Growing WA’s startup support ecosystem

May 14, 2018

The saying goes that it takes an entire village to raise a child. I think the same can be said for startups too.

Over the last 6 years, there has been a growing community working to create the right environment in Western Australian for technology startups to thrive and succeed.

From hackathons to accelerator programs, pitch nights to investor networks, our ecosystem is maturing in leaps and bounds due to the hard work and vision of the community behind it.

The graduating team of the 2017 Founder Institute Perth program
The graduating team of the 2017 Founder Institute Perth program

Often, the typical journey for participating in the WA startup ecosystem is to join an innovation hub (such as Spacecubed) attend a meetup or if you’re really daring, sign up for a hackathon.

Startup companies further down their journey may apply to one of the many accelerator programs that have been offered to local startups, such as Vocus Upstart, Plus Eight, HBF Activate or RAC Seedspark. Alternatively, they may seek funding through an angel investor network such as Innovation Bay or Perth Angels, or give back to the community by being a mentor to other founders.

Whilst the volume of startup support programs on offer has grown hugely in the last 5 years, I believe there is still a gap in how we support and educate entrepreneurs, through the tough journey from ideation to product/market fit.

We have a variety of programs to encourage participation in the startup community, as well as a growing support network for later-stage startups, but a limited offering in between.

I have visualised this in the below graphic, which depicts the main players in each stage the WA startup support funnel.

A list of Western Australia companies that support the start up funnel
Note: this is certainly not exhaustive and omits many wonderful and valued contributors. It is intended as a tool to summarise where we’re doing great as a community and to call out the gap that we need to fill.

The opportunity

As most investors and seasoned entrepreneurs know inherently, at a macro-level, startup success is a numbers game. The power law prevails in every portfolio of transformative business opportunities, and that one success will have more impact and output than the other 9,999 combined.

The power law in startup investment portfolios. Credit: Artivest

If we’re going to build a startup ecosystem that positively impacts our state in terms of jobs, economic output or social value, we need to make sure the top of the funnel is not only attracting entrepreneurs but doing a great job of supporting them too.

One of the things I have witnessed working with local founders through my role at Founder Institute, RAC SeedSpark and as a mentor in other programs, is that potential founders will often begin working on an idea but falter on their journey to product/market fit.

They’re passionate about the business opportunity they have identified, but are too early to be eligible for the support of accelerator programs or external partners. Often, this results in a three- to six month hard slog of meetings, experimentation and self-education, striving to find a way to make their idea a reality.

Whilst this a well-trod part of the entrepreneurial success story, I think there is more that we can do to help support idea and early-stage entrepreneurs in this critical part of the journey in WA.

To give our fledgeling founders the best chance of success, we need to arm them with the knowledge, skills and abilities to cross the chasm from ideation to sustainable technology business.

To help fill this gap, I am excited to be part of a team that will be launching a new founder academy, specifically tailored for idea and early-stage entrepreneurs building technology businesses in WA.

Building on the successes of the two accelerator cohorts; the Boosted event series; and Plus Eight HealthHack; we’re proud to launch a series of early-stage entrepreneur education programs under a new pillar of the Plus Eight brand: ‘Plus Eight Academy.’

Announcing Plus Eight Academy.

Plus Eight was launched in 2016 by Spacecubed, as a seed-funded accelerator program helping local startups to scale their businesses and go global. Backed by muru-D, Vukelic Group, Hawaiian and Seven West, Plus Eight has invested over $800,000 in 15 startups, over two cohorts.

The Perth Plus Eight Academy cohort celebrating at the end of the first Plus Eight program
The PER#1 cohort at the conclusion of the first Plus Eight.

Following consultation with the mentors and the wider community, Skills of the Modern Age has partnered with Spacecubed to expand on the success of the Plus Eight Accelerator program by launching the Plus Eight Academy.

Plus Eight draws its name from WA’s GMT+8 timezone, which it shares with over 24% of the world’s population. We believe access to these fast-growing global markets is a competitive advantage for WA startups and aim to help foster collaboration between Australian founders and our neighbours.

As a community-driven initiative, Plus Eight Academy will fill an important gap in the support funnel for WA entrepreneurs, providing a bridge between hackathons and accelerator/incubator programs.

The Academy will provide hands-on founder education programs for ide- and early-stage entrepreneurs designed specifically for the local ecosystem. We will be initially launching two programs under the Plus Eight Academy pillar:

Plus Eight Leap: a one-day founder bootcamp that will provide the foundational skills and capabilities a founder needs to start working on an idea.
Plus Eight Sprint: a 6-week part-time ‘pre-accelerator’ program aimed at early-stage entrepreneurs who have started their business, but have not yet found product/market fit.

We believe these programs will help grow the ecosystem by attracting new potential entrepreneurs to the Perth startup and innovation community at the top of the funnel, as well as strengthen the startups applying to later-stage programs, such as Founder Institute.

Learn more about the Plus Eight Academy at

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