You’d be forgiven for thinking that the reason I moved back to Australia was for the coffee. (That is not an unreasonable assumption.) But I really came back because I was offered an amazing opportunity to help grow my company: the Hot DesQ grant.
It has been three months since I have been in Brisbane as part of Advance Queensland’s Hot DesQ grant program. Hot DesQ invites start-ups to relocate to Queensland to be a part of Australia’s newest entrepreneurial community. They provide an equity-free grant and 6 months of free co-working space to move to Australia and network with top business advisors and mentors.
As a native Australian, I jumped at the chance to open an office back home and help other entrepreneurs learn from my experience. Being in Queensland has allowed me to build base in a fantastic, thriving startup city while growing a global company.
As part of the first round of entities who received a Hot DesQ grant, I’ve been able to learn a lot about the program. And now that Round 2 is open, I’ve been flooded with questions from you — my fellow entrepreneurs — about what you can expect. I’ll answer as many as I can in this post:
Hot DesQ Questions That I Have Received
1. What is the Hot DesQ program?
To clarify, Hot DesQ is neither a program nor an accelerator. It is a grant which runs for 12 months — 6 months of which are spent in Queensland, Australia.
Hot DesQ does not teach you about what you should do with your company, nor do they take equity. You are expected to build your company while helping out the Queensland ecosystem, but they will facilitate with introductions when you need help.
2. What are the main benefits you received from the Hot DesQ program?
In addition to the grant itself, recipients receive 6 months of free office space and connection to a network of business and industry resources. Not to mention the sunshine — it’s gorgeous here (but I am a little biased).
3. What was the destination you chose?
Hot DesQ has a network of innovation hubs (“Hot DesQ Hosts”) across Queensland including Townsville, Gold Coast, Ipswich, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Cairns and Toowoomba. As I still wanted to be in a place where there was a relatively large amount of people (I’m a city person), I chose Brisbane. It is the largest city in Queensland and has some great universities, which I wanted to be close to. It also has an international airport and is very easy to get to other places — Sydney, Melbourne or overseas if you need to.
In terms of host locations, I chose River City Labs (RCL) because not only is it one of the oldest and most inspiring coworking spaces in Queensland, it also co-hosts Telstra’s accelerator program, muru-D, of which I am an alumna. I have some wonderful connections I made there and wanted to be close to the community that really believed in my ideas from the start. (RCL is currently in the process of moving to the brand new Precinct in the heart of Fortitude Valley).
4. What is Brisbane’s startup community like? What sort of help did you get from them apart from the co-working space? Did you find that this helped contribute to your personal education and development as a startup founder?
Although the Brisbane startup community is relatively new, I was pleasantly surprised about how much goes on, as well as how much Advance QLD is doing to assist Startups. Check out any of the “Entrepreneurs and Startups” programs on their website and you’ll see what I mean.
However, like being new in any city, you have to take the time to map out the landscape and find the interesting and intelligent people in your industry. I have been very fortunate to meet some of these people, including Erez Saf, CEO of CRiskCo, who also recommends the Hot DesQ experience,
“We were able, in a short time, to develop new opportunities with QLD government, a leading bank, and rolled out a pilot in Sydney. Much has happened even before half of the program had finished” .
There are also quite a few founders who are not active in the Startup scene, but are very successful. It seems that they started their companies before startups were a ‘thing’.
I can honestly say that nothing will contribute more to your growth as a founder than networking with a diverse, talented group of people. Queensland can give that to you.
5. Why was Hot DesQ a good fit for Pixc?
The grant we received from Hot DesQ has allowed Pixc to hire extra talent and build other product features like automation and integrations.
It has also allowed us to build out a base from Queensland and have a presence in a fast growing startup ecosystem.
6. What advice would you give others to maximise their time in the Hot DesQ program?
- Live close to the office — Brisbane is affordable, so to cut down on commute time, pick a place hear your ‘host’ location (your host is your office space).
- Find local companies that you would like to be introduce to — Your host location or the team at Hot DesQ would be more than happy to connect you.
- Get involved in the community so both you and the company are known — This can be beneficial from both a hiring and fundraising perspective if you’re looking to meet investors.
7. What have you gotten out of the 6 month program, and would you recommend it?
Just to confirm, we are only 3 months in. So, we still have another 3 months to go.
But yes, so far, I would definitely recommend applying to anyone. You have the opportunity to live in a fantastic city with a growing ecosystem, and the grant money gives you an opportunity to hire someone on your team and grow your company.
8. Was there anything you didn’t like about the program?
Nope, and being the first round of companies, we were (and still are) the guinea pigs :)
What I would love, is more hiring events to meet local talent from the industry and universities. I believe the Hot DesQ team are working on this for the next round of companies.
9. Am I still eligible if I’m in the very early stages?
I believe it does not matter what stage you are at in your company — early, later, with or without traction. The Hot DesQ website invites both “Early stage entrepreneurs and startups” and “Established startups looking to expand into Asia-Pacific” to apply.
What Hot DesQ is really looking for is people with:
- Previous experience
- Domain expertise, and
- Knowledge that they can spread in the Queensland community
If you have a deep knowledge of your niche and (ideally) experience of running a startup that you can share with others, then this opportunity is for you.
10. I’m an American living in Sydney with a co-founder from NZ. Can we apply?
Yes — if you do not have a company registered in QLD, then you can apply.
11. It’s unclear what amount (between $50,000 and $100,000) my company would be allocated. What skills and experiences would a founder need to receive the full $100,000?
To be honest, I have no idea. Advance Queensland did not release that information to us, and it is not something that I have discussed with the other founders. I would check with the Hot DesQ team.
12. How many hours per month does it take to earn your 1000 network points, and what type of activities did you need to participate in? Was it a distraction from the main process of building the business?
I know…. “1,000 network points” sounds pretty intimidating when you already don’t feel like you have enough hours in the day. But it’s not — it’s very manageable. Mostly because if you are part of a startup community at the moment, you’re probably doing these things on a monthly basis anyway!
It is no way distracting from the main process of building your business because they are exactly the kinds of things you need to do to build it.
If I had to estimate specifics, I think that you need to dedicate enough time to assist two companies as a mentor, be on a panel or present at an event, as well as 1–2 other activities (such as a blog or social media post) per month. But there is a lot going on in the Queensland startup community, and you will be asked for help by a lot of people. You will be not lacking opportunities to share your talents.
13. How easy was it dealing with a government department? Receiving payments, for example. Was it painless?
It has been (surprisingly) amazing. The Advance Queensland team has been easy to deal with from the get-go. After they received the applications, Advance QLD determined who they would fund rather quickly. We were not left waiting by the phone for ages. They have also created a simple and straightforward reporting process every month and pay all invoices within 7 days. I’ve been impressed.
You have nothing to lose by applying.
We’ll be moving shortly to Queensland’s next innovative workspace — the Precinct — in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, and I’m excited to see what innovations this growing, dynamic community will develop. For applicants looking at this FAQ past this year’s deadline, I’ll be updating my blog with additional facts about the experience after the end of the 12 month program.
Applications are being accepted until May 3, 2017
Apply here: http://www.hotdesq.com.au/application-process