The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Interview: Steve Baxter of River City Labs in Brisbane — October 17, 2013

Interview: Steve Baxter of River City Labs in Brisbane

stephen-baxter

“There are some really good businesses here, but when you look at the level of activity elsewhere you can see that we’re behind the eight ball. It needs serious local and state government help and support and if they want to do that, they have to be willing to spend the money.”

Steve Baxter has been responsible for pushing the Brisbane startup scene forward through his coworking space River City Labs and supporting global movements such as Startup Weekend. It’s never a rare occurrence for Steve to dip into his own pocket to help new tech businesses flourish. The Fetch caught up with Steve about his new gaming ventures and his Brisbane perspective.

What inspired you to open River City Labs?

I have several investments, and after travelling to Sydney I saw a great example of getting support for entrepreneurs and helping them get started in an organisation called Fishburners. I came back to Brisbane and looked for Fishburners, and other similar organisations and they didn’t exist, so that was the start of it. I looked at doing it commercially as a full profit business, but to be honest it’s not a big business. So I decided to launch the business, but with a bit more philanthropy involved.

After that, did you decide to invest in the gaming space, or did you invest before River City Labs?

The games were after River City Labs. The games side, with respect to Right Pedal Studios, is a different form of investment. It’s full profit, an accelerator fund. We take advanced prototypes and we launch them into the market through funding, mentoring and production resources, in a reasonably fast way. It’s definitely different.

How many games have you released so far through Right Pedal Studios?

We just released the first game in late March. The game is called Dragon Season. It’s an endless runner game, which is currently available on the Australian Google Play Store. Hopefully in a few weeks it will be available globally on Google Play and the Apple Store. It’s been discovered by a number of people in China, even though we only released it to the Australian Android market, and it’s found its way to about thirty-four thousand installations. That was really very surprising. It wasn’t what we’d planned, but we’re now pursuing some Chinese producers, which is quite interesting.

We also have one game out as a closed beta. It is due to come out as a world-wide release in the next few weeks. There are currently three others being worked on and we’re talking to another four teams about coming in.

Have you seen any major shifts in the startup scene in Brisbane since you started River City Labs?

Since River City Labs opened its doors last year (2012), there’s been a gradual shift. I’m actually a little disappointed with the startup scene in Brisbane. I spent some time in San Francisco and I travel to Sydney four times a month on average, so when I see the startup scene in Sydney compared to Fortitude Valley, it’s completely stark.

It’s been a slow growth. We were half full six weeks in, and we were half full in November last year; we’re still at about 60-65% now.

What do you think the Brisbane scene needs?

It needs a lot more people to take it seriously; it actually needs signals from Government. There has been market failure with regards to tech startup in Brisbane. There are some really good businesses here, but when you look at the level of activity elsewhere you can see that we’re behind the eight ball. It needs serious local and state government help and support and if they want to do that, they have to be willing to spend the money. It’s embarrassing when Auckland, New Zealand, have a higher angel funding rate than anywhere in Australia. That is because of direct government intervention.

How are places like NZ ahead?

In areas like matching investment funds, they invest in meetings with successful and respected entrepreneurs from the US to educate local angel groups. This was directly linked to the absolute increase in startup activity.

I’m just going to read you some statistics:

  • The number of startup incubators in the US is 1400, compared to 30 in Australia
  • The number of angel investors in Australia is 500, compared to 300,000 in the US
  • We do approximately 50 Angel deals per year, compared to 63,000 a year done in the US
  • There are eight early stage VC funds in Australia; there are 420 in the US

Do you think angel Investors lack direction, or does it take too long to get funding in Australia / people are more hesitant?

Probably all of the above, to be honest. Had Australia given birth to Facebook or Google or something along those lines, it would be a different story. But if we don’t take the initiative, we’ll never make these advances. For example, in Brisbane there are three coworking spaces/incubators – in Auckland there are six.

In the same year, Auckland recorded 45 Angel Investments per annum, while Brisbane had two. Auckland’s 40 venture capital investments trumped Brisbane’s 30, and the whole of Australia was only marginally higher at 72.

Are Brisbane startups are having to leave and go to Sydney to try to talk to Angel investors?

I am doing some work with the state government to try to prevent this. At some point in time, we have to actually understand that if this something we want to do, it’s going to cost to play. We are that far behind.

It’s a tragedy. There are a lot of issues that we’ve got to work through. But first we have to want to fix it, and put in the extra miles.

Where should they be putting their energy: sales channel or online marketing?

