really enjoyable. I won’t mention everyone, but the family from HotDesQ cohort 1 and 2 have been really fun from a personal perspective, and valuable from a business perspective. The nature of global cohorts (like 500 Startups’ too) is the global network everyone affords each-other. And the cool thing here is they actually extend that network to Brisbane’s local ecosystem. Moreover, the government connection has been invaluable. Just as with the Austrade Landing Pad program (see my previous post on the topic), having a connection to government is never a waste, especially when their KPIs are to fight for you.
HotDesQ is worth applying for if you’re a founder looking for a bit of funding to get you through a slow period, or looking for a change, or looking to go global, or looking to expand to the Aussie market. I am confident having a revolving door of out-of-state founders adds value to the local ecosystem, especially when a bulk of them stay, hire, or raise funds from local investors. FWIW, if Speedlancer keeps having a global team, we could make our next hire(s) in Brisbane as a high-standard, low-cost talent hub, with everything a startup ecosystem needs.
I’ve enjoyed my time here in Brisbane, and I’ve loved being able to add HotDesQ to my cache of global-networks like 500 Startups, Austrade, and Berlin’s Factory coworking space networks. As a founder running a global company, these super networks are each worth their weight in gold, and founders should take every opportunity to get into these cool kids clubs.