New home for Illawarra’s entrepreneurs underway

[box]#feb026[/box]A home for the Illawarra’s burgeoning startup community is a step closer following the start of construction on the region’s first high-tech business incubator at the UOW’s Innovation Campus.

The Minister for the Illawarra The Hon John Ajaka joined UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings to break ground on the three-storey, 4,000 square metre iAccelerate Centre.

The Centre will provide a permanent home for the Illawarra’s rapidly growing number of startup companies and features ‘plug and go’ expandable space for more than 280 entrepreneurs. iAccelerate will provide support, mentorship, professional services and access to seed funding for companies as they develop.

The bricks and mortar can’t come soon enough. Since its launch in 2012 – with just 20 spaces for entrepreneurs – iAccelerate has helped 25 startup companies representing 52 entrepreneurs and new jobs. When complete, the new iAccelerate Centre will house 10 times as many places.

iAccelerate’s suite of programs, designed to assist entrepreneurs turn their concepts into companies, are currently located at a temporary home in the Mike Codd Building on UOW’s Innovation Campus while construction on the new Centre is underway.

The Director of Innovation and Commercial Research at UOW and iAccelerate CEO, Ms Elizabeth Eastland, said that reaching the start point for construction was evidence of support to foster innovation from the University and State and Federal governments.

“This is an exciting milestone and we will be eagerly watching progress on construction. The NSW Government’s support will significantly expand the growth potential of iAccelerate Centre and this will flow on to a growth in jobs and a well-diversified economy.”

The funding for the Centre was part of the Restart Illawarra Infrastructure Fund, which provided $100 million in State Government funding for 12 projects in the region.

Minister for the Illawarra The Hon John Ajaka said it was an exciting occasion, coming just four months after announcing the successful bidders at the commencement of the first of the Restart Illawarra Infrastructure Fund projects.

“The iAccelerate Centre is emblematic of how the NSW Government is getting on with the job of rebuilding the Illawarra economy and delivering business growth for the region, in partnership with organisations like the University of Wollongong.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings said: “The Illawarra is a region undergoing radical economic transition, with the traditional manufacturing and heavy industrial base facing sharp employment declines. iAccelerate will be in a prime position to take new and innovative ideas and turn them into high-tech jobs for the region.”

James Moore, founder of current iAcclerate startup ZestDesk said the number one goal for an entrepreneur was to learn faster than your competitors.

“Working in iAccelerate you get the opportunity to learn in a formal way through mentors and courses as well as informally through the other startups and networking. This saves a huge amount of time and resources and allows you to succeed more quickly.”

Fellow entrepreneur Karen Pouye started Screen Weaver, a video production company specialising in product instructional videos, said iAccelerate had provided invaluable support through the workshops, mentoring, emotional support and networking opportunities.

“Just as the saying goes that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, so too does it take a particular community mindset to raise a startup. iAccelerate provides the supportive environment, much like a community, in taking the steps in creating successful local start ups. It is certainly not too much to say that iAccelerate is an extremely positive investment into the future of our region.”

Applications for entry to iAccelerate Start, an early-stage tech startup incubator and community coworking space, are open until 15 April. Find out more.