The Perth startup scene – what you need to know

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Eric Ries Lean Startup
Eric Ries - holding his 'Lean Startup Bible' on a tablet.

Hello and welcome!

Perth has a vibrant, growing startup scene and we’re really happy to welcome new people into it. We hope you’ll create something amazing here and share your story with us.

Perth’s scene is unusual, as Perth is unusual, because of our position as the most remote city in the world. We have a small domestic market, which is further distorted because of mining, yet we have an unusually high level of creative and technical aptitude, which is also evident in our music and arts scenes too.

We tend to punch far above our weight in numbers, possibly because our remoteness engenders a self-reliance that makes us more willing to roll up our sleeves and get the job done ourselves.

So, time to roll up your sleeves, quit your job, find a real problem to solve, and make your dreams come true.

Things you need to know:

  • Generally speaking, Eric Ries’s Lean Startup is the bible that the startup community follows. There are other ways of creating a startup, and there are arguments for and against those, but you can reasonably assume that everyone you meet in the scene is using the ‘Lean Startup Methodology’ for their projects. If you don’t like the lean approach, that’s fine (and you’ll probably find people who secretly agree with you) but it’s as smart approach as any, in our humble opinion.
  • Perth startups should feel they are in competition with each other. If a Perth startup succeeds, that makes it easier for other Perth startups to succeed. Seek way to collaborate and help your fellow founders and techies. There’s an understanding that the ones who make it to the top will reach down and pull some others up after them. Helping other people to get their idea working will ultimately help you to get yours working. Pay it forward.
  • This is a social scene, but the objective is to do business with each other, so it can get strange at times. As a hard-and-fast rule, if you’re doing business with someone else in the scene then go the extra mile to play nicely. Getting a reputation for not paying your bills or not delivering what you said you would can be hard to shake off.
  • Your idea is not going to be stolen. There are a number of reasons (see here) for this. Feel free to talk to anyone in the community about your idea, and you’ll get open, honest feedback and usually offers to help.
  • For the same reasons, NDA’s and confidentiality agreements are usually frowned upon, and most people in the scene will either politely decline to sign one or charge money to sign one.
  • However, having said all of that, if your idea is patentable be cautious about publishing anything about it, and get legal advice early. There are patent experts in the community, ask around and you’ll be directed to them.
  • You will make mistakes, lots of mistakes. Be open about them, because others can learn from your mistakes. You’ll be amazed how supportive people are about your mistakes. On the other side of this; be supportive about other people’s mistakes. Thank them for the free education they just gave you.
  • In general, Perth is a hard place to get funding for an idea. Almost all the startups in the community are “bootstrapping” – surviving on minimal income while they attempt to build customer revenue. If you’re expecting to meet an investor who will invest in your idea after a 10-minute pitch then you’ll probably be disappointed. Getting investors on too early can be a mistake anyway. Investors stay around until there’s an exit opportunity, so don’t rush to get them in, if you can do it without them. Plan for an average of two years of hard graft with no cash before seeing some returns.

If you’re a developer/designer:

  • The big problem that everyone else has is getting their MVP (Minimum Viable Product – think “working prototype”) built. You will therefore be welcomed with open arms, and invitations to build their product.
  • Everyone will assume that you can build websites and mobile apps. If your background is in commercial/desktop coding, then you may want to start learning web and mobile development before telling people you can code.
  • Similarly, if you’re a designer then everyone will assume you can build websites and know all about User Experience. If your experience is in commercial graphic design or similar, then you may want to learn some web design.
  • Try not to agree to a co-founder deal with someone who has no money or relevant skills. You’ll do it once, we all do, but learn fast. If you’re writing code that you won’t own, you need to be paid for it.
  • The temptation to build something by yourself is strong, but teams are more successful. You almost certainly don’t have all the skills necessary to build a viable startup by yourself, and if you do then you definitely won’t have the time required.
  • Attend a few events (Startup Weekend especially) and hackathons to get a feel for the development practice; it’s very different from commercial coding. Less emphasis on quality and maintainability, more emphasis on speed and fast outcomes.

If you’re the “ideas person”:

  • Everyone has ideas. Yours are not special. I know you think they are, but trust me, they’re not. This doesn’t mean you’re not welcome, though, so come on in and tell us all about your amazing ideas.
  • Ideas are not enough though. Even the most fantastic and original idea is completely worthless without a team to build it. Your participation in the team is not bought by the idea, but by your contribution to the team.
  • Identify the skills you have that can be used to build your idea. If you don’t have any solid skills then you probably need to get some. The best way is to postpone your idea and work for another startup for a couple of years. Someone else’s.
  • The reason we’re a bit negative on “ideas people” is that we get a lot of clueless newbies with no relevant skills turn up and talk about their amazing idea for a new startup in the expectation that we’ll all drop whatever crappy idea we’re working on and want to spend thousands of hours building this incredible opportunity in return for a small equity stake. Yes, some people actually think like that.

If you’re interested in startups, but not sure where to begin or what your skills are:

  • Welcome! We love people who admit their ignorance. A large part of building a startup is saying “I don’t know, let’s find out.”
  • Talk (or more importantly listen) to people. Getting people to talk about their startup is very easy, and you’ll quickly get a feel for the community.
  • Attend some startup events. We have an entire calendar, updated daily, here. Startup Weekend is an entire startup education in a weekend, aimed specifically at new members of the community, and a really good way of getting your network started.

If you’re female:

  • Double Welcome! The startup community is a bit lopsided male-wise, and so we really treasure our women entrepreneurs.
  • Yes, that means you will be in a minority at most of the meetups and community events. We’re sorry about that, we realise it’s a bit off-putting and we’re trying to correct it.
  • If you’ve got any ideas to help correct this and attract more women to the community, please let us hear them.

Startup Ecosystem

The Perth and broader WA ecosystem is evolving and ever-changing. We have mapped this here, so it is well worth checking out. There are 140+ co-working spaces, incubator programs, communities, recurring events, advocacy and investor groups, that predominantly or exclusively work with WA-based startups.

SN Ecosystem Map Types
WA Startup Ecosystem Map and (insert) by category

 Full Ecosystem (updated) display: visit -> https://startupnews.com.au/hubs/

4 COMMENTS

  1. Great article! As a tech company focused on working with start-ups, we are excited to visit one day soon. (I personally enjoyed learning more about Perth).

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