LES DELAFORCE

Founder, Dreamspark
Board Director, StartupWA

The Indigenous startup ecosystem is an exciting, growing, evolving and emerging sector. It’s being driven by a combination of government policy, corporate engagement and from a grassroots level by Indigenous entrepreneurs.

This powerful combination has resulted in strong growth in Indigenous startups over the last few years, evolving from a nascent sector to a rapidly growing space.

In Victoria, LaunchVic has been pivotal in supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs through a number of grants under the Victorian Aboriginal Business Strategy including Ngamai and Barrayamal, an Indigenous accelerator originally from Queensland.

Across the border, New South Wales local Indigenous entrepreneurs developed the Indigitek meetup platform to help put the spotlight on aspiring Indigenous entrepreneurs in STEM, supported by Google.

Recently there’s been a hive of activity in co-working spaces supporting Indigenous entrepreneurs such as The Wirrpanda Foundation in WA, Tank Stream Labs and the recently announced Aboriginal Employment Hub out of Lot Fourteen in South Australia.

The conditions are perfect for the growth of the Indigenous startup ecosystem, with government and corporate policies creating ripe economic conditions. The Indigenous Procurement Policy has resulted in an increase from $6 million spend on Indigenous business to $2 billion, and the recent Raise the Bar commitment, an investment of $3 billion in this sector over five years of Australia’s leading companies from the Business Council of Australia.

Initiatives such as Dream Summit, an Indigenous leadership summit to support Indigenous entrepreneurs to grow and scale their startup, had over 100 Indigenous entrepreneurs, mentors and advisors led by a number of Board members from StartupWA.

It’s collaboration with Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners that will help shape this rapidly growing sector. From Indigenous startup Pearlii using AI to build a scalable dental platform closing their first round and Deep Dream Time, using deep learning to understand iconography on Indigenous paintings to combat fake Indigenous art and educate consumers.

With a new wave of accelerators, incubators and programs such as Follow the Dream coming in 2020, it’s making for an interesting, dynamic and unique space with a national and global footprint.

The challenge for Australia is how to create the environment that incentivises local Indigenous startups to think globally, raise capital and shift the dial from being a consumer of tech to being a creator.

There’s been significant growth in this relatively young sector with plenty of activity across the country. I believe we can all play a role in supporting the Indigenous startup ecosystem to grow and scale.