Entrepreneurs get set to launch as recession looms

IClogo1CMYKAs job instability increases and job cuts start to hit Australian workers due to the world economic crisis and looming recession, there are real opportunities for entrepreneurs with great ideas, according to Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast CEO, Colin Graham.

“In a recession there is less job security and sometimes for budding entrepreneurs who have been sitting on a great business idea for years, it is all the motivation they need to recruit themselves and become their own boss,” Mr Graham said.

He said at the Innovation Centre, a University of the Sunshine Coast company, they were already seeing increasing interest in their business development programs, from entrepreneurs preparing to put their previously unrequited plans into action.

Mr Graham said people starting a business because of a recession, or tough times was referred to internationally as necessity-motivated entrepreneurship and said those doing it had the strong added motivation of wanting to take control of their lives to spur them on.

“With figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABC) showing more than 80% of businesses in Australia being small businesses employing 20 staff or less, they are however not alone, but with assistance entrepreneurs have a far better chance of achieving their dreams,” he said.

“Going into business of any kind is not a decision to be taken lightly but if you have the right support, such as the solid business advice and support you could get from a business incubator, the rewards could be fantastic,” Mr Graham said.

“Evidence shows having the support of a centre such as ours markedly increases the chances of business survival,” he said.

Mr Graham said ABS figures showed that 42% of businesses created in 2003/04 ceased operations before June 2006.  Meanwhile in a 1997 study completed in the US by the National Business Incubation Association, statistics showed that business survival rate for incubated businesses surged to 87% from 44% for businesses going it alone.

“Not only that, of the incubated businesses, 84% of them went on to do business in their local region and stimulate their local economies,” he said.

CEO of Innovation Centre’s accelerator client, ThinLinx, John Nicholls is just one example of an entrepreneur who put everything on the line and had worked hard to build a business.

In 2001, Mr Nicholls, then a pilot for Ansett, had a dream to create a low-cost computer that was as powerful as those already on the market, so when Ansett collapsed he, and his wife Jeanne, set to work.

“ThinLinx was launched in 2003 and we spent five years on research and development to perfect the design and now we have a great range of products that start from just US$99,” Mr Nicholls said.

The Hot-E computers replace your desktop box or tower, are so small that they can fit in the palm of your hand, use around 30 times less power than a standard PC and store data on a remote server via the internet.

Mr Nicholls said while it had been a long and bumpy road to realise his business dreams, it had been the Ansett collapse that spurred him on to finally take the plunge and work for himself full-time, having had an interest in computers since the 1980s when he developed a modem for his Atari computer.

“I love my work and we have never regretted our decision to launch the business,” Mr Nicholls said.

Mr Graham said other benefits for entrepreneurs looking to start up in a tough economic climate were that the barriers to start up were often less, though attracting funding could be more difficult.

“That’s why new entrepreneurs need to have good advice so they can put together solid business plans that will attract support.

Mr Graham said the Innovation Centre offered this to businesses within its incubator but also had programs for other entrepreneurs wanting to get the best available start.

On Friday 5 June, the Innovation Centre will hold its Start it Up program, an intensive and practical one-day course on how to turn your business ideas, skills and passion into a successful and profitable business.

“The course is specifically designed to assist ambitious knowledge-based businesses and has experts who have done it themselves covering essential topics such as generating business ideas and opportunities, planning for success, raising finance and developing a results-focused marketing plan,” Mr Graham said.

“Incubated business also have an obvious advantage in that they have access to established business networks and could benefit from the reputation and trust built up around the incubators they were members of,” Mr Graham said.

Mr Graham said the Innovation Centre offered flexibility office space for both start-up businesses through their Business Incubator and those looking to expand through their Business Accelerator, as well as tailored mentoring and support programs.

He said this year the Innovation Centre had also opened up their business development program to businesses outside the Centre, in an effort to support the Sunshine Coast economy.

“We have regular enterprise and networking events, boardroom briefings on relevant issues as well as one and two day courses focusing on starting a business and growing businesses online,” he said.

For more information about the Start It Up program or the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast visit www.innovation-centre.com.au.

Housing industry needs stimulus of tax depreciation

Deppro logoCalls for the Federal Government to scale back negative gearing are misguided and risk ruining a natural “stimulus package” for the housing and renovation industries, a leading property expert warned today.

