From Louisville to Longreach: Roving Entrepreneur sets up new residence
Daniel Johnsen is the current Entrepreneur in Residence with Central Western Queensland organisation RAPAD. He tells us how he has ended up in Queensland, his extensive experience with startup weekends (he’s been over 50 of them in seven different countries), and his first impressions of Outback Queensland.
How did Daniel Johnsen, entrepreneur and technology advocate from Louisville, Kentucky, end up as the Entrepreneur in Residence in Longreach, Queensland? He says it all comes down to someone being willing to ask.
“It all happened because someone was willing just to ask. From my particular standpoint I never say no to an opportunity, especially if it is something I really want to do,” says Daniel.
Daniel has always had a fascination with Australia and put it out there to the Techstars Startup Weekend Network, which he is heavily involved in, to let him know if an opportunity ever came up.
In 2016 he was invited to run a startup weekend in Townsville, and although he thought that would be his only opportunity to come to Australia for a while, he was soon back running an event in Mackay. The second time his acceptance had conditions attached.
“I said yes, but with the stipulation that I spend 30 days in Australia and we make good use of my time,” says Daniel.
He spent over 20 days on a 2,200km trip around Australia, put together by Mark Philips (entrepreneur, mentor and investor at Business in Barefeet).
“We met with about 150 different entrepreneurs, gave some talks, and met with them one-on-one, throughout the trip in different communities,” says Daniel.
“I left every conversation with ‘if you’re ever in the U.S., let me know and I’ll fly out to meet you’,” he says.
“I met with Kristine, out in Santa Monica on the beach, and she just asked me the question ‘what would it take for you to come back’ and I said just make an offer, so they made an offer for three months, which turned in to six months then it turned into a year,” says Daniel.
As the Entrepreneur in Residence with RAPAD, Daniel is based in Longreach for the next 12 months. He’s working with Kristine and the RAPAD team to grow and develop the startup community in Outback Queensland.
“We’re building it, it’s still in an early stage, so I’m just excited to be a part of it, we’re trying to make sure we provide a framework around how do you patent your ideas, how you can diversify your property income,” he says.
“The great thing is the innovative spirit is already there, we’ve just got to provide the framework, the encouragement and connect people,” says Daniel.
“I think there is a natural innovative spirit, in Australians, and especially as you get into the rural and remote areas that is just built into the culture which is just phenomenal,” he says.
Daniel brings with him a strong understanding of business, technology, startups and entrepreneurs. He’s completed his masters in business with a focus on entrepreneurship, worked in the tech sector, management consulting and pursued his own startups.
He’s also a Global Facilitator with the Techstars Startup Weekend network, a global community of passionate entrepreneurs who provide 54 hour weekend events where budding entrepreneurs share ideas, form working teams to rally around a concept, iterate, gather feedback, then launch a concept through minimally viable products and customer discovery techniques.
“The Startup Weekend is family and community building and I’d say it’s pretty important for a lot of communities, including Australia, who collectively has hosted 93 of these events since launching in 2012 in the region,” explains Daniel.
“It’s a way to get people to explore how to start a business, and give them that confidence that pathway and structure to do it,” he says.
“To me it’s fun and exciting, it’s taking what people would see as complex and breaking it down into understandable steps,” he says.
In August Daniel ran the Startup Weekend: Outback Edition; the first event of it’s kind in Longreach. Daniel says he was impressed by the local community who took part and they were really happy with the outcomes and have already begun planning the next one.
“I would put the work ethic, the focus, the ability to get stuff down for the outback team alongside any other major capital in Australia or around the world,” he says.
Daniel was definitely impressed by one 11 year old who took part in the weekend, exploring monitoring water levels in water troughs.
“He is someone to watch, he is going to make something happen. For him to be 11 years old, working alongside adults, trying to problem solve, it’s amazing,” says Daniel.
Daniel thinks that there is a wealth of opportunity in Outback Queensland, to come up with innovative solutions to local problems and to build successful businesses.
“There are opportunities there, there are real problems to solve, there people who experience the problems are there and they’ve got the capital to solve them,” he says.
“It’s the perfect match of problems, the money to solve it and the desire to trial and experiment so people can make their lives better,” says Daniel.
Daniel’s advice for Queenslanders with an idea is just to start.
“You’ve got to start somewhere, it’s never going to be easier to start a company than it is today,” he says.
“So just get started, get something done, set an immediate goal, ask for help, you’ll be surprised by how many people will lend a hand throughout your community or even around the world,” he says.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for somebodys help, it could be somebody’s time, to be someone’s first customer, for a letter of recommendation; or it could even be for someone to do something crazy, like packing up all their stuff and moving to Longreach for example, never be afraid to ask,” Daniel says.
When asked what’s next, Daniel says he has no idea. He’s well on his way to meeting his 2017 goals, and he has to reset his 2018 goals.
“I don’t know what is next, but if I’ve learnt anything it’s to be open to opportunities and you’ll never know where the world will take you,” he says.
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