Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Build it and they will come. How David Masefield launched Startup Toowoomba and Canvas Coworking space

Boasting a varied career across hospitality, convention and exhibition management, selling antiques and building steel frames, David Masefield, 50, is now empowering Darling Downs locals to embrace innovation.

After taking his steel building company from a physical business to an online community, David knew he was interested in startups and entrepreneurial activity.

David Masefield
“Once I was online I had effectively created a situation where I was a digital nomad so I could operate my business from anywhere in the world,” David says.

“I could see what was happening in the capital cities with startups and entrepreneurs and noticed the importance of the co-working space.”

David soon realised there was no supportive startup ecosystem in his hometown of Toowoomba.

“There was a Chamber of Commerce and an economic development group and that was it,” he says.

“I thought I might as well be the person who gets it going. So I started knocking on doors around town and making connections and having meetings with people who were also interested.”

In 2014, David launched a group called Startup Toowoomba supporting startups and entrepreneurs across the Darling Downs.

Startup Toowoomba believes through education, mentorship, acceleration, incubation and promotion people can realise their potential.

With support from Queensland South West TAFE and its staff, Startup Toowoomba opened a co-working space called Canvas Coworking in June 2015.

Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Operating as a not-for-profit, member driven association, Canvas Coworking now hosts more than ten businesses and provides a supportive home for startups, acting as an entrepreneurial hub and a focal point for events and activities.

Startups and businesses currently calling Canvas Coworking home range from drone technology, a regional farmers market, an indoor food van, as well as a tourism and events group relocated from Victoria.

David attributes the success of Startup Toowoomba and Canvas Coworking to the inspirational people of the local community.

“People from the bush have always been a resilient and innovative bunch,” he says.

“I have the opportunity to display the tools and technology available today which can help power their businesses and help change and bring new innovations to the way they do business. It’s a fabulous opportunity.”

David says he thrives on helping other people be successful.

“Whether that is one person, a team, a company or a whole community it’s what I like doing and if I can continue to help the startup ecosystem further then that will make me happy,” he says.

Startup Toowoomba and Canvas Coworking were also reliant on the support of Advance Queensland to succeed.

Advance Queensland has been vital in supporting our events and activities which attract and promote entrepreneurship and startups. The funding has been a major support for what we have been doing here in Toowoomba and helping us covering the cost of the events,” he says.

Not one to sit around, David is now busy planning the next phases and stages of Canvas Coworking.

“We have plenty of programs in the works and are coming up with new ideas all the time,” he said.

The Canvas Coworking Community Manager Joy Taylor is currently in San Francisco as part of the Startup Catalyst Community Leaders’ Mission. David says Joy is gathering insights and information to bring home and give a “Toowoomba spin” to directly help the local community.

David’s advice to people from rural and regional Queensland with an idea, invention or business is to find someone to come along for the ride.

“Get out and talk to other people and find your local champions who are going to support you,” he says.

“Don’t do it on your own. Find like-minded people who can join you and help you know you are not a crazy person wanting to do this weird innovation startup stuff.

“Be bold, announce what you are going to do, tell people what you are planning to do and then do it,” he says.

“That’s the secret. When people see you are serious and you do what you say you will, that is where you will find success.”
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