DEPPRO Asia Pacific managing director Paul Bennion said he was dismayed that the Community Tax Forum had taken aim at negative gearing and criticised property owners for being able to claim tax deductions against improvements to rental homes.

“Tax incentives like depreciation are a valuable tool to help and encourage investors to keep their rental properties well maintained,” he said.

“This benefits tenants, of course, but also has a wider impact on the community and economy.

“It encourages spending and provides a major boost to the renovation industry and flows on to all those people employed in building trades and the provision of items such as whitegoods, floor coverings, and furnishings.”

Mr Bennion said Australia was facing a housing shortage, with rental properties particularly in demand.

“Vacancy rates are below 2% in all Australian capital cities except Perth and Canberra, where they are only just over 2%,” he said.

“The last thing the Government should be doing is making it harder for property investors to enter the market or build their portfolio.

“This is a time when Australians need to be investing in housing and providing well-maintained homes for people who do not yet own their own – or are choosing to rent for other reasons.”

DEPPRO Asia Pacific is Australia’s leading specialist in tax depreciation allowances for investment properties.

The company has generated more than $12.8 billion in tax deductions for its clients.

“The majority of this money has gone straight back into the economy and supported the residential building industry,” Mr Bennion said.

“At a time when experts are looking for ways to stimulate the economy, it would be foolish to turn off the tap for investors.”

For more information on depreciation you can phone Deppro, the depreciation professionals on 1300 888 489 or visit www.deppro.com.

Join the sustainable energy revolution now and save

Auzion_Logo 09Government rebates for solar energy systems are changing as of July 1, which means converting to sustainable energy will cost more than $4000 extra, according to the sustainable energy experts, Auzion.

Auzion managing director Mark Leckenby said currently the Federal Government offered a $8000 rebate, and a further $966 in renewable energy credits.  However, from July 1, the rebate will be abolished and the renewable energy credits increased by five times to  $4830 for a 1 KW system.

“This means a reduction in real terms of $4136 that the homeowner gets back,” Mr Leckenby said.

He said this meant there was a narrow window of opportunity for people wanting to covert to a sustainable energy system, which fed power back into the energy grid, to lodge an application.

“Our state-of-the-art solar photovoltaic grid connect system saves home owners on average about 20% of their energy costs, which with the current Government rebate and energy credits, makes it possible to recoup their initial out-of-pocket investment (based on a 1KW system) within five years,” Mr Leckenby said.

“Not only that, they will then continue to reap savings on the system, and know they have made a meaningful contribution in terms of environmental conservation and sustainability.”

Mr Leckenby, an electrical engineer, first launched Auzion nine months ago from the Innovation Centre at the University of the Sunshine Coast, after moving with his large family to the Sunshine Coast looking for a new direction.

“I wanted to work in the area of sustainable energy and create a simple way for people in a fast-paced world to make a difference without the inconvenience that is often associated with being ‘sustainable’ or ‘green’,” he said.

“So I did some research and while I saw lots of people selling solar panels for hot water etc, I didn’t see any real innovation, which I saw as an opportunity for us.

“That was the seed of the idea to develop a cost-effective and reliable system that not only reduced a household’s reliance on the energy grid but also contributed something back.

“From there I sought the advice of Innovation Centre CEO Colin Graham and Entrepreneur-in-residence Nigel Hall and set to work on a business plan and the development of our solar photovoltaic grid connect system.”

After just three months, and within two weeks of the launch of the system, Auzion had 50 pre-paid orders.  Now, just five and a half months later, they have installed more than 80 systems and have orders for a further 100.

But not content to just continue with the one product, Mark and his team have already started development of an additional energy management system that will allow householders with Auzion’s solar power systems to monitor their energy use and further increase their savings.

Mr Leckenby said while the testing phase of that project was just starting, he had installed the prototype on his house more than a month ago.

“I have four children, including three girls so I think if our family can reduce their energy consumption without inconvenience, then anyone can,’’ he said.

He said they expected that the additional unit would cost about $500, and potentially save an additional 20% of energy on top of the savings from solar power installation.

“We are now trialing this additional system on about 50 other homes and expect to take it into production later this year so watch this space!

Auzion are also working with the Research and Sustainability Centre (division of University of Sunshine Coast) through a scoping & pilot study of the project. All going to plan, through this study independent results will be published of the project outcomes.

“In the meantime, we recommend homeowners thinking about installing a solar energy system get their rebate applications in by 30 May, to allow time for the applications to be processed by the June 30 deadline.”

Mr Leckenby said Auzion was happy to assist people with information about sustainable living and could assist with the administration of rebate applications when people purchased one of their systems.

For more information about Auzion’s solar energy systems visit www.auzion.com.

Brisbane mobile innovator takes out top award

ilab logoBrisbane-mobile location-based software developer Locatrix Communications has taken out a 2009 Australian Computing Society Queensland ICT Award for the Whereis® Everyone system they developed with Telstra.

Locatrix Communications CEO Mark White said they were delighted to win the Telecommunications Award for the Whereis® Everyone web and mobile phone application that allows friends to locate each other and find places to meet using their Telstra mobile phones.

“The system really is fantastic and allows people to find friends and convenient locations where they can catch up,” Mr White said.
Locatrix, which operates from Queensland Government owned i.lab incubator at Toowong, first developed the mobile Whereis® Everyone application in 2006 and last year helped Telstra launch the web-based version of the application.

i.lab Chief Executive Officer Anne-Marie Birkill congratulated Locatrix on receiving the award.

“i.lab works closely with all our client companies to grow their innovative ideas into strong and sustainable businesses and Locatrix is a perfect ambassador for our program,” Ms Birkill said.

“In their three years at i.lab, Locatrix has developed and commercialised their product and established a fantastic partnership with one of Australia’s premier telecommunications companies,” she said.

Ms Birkill said by providing flexible office space, mentoring by industry experienced professionals and entrepreneurs, skills development and networking opportunities and business development support, i.lab was encouraging investment in new technology-based companies and creating knowledge-based jobs for Queenslanders.

Mr White commented that the success of Whereis® Everyone was down to the exciting range of uses for consumers including being able to share  locations with friends and family, help them connect and share experiences as well as find nearby places to meet, like at a coffee shop, restaurant or bar.

“Whereis® Everyone can send you alerts when your friends or family members are near, and allows you to see any or all of their locations on a map, either on a single mobile screen or from the website,” Mr White said.

He said the application works on any Telstra Next G™mobile.

Mr White said winning the award was fantastic recognition for the Locatrix team and was also evidence of the rapidly growing interest in mobile social networking applications beyond sites like Facebook and MySpace.

Mr White said that unlike tracking applications, Whereis® Everyone gives subscribers full control over whom they share their location with.

“Locatrix and Telstra take the privacy of users very seriously,” he said, adding that safeguards were used to make sure no mobile user is located without their consent.

For more information about Locatrix visit www.locatrix.com and for more information about Whereis® Everyone visit http://everyone.whereis.com.

Coast Nanotechnology targets clean energy sector

IClogo1CMYKNanotechnology being developed on the Sunshine Coast with the support of the Innovation Centre, aims to capture a significant slice of booming clean energy markets.

Nano-Nouvelle, which started in the Innovation Centre’s Business Incubator and continues to get business advice and support from the centre as an associate client, is the brainchild of Geoff Edwards, who is developing a nano-structured semiconductor, in the form of a thin film, to efficiently convert various forms of energy into electricity.

Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast Entrepreneur-in-Residence Nigel Hall said the state-of-the-art technology had great potential across a range of applications, which was why Nano-Nouvelle had just received an AusIndustry Climate Ready grant of $276,000 to assist with research and development.

Dr Edwards, a Coast local who has travelled extensively gaining world-class nanotech expertise, said the semi-conductor they were developing could have a number of applications in the renewable energy sector.

“While our technology is at an early stage of development, potential applications in clean energy are very large. The key to widespread use of clean energy is provision of that energy at a price that is competitive with fossil fuels. Our technology aims to assist this”.

Dr Edwards is excited to be part of the ‘nanotechnology age’ but cautions against being caught up in the hype.

“The current flood of interest in nanotechnology suggests nanotech is very new. In fact, it has been known since the development of aircraft alloys in the sixties that nanometre-scale features play a critical role in the performance of advanced materials.”

“The recent explosion in nanotechnology is exciting as it is providing new ways to manipulate the structure of materials at the nanometre scale (one nanometer is one millionth of a millimeter). However to build a real business, we need to remove the hype and deliver high performance products that can be manufactured at large scale and at a realistic price. Cost and scale have hitherto greatly limited the widespread use of nanotechnology”.

Dr Edwards said he always had a strong interest in renewable energy and was very pleased to be able to return to the Coast to set up his company.

“I wanted my kids to grow up in the kind of environment I did, with the beach at their doorstep and having the Innovation Centre resources available as well as its active development of a local renewable energy industry made this a viable option,” Dr Edwards said. “Grant schemes like Climate Ready, and the old Commercial Ready grants, are also critical to the creation and growth of high-tech companies like ours”.

Mr Hall said as a University of the Sunshine Coast company, dedicated to the development of the region’s economy, the Innovation Centre was proud to be playing a part in Nano Nouvelle’s development.

“Developing this kind of new technology locally shows the depth of talent in the region, talent that we need to use to drive development of sectors such as Green Technologies, Information Communication Technology (ICT), creative and knowledge-based industries,” Mr Hall said.

Dr Edwards said with the Climate Ready grant as well as private investment, Nano Nouvelle would now work on developing proof of concept for this totally new manufacturing technology, a process they were looking to complete by the end of the year.  He said following that they planned to develop devices and scale up over the following two to three years, before undertaking large-scale commercialisation.

Easter doesn’t have to mean death by chocolate – Annette Sym

STG logo (purple&pink)Easter is a time of celebration with family and friends but unfortunately it often results in chocolate overload, but death by chocolate doesn’t have to be a risk according to low-fat cookbook queen Annette Sym.

“At Easter time, you can’t go to the shops without being confronted by chocolate. It seems to be around every corner but you don’t have to try to avoid it completely, just be discerning about what and how much you eat,” the best selling author of the Symply Too Good To Be True Cookbook series said.

Annette said that if you are feeling like you’re missing out when everybody else might be going overboard then it’s ok to allow yourself a treat, otherwise you might be tempted to eat double the amount when you have the chance.

“A couple of pieces of dark chocolate is a healthier choice than milk or white chocolate. Studies into the benefits of dark chocolate are showing that there are antioxidants, heart benefits, and the potential to lower cholesterol and blood pressure through dark chocolate. But, any chocolate is still a sometimes food.”

“Another alternative Easter treat is a piece of a home baked sweet from my low-fat cookbooks. Baking food yourself allows for you to monitor the ingredients in order to keep to your overall daily intake,” she said.
Annette said that if you do over-indulge, it was important not to get disheartened.

“Just renew your commitment to becoming a slimmer, healthier you and get back on track.

“Another way to make sure that you are in control of your intake and to avoid temptation is to communicate with your friends and family, and asking them not to give you chocolate this Easter.”

Not only has Annette sold more than 2.5 million copies of her cookbooks, but she has personal experience, after having lost 35kg more than 17 years ago. Since that time, Annette has been able to maintain a healthy weight range and she has helped thousands of Australians to do the same.

“I understand how important willpower is when trying to lose weight and maintain the lifestyle. It is particularly difficult at Christmas and Easter but it is not impossible and the vital thing is to stay aware of what you are eating, so that you are in full control,” she said.

For more information about any of the Symply Too Good To Be True cookbooks, CD Rom Menu Planner and Motivational CDs go to www.symplytoogood.com.au.

Successful charity op shop opening

Colour LogoOn Saturday we assisted Sunshine Coast based charity, Bloomhill Cancer Help to successfully launch their new Op Shop at Noosaville, with a family fun day.

In just four hours the event, which included a super 30% off sale, the team from Zinc FM with giveaways and hot dogs, face painting and balloons for the kids and a grand opening by former Olympian and Bloomhill patron Raelene Boyle, hundreds of people attended.

The event also attracted significant pre and post event media coverage including being featured on Seven Local News and Win News Sunshine Coast on Monday night, after we submitted a video news release.

The new store is the first for the charity at the northern end of the Sunshine Coast.  It like the other six Op Shops at Maroochydore, Nambour, Buderim, Mooloolaba, Caloundra and the Distribution Centre at Kunda Park, is a vital source of funding for the organisation, which helps people throughout the Sunshine Coast and their families to live well with cancer.  To find out more about Bloomhill visit www.bloomhill.com.au.

Business Incubators prove popular in tough economic times

IClogo1CMYKAs the economic climate hits a new low, Business Incubators across Australia are continuing to provide great value and practical support to new businesses.

Business Incubators are set up to boost the potential of entrepreneurial companies through flexible office space and the support they receive from Incubator Management and the network of contacts associated.

A new publication by the US based National Business Incubation Association (NBIA Review, Volume 24 Issue 6) highlighted the following key areas in which value is seen:
1.    Incubator subsidies by government pay off through the client companies generating local tax revenue
2.    Incubators reduce the risk of small business failure
3.    Incubators are part of a larger value chain, adding value to the local business community
4.    Incubators enhance economic development in a region

The Sunshine Coast’s own Business Incubator – The Innovation Centre at the University of the Sunshine Coast – encompasses all of these benefits for start-up companies and has recently expanded to accommodate more established companies as part of their Business Accelerator.

Innovation Centre CEO, Colin Graham, suggested that in the current economic conditions, with many people being made redundant, there would be more ‘forced entrepreneurship’ beginning.  ‘It is often the case that people who have been thinking about a particular business idea for a long time, may see being made redundant as their chance to get started,’ he said.

The Innovation Centre began its Incubator program in 2002 and has helped over 50 companies, primarily in the IT, creative and green-technology sectors, through the introductory and growth stages of their development since then, creating over 300 jobs.

Business Incubator’s also assist associate or virtual clients by providing them with similar services, without those companies being based on the premises. The Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast currently houses over 20 businesses and has four associate clients, and is assisting them through mentoring, advice and business development and networking events.

According to the National Business Incubation Association, there is no doubt that Business Incubators are a great investment and that public sector support for them pays off. Their study showed that for every $1 in estimated public operating subsidy to an Incubator, its graduate and current companies generated approximately $30 in local tax revenue alone.  They also significantly reduce the risk of small business failure, as the success rate of companies who complete the Business Incubation Program is about 87 percent.

The Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast’s Business Incubation program includes flexible office space, fast speed fibre optic connectivity, basic business start-up mentoring, assistance with sourcing capital investment, executive development seminars, networking activities, shared administrative facilities marketing and finance assistance.

Innovation Centre Business Incubator Manager and Entrepreneur in Residence, Nigel Hall commented, ‘Businesses who participate in our program have a much higher chance of success due to the mentoring, executive development, networking and lower total cost of operating they can access at the Centre’.

For more information about the Business Incubator and the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast visit
www.innovation-centre.com.au, phone +61 7 5450 2600 or email innovationcentre@usc.edu.au.

Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast

[vimeo]http://www.vimeo.com/3714177[/vimeo]

This video was produced to promote the Innovation Centre to the external business market. It is being broadcast from their website, on YouTube and has also been used in a viral email campaign and is regularly played at events.

Innovation Centre featured in Financial Review

IClogo1CMYKWe always work hard to achieve great results for our clients and in the past six months have achieved significant coverage for the Innovation Centre through an on-going strategic media relations and online video campaign.

The latest success in this campaign was a great quarter page article in the Financial Review today.  Because of AFR’s copyright restrictions we are unable to reproduce a copy of the article here but you can check it out online if you have a subscription with them.  Just go to www.afr.com.au and search for Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast.

If not here is a summary of the article:

‘Smart state’ needs wider focusBy Jason Clout
As the Queensland Government prepares itself for the upcoming election on Saturday, chief executive of the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast, Colin Graham, said government support needed to go out to the regional areas of Queensland and not just Brisbane. The Liberal National small business spokesman, Rob Messenger, said increasing small business in regional areas was a key goal. The centre, a subsidiary of the Sunshine Coast University, is funded through the support of the state government and the university. Mr Graham said ‘the centre has developed strengths in looking after IT and clean technology businesses but we are also seeking to build health and creative businesses.’ One of the creative companies in the centre is game developer Big Ant Studios.

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