Please note: Images in this article were taken before current COVID-19 safety measures were in place.
LaunchVic and a group of talented local business owners in Geelong are on a mission to create new businesses and new jobs. It’s an ambitious undertaking to turn Geelong into a thriving hub for start-ups.
There has been a buzz of excitement around the regional city of Geelong lately, with a new business incubator opening its doors to help small start-ups become big businesses.
Runway, the recipient of a A$1.25m grant from LaunchVic, aims to create 70 new companies and 500 new jobs in the Geelong region within the first five years of its operations.
Supporting business in Victoria
Runway CEO Peter Dostis says the company is passionate about innovation and business growth. Their team is dedicated to supporting businesses and creating jobs right here in Victoria.
“Traditionally, lots of start-up companies went to big cities because there was no support for them in regional Australia,” he says. “We decided to turn that around, and have developed a business model that will not only support start-ups in Victoria, but will encourage them to continue building and expanding their businesses throughout the regional area of Geelong.”
A comprehensive support program
Start-ups from Victoria, Australia, as well as overseas, have the opportunity to apply for the business program twice a year. From these applications, Runway selects a small number of high potential start-ups, and provides them with grant funding, training and business support programs, mentoring and a co-working space.
Those chosen for the accelerator program receive a business grant of between A$15,000 to A$30,000. They then undertake a 12-week course focusing on varying aspects of business. Once participants have completed the first 12 weeks, they are invited to a further 12 weeks of support, coaching and mentoring in the incubator.
Dostis says participants are coached in how to set up successful structures, as well as given critical advice on how to build a solid, sustainable business that continues to grow.
“We don’t just focus on how to get a business up and running,” he says. “Our team is comprised of experts with a good mix of business skills and experiences, which they are happy to share.
“This means we cover things like branding and digital marketing, as well as the financial and legal aspects of business. We want to take enterprising, scalable businesses to the global market.”
Attracting companies far and wide
Dostis says the first round of applicants attracted a wide range of businesses from Victoria and included six overseas applications.
“We’ve seen a variety of applicants apply for our grants, which is exciting. Businesses range from those developing drones and drone imagery, through to a physio developing a swing to help infant mobility and a company wanting to develop a customised stroller.”
A start-up city of the future
According to Dostis, the people of Geelong are excited to have Runway in their community.
“We want Geelong to be known as a start-up city, but we also want to encourage businesses to stay here once they have been established. That means working with key organisations around the greater Geelong region, in order to support growing business,” he says.
A key philosophy of Runway is for successful entrepreneurs to give back to the Geelong start-up economy. This can be achieved by supporting the next generation of opportunities, either through support or investment.
Dostis says research shows that start-ups are most successful within regional areas. They can make the most of their own community, but still have access to the resources a larger city offers.
Runway founder and chairman Nick Stanley believes that the company has something unique to offer both Geelong and broader Victoria by extension.
“Australia is emerging on the global start-up scene. We have a unique take on innovation, and are prepared to have a go and love hard work. Runway is looking to help start-ups succeed by reducing the potential for them to fail,” he says.
“In my own experience in building start-ups, I’ve seen many, many traps first-hand that I’ve managed to avoid, often by good luck more than good planning!”
When Stanley had the vision for the Runway program, he was thinking of a future where start-ups had access to a support system that helped navigate many of the common pitfalls and prepare these young businesses for success.
“I would have loved to have access to a program such as this, and it’s this view that was the initial motivation to get the regional program going,” he says.
The team at Runway are passionate about putting Victoria on the global business map, and aim to position Geelong as a key start-up destination. They are particularly keen to work with businesses and investors from overseas, to facilitate a high-rate of business growth throughout the regional centre.
“Having involvement from overseas investors, and being able to attract overseas talent to Australia is particularly important. That’s why we were excited to see international applications to our first intake program,” says Dostis.
With Victoria boasting one of the strongest economies and most enviable lifestyles in the world, it’s clear that Runway offers both start-ups and established businesses a tremendous opportunity for growth and development.