Stumbling Upon a Silicon Coast

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When I would create my online profiles for apps and websites, I often embraced usernames such as BondiBoy07, BondiDogPoopStepper or Bondizzle.

This article isn’t to invite potential hackers to use these names, log on and steal my Snapchats. What I want to do is explain the love I had for living in the Bondi bubble, it’s vicinity to the epicentre of the Aussie start-up scene and how hard I thought it would be to leave. Now here I am running my TalentVine start-up from the Sunshine Coast and loving every penny-pinching, sun drenched minute of it.

Fearfully Stepping Out of the Bondi Bubble

In late July I decided that I was going to move to the Sunshine Coast for a few weeks of chilled out bootstrapping, brain-storming and maybe even get a business plan written at some stage whilst I subleased my place in Bondi. I’d then be back down to tackle the start-up world from the bright lights of Sydney as that’s where you have to be if you have a digital start-up right?? Fast forward 6 weeks and I’m ready to change my usernames to SunnyCoast4Lyf or NoosaAmbassad0r. I have been so blown away by how supportive, collaborative and innovative the whole digital/start-up/small business community are on the Sunshine Coast. That’s right. Not only is there an innovation community up here but from what I can tell, it’s a pretty darn good one! I know without doubt that if more wantrepeneurs and entrepreneurs were aware of this per capita concentration, they would also pack up their mouldy, cramped Bondi apartments and relocate to the Silicon Coast too!

I arrived with a very uneducated expectation of having the odd conversation with a cafe owner on which version of Internet Explorer is best to use when looking at cat videos. How wrong I was. In my first week on the coast I sat beside venture capitalists from Silicon Valley whilst listening to pitches from incredibly innovative early stage business such as nanotechnology 3D nano-porous conductive membranes (I didn’t make that up), pure cloud delivery software and planet-saving bee hive designers. Yip, all of them being based here on the coast, and there is a reason for that.

Sense of Community

What makes early stage business like TalentVine successful? I’d be a real fool if I thought I knew the answer but I can tell you what certainly does help. Being surrounded by a community of industry thought-leaders with a genuine interest in helping you succeed. For what would have cost me 10s of 1000’s of dollars in a parallel community, I’ve had a breakfast strategy meeting with a barefoot globe-trotting investor and advisor, I’ve had pro-bono digital launch advice after posting a simple message on one of the community’s MeetUp groups. I’ve had free website mock-ups, pitch decks built, teams pulled off projects to create something for me, web development done without me even asking and retired CEOs offer me mentorship. And this is from people who are considered global experts in their fields.

Yes I would like to think that all this interest has been because they genuinely believe that TalentVine is going to be a roaring success, create lucrative equity partnerships for them and provide new jobs on the coast as I start to grow my team. On reflection, maybe they think this Sydney boy is clueless and needs all the help he can get! For the sake of argument, let’s just stick to the first. Regardless of the reason for this, it has been very easy to surround myself with a network of people on the same mission as me and that’s so important when navigating the rollercoast ride that is part of the start-up world.

Bootstrapping Your Life

As a start-up needing to bootstrap and show your potential investors that you know how to pinch your pennies wisely, you can’t look past the costs of running your business from here. My stunning open plan co-working space where TalentVine is based is not only filled to the brim with these aforementioned people but my office rent is half of what I was paying in Sydney. My home rent alone is $120 less a week for something twice the size and five times as nice. When you’re starting to think in terms of, “Well the $4 I could save from drinking instant coffee could be used for 2 PPCs on Google”, $120 savings a week is a lot of money. No traffic, no suits and ties, plenty of parking spots, $5 green juices, year round sunshine…. I’ll stop now before I get annoying.

In short, people don’t get rich by throwing away their money and when you see the plethora of successful investors and retired business leaders who have decided to call this home, that speaks for itself.

Skyping Without the Burnt Coffee Chat

A genuine concern however about operating a business from somewhere as ‘remote’ as this would be that it’s harder to meet face to face with clients and prospects. I’m not for a moment laying waste to the incredible and irreplaceable value from connecting with someone over a face-to-face meeting. However, although we have been let down by earth’s scientists with a lack of available jetpacks in 2014, we do have very clear phone lines and software of the Skype variety. In the time it would normally take me to prepare for, travel to a meeting, order coffee, mention the George Street barista’s impressive moustache, go through the small talk and pleasantries, talk business, travel back to the office and follow up, I can now have a number of remote meetings done and dusted with clear next steps in the same amount of time. If you’re interested in thinking big and having a fully automated business then if you can’t run it from the Sunshine Coast, you’re clearly doing something wrong and this is what I will keep telling myself.

And Now For The Acceptance Speech

If you want to be cynical then you can tell yourself that in a smaller community where everyone knows each other, it’s far too much of a risk to burn a bridge, thereby forcing everyone to look after each other that little bit more. I don’t see that as a bad thing but I’m not cynical as I’ve seen the good in people. To all of you who have welcomed me, helped push, inspire and advise me, thank you so very much. Thanks to these contacts I now have a fully functioning beta stage business 4 weeks ahead of schedule (talentvine.staging.wpengine.com) so I feel proud to help find some more great talent for this region.

So, if you’re trying to get your own business off the ground and it feels like you’re in an environment where you’re dodging dog poop, everyone has their head down, hands in skinny suit pant pockets, on the grind and focused on their own hustle then in the words of Miss Lara Bingle, “Where the Bloody Hell Are You?”

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