It depends on the type of business. There are a lot of businesses that are hesitant to spend money on sales and marketing yet still expect to gain the interest of investors. You need to do put in the effort and prove to investors that your business is a worthwhile prospect.

What turns you off a startup?

People or groups that generate an idea in the mobile tech sector, who don’t have the skills or knowledge to develop it, and expect investors to spend their money on a team to build their product. I believe in doing majority of the work yourself, and if you don’t have the knowledge or experience in the area of your idea, that you should take the time to learn and not just rely on others to do all the heavy lifting for you.

What makes you decide that you want to invest in a startup?

Teams. A good team can have a bad idea to start with, but will realise it’s a bad idea and change it. If the idea requires any creative and technical work build it, then you need a strong technical team. A lot of others will outsource, but it isn’t as appealing for investors. As for the business, the idea has got to be something that makes a splash. Technology has such great potential to have a huge impact, and it just takes the right idea to ;p the world on its head.

Are you going to Sydney to scout for new startups or angel investors?

Not really scouting, I already have 11 investments – I had 12 – which is too many. I would love to get back down to maybe seven or eight. Right Pedal Studios and River City Labs take up a fair bit of my time. Really what I’d like to do is less, and be able to spend more time with my 11-week-old daughter to be quite honest.

How do you relax?

I don’t at the moment. My hobbies are fishing and flying, of which I get to do precious little; and I’m sure that now with a young girl I’ll probably get to do even less. It’s surprising what can take up time in your day.

About our contributor // Sarina Quinlan is a marketing consultant and the curator of The Fetch in Brisbane. Follow her on Twitter via @digitalsarina.

Hello Sarina – our new Brisbane curator — July 16, 2013

Hello Sarina – our new Brisbane curator

sarina_marketing_digital

The unique thing about Brisbane is its sense of community. People are connected and driving forward together, it’s amazing to watch and be a part of.

We’re heating things up in Brisbane again with an amazing new curator in startup, marketing, digital and music-lover Sarina Quinlan. We’re also welcoming Eloise Skella and Kelly Newbery to our City Ambassador crew.

Here’s our introductory welcome interview with Sarina:

What things excite you about our community right now?

It’s alive! The people, the ideas, the community. It’s a supportive, fun environment and I enjoy it immensely.

Why did you want to get involved with ‘fetching’ happenings for The Fetch?

Helping a scene I have a strong affiliation with, and connecting with like minded people, is my motivation for ‘fetching’.

How did you end up where you are today?

I started a music fanzine at 17 which quickly turned into a webzine in 2000 called RockReviewer.co.uk. From there, I worked in music PR and eventually a full-time marketing position at a music venue in Ascot, UK. My move into digital was with IDG Global Solutions in 2006, running webcasts for companies including Nokia and Fujitsu-Siemens. Leading the development of online communities across Europe for HP in early 2007, was an amazing experience. It was the same time Facebook was quietly becoming the monster it is today.

A digital agency, a usability testing role, product development and marketing projects, including a role at an iPad app development platform startup, bring me to May this year. On 12 May 2013, I launched my freelance career under Marketing Digital, and my work keeps getting more exciting, I feel very lucky.

What makes you tick? What makes you ick?

Personal Tick (like a twitch? A good one): The Flatliners, Skindred, PJ Harvey, Therapy?, The Human Abstract too many artists to list. Taking my ex-racehorse Syrian out jumping and trailing, and not to forget my cat Lizard. Work tick: Working with my awesome clients and startups I have had the pleasure of meeting. Other things that make me ick… horse racing, and any other form of animal cruelty. Ick: Vegemite and Marmite. They both ick.

What events can we find you at?

Mobile Monday Brisbane, Brisbane UX group events, Brisbane Web Design group events, Silicone Beach and Brisbane SEO group, and the Lamb of God/Meshuggah gig in September.

What’s your favourite thing about your city?

It’s a cliche but I have to say the weather. When you’ve spent years with freezing toes in English offices, you never take the sun for granted.

Where can we find you in BNE?

Visiting River City Labs, at my home office, and probably shoving a voice recording machine in the direction of inspirational people at least once a week.

Connect with our new BNE fetcher via @digitalsarina, @thefetchBNE, LinkedIn and brisbane@thefetch.com.

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Curator Year In Review 2012: Beck in Brisbane — December 9, 2012

Curator Year In Review 2012: Beck in Brisbane

As the end of 2012 approaches, we thought it’d be nice to have an update from our beloved city curators.  This time Rebekah Waite in Brisbane highlights some of her most appreciated events, spaces and top moments of 2012.

bris

Picture by @saboskirt

Best event for meeting people?

