Award-winning Mackay entrepreneurs join Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast

We’re so excited to welcome some of regional Queensland’s brightest entrepreneurial talent to Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast 2016 this Friday night.  

A group of startup enthusiasts from Mackay will join more than 70 local designers, developers and businesspeople for the three-day event, to be held at Spark Bureau in Maroochydore.

The