The crowd at Cafe Scientifique, hosted by as part of National Science Week, was my pick for meeting people in 2012. Hardly your typical professional event, the 200 or so people clasping cocktails at the Queensland Museum were all there to learn something new. Attracting scientists from every conceivable background, the forum was ripe with potential collaborators and professionals more than ready to find a new challenge to apply their skills to.

Best event for content shared and learnings?

The ArtWrite series, hosted by QUT Art Museum and Eyeline magazine was a generous forum for emerging practitioners. Full of media professionals this monthly event was a perfect opportunity to ask all those questions everyone has always assumed you know the answers to. It was also a rare opportunity to take advantage of decades of experience (wins and loses) to be found in the panellists. I’d be keeping an eye on what’s happening in the 2013 calendar.

Personal event stye preference (breakfast/conference/workshop/etc/etc)?

As a morning person (yes, they do exist), I love a good breakfast event. Best way to get a head start on the day!

Favourite source of local community news?

For a glimpse into the nerd side, Stuff and Things (locally produced podcast) is about as good as it gets. For your creative curiousities, The Native Press is a one stop shop. But I have to say, nothing beats a carefully curated Facebook feed (this Brisbane list by Amy Grey is a pretty great start).

Favourite coworking space?

The Edge* (*yes, I am more than a little biased here, but, come on, the city views alone are to die for!).

Favourite cafe with wifi?

Hands down Lady Marmalade in Stones Corner, where the haloumi slices are thicker than the bread and the wifi is free. Only challenge here is to concentrate on the task at hand with some much good food to be had…

What’s been a personal highlight and not so high moment of the year?

It’s been fantastic to have such varied and challenging things to look forward to in my calendar throughout the whole year, from starting a Masters and getting to know The Fetch community, through to the wonders of my day job (I’m still trying to understand how someone considers it ‘work’ to be involved with mad scientist tea parties and zombie apocalypses). The downside of all of that? I didn’t quite get as much sleep as I had become accustom to!

What have you enjoyed about being involved with The Fetch in 2012?

It’s been a privilege getting to know more of the good folks in Brisbane, from the ambassador team (and our delicious fortnightly catch-ups), to the curious minds who attend events throughout town and the amazing, dedicated people who run them.

What are you looking forward to in 2013?

More adventures.

Event Review – Raw: Ensemble — October 1, 2012

Event Review – Raw: Ensemble

What: RAW Brisbane: Ensemble
Where: Oh Hello!
When: 26 September 2012
Reviewed by: Steph Dooris and Andrew Watt, Brisbane Ambassadors

Somewhere between the visual art, samba dance routine and fashion shows, Steph and I looked at each other and realised: what a crazy amount of diverse talent exists in the Brisbane arts scene.

RAW Artists is an independent arts organisation originally from the United States, but last month saw their first international showcase at Oh Hello in Fortitude Valley. With RAW’s fourth showcase in Brisbane, dubbed “Ensemble” the organisation is fast solidifying itself as the hub of Brisbane’s art community.

After both attending the launch of RAW last month, Steph and I were eager to get along to the second Brisbane showcase and check out the fresh batch of artist’s work on show. Yet again we were dazzled with a slew of visual art, photography, music, fashion, dance, hair and makeup that our city’s art scene is bursting at the seams with talent.

This time around we wanted to connect with more of the attendees, and hopefully suss out some juicy information from them. As we floated through Oh Hello! mingling with the crowd, drinks in our hand, we got chatting to some interesting personalities and decided to share their opinions with you.

Nicki and Linda (exhibitor)

Thoughts so far: I’m loving tonight so far! I can’t wait for the showcases to begin. We’re very excited.
Excited about: The work by the other designers on the runway. I can really relate to how excited they will be. So far tonight has been a lot of fun.

I’ve met a lot of fun people and there were lots of fun behind the scenes. Hair and make up was really great. But we’re really just excited for the show to start.

Brad, Sonya, Emma

First time? Yes
Discovered RAW through: Zanee, my sister, is one of the design exhibitors here. She’s awesome.
Excited about: I’m quite excited to see the bands. I’ve been told that they’re quite good.
Three words for tonight: Raw, energetic, Zanee

Aicha

Discovered RAW through: My friend, Megan Lumley, has art in tonight’s exhibit and she was like ‘Come along!’ So I thought OK because I haven’t seen her art before. But it’s really amazing and I’m really excited.

Everyone’s art tonight is really cool. I’m enjoying it a lot.
Inspired by: Damien Hirst. I love the skull he did that’s covered in diamonds! I really like him and he has really controversial artwork that I think are interesting.

Alex Gee (exhibitor)

Excited about: I really enjoy the photography, actually. I think I’m just attracted to photography in general and to see good work coming out of Brisbane is always exciting.
Inspired by: The studio that I work with inspires me every day. I work for Breeder, which is a part of another company called Josephmark. We’re doing really exciting things for a lot of really exciting clients, Myspace being one of them.
Points for: All of it. It all rocks.

Lauren

Discovered RAW through: I was here to visit Kahlia Litzow, one of the artists. I’m really glad I came because I’ve been introduced to so many other amazing people as well. It’s been great.
Inspired by: It’s sort of hard to say because I’m not really involved in the arty scene. But I have been looking at a lot of burlesque stuff so I guess that’s been inspiring me.
Points for: It’s nice to have a bar where you get spirits, you can’t really do that at other art exhibitions so that’s definitely a plus.

Jose and Jacob

Thoughts so far: Jose: The art is really nice. I really like it. And all the artists are really friendly as well, so its great. Jacob: I’ve really liked the art tonight. It’s very good. Really diverse, as well.
Excited by: Jose: I like Fleur‘s work. She’s my friend’s sister. It reminds me a lot of Agnes Cecile, which is good.

Jacob: My favourite would probably have to be the landscape photography.

Three words for tonight: Jose Indie, fashion, art. Jacob: Lively, inspired, art.

Rose

Thoughts so far: I think the fashion show is definitely the most exciting part of the night. I also love all the artwork as well. I think it’s really good to get young artists out there.
Inspired by: Everything in Brisbane. Everything and anything that looks good to my eyes, which in Brisbane there is a lot.
Three words for tonight: Really fucking awesome.

Andrew and Steph attended the Ensemble showcase courtesy of RAW Brisbane. The next RAW event is on the 24 of October at Oh Hello!

Event Review: Networx Marketers Meetings —

Event Review: Networx Marketers Meetings

What: Networx Marketers Meeting
Topic: Content Strategy – create and develop engaging online content
Where: Hotel Urban, Brisbane
When: 26 September 2012
Event review by: Nicole Jensen and Amilia Cunningham, Brisbane Ambassadors

Content strategy – the newest marketing buzzwords…  What does it really mean? And once we get our heads around it, will there be new terms to replace it?  We went along to find out!

The Networx team put a lot of effort into making their events as engaging as possible, even before the audience has met the panellists. Networking time is used well to promote new connections, and there are always plenty of prizes up for grabs. Networx events are also those kind of events where you definitely need to know, for absolute certain, which pockets you’re using for incoming versus outgoing business cards – there’s a lot of exchanges!

Facilitating the panel discussion was marketing strategist Cat Matson, drawing insights from the panel of three, comprised of Scott Esdaile from Publicis Mojo, Emma Croston from News Queensland, and Iain Calvert from Reload Media.The panel brought together a broad range of perspectives and experiences with the topic, relating to analytics, the business of content, and creativity overall. Each question received a great balance of information from these areas.

Top tips from the panel:

  • Work out who your audience is – where and how are they engaging with content online.
  • Ask yourself why – In relation to the types of platforms you use to engage with your audience and share your content, ask yourself what you want to achieve and why is that platform right for you?
  • You don’t have to be everywhere – There’s no point being across all social media if your audience isn’t there.  Tailor your strategy to engage your audience directly.
  • Be strategic – Consider your objectives an tailor your content strategy, leading to content that is more tailored and less ad-hoc and haphazard.
  • Check share-ability – ask yourself would someone link or share this content? If so, then it’s worthwhile putting online.
  • How will you ‘mousetrap’ your audience? – Emma explained this as tailoring your content and your site to enhance the user experience and keep them on your site longer.

The audience dynamics during the panel were that of your standard Brisbane marketing event – professional but with a hint of cheek when the odd joke arose in discussion… or the tweet stream!

Overall the event was informative, engaging and entertaining. It’s great to see the formula has been working for Iceberg Events all these years, and we look forward to seeing many more in the future.

As for the venue, Hotel Urban was a pleasant networking and seminar spot, joining the two spaces with a vibrant stairwell of street art.

What did you miss? An intelligent panel, bright social media buffs, cool interactive media and a shiny rooftop view.

Nicole and Amilia attended the September Networx Marketers Meeting courtesy of Iceberg Events.  To see Nicole’s tweets from the event, visit @thefetchbris. The upcoming Networx Marketers Meetings event is on 24 October, and covers visual social media content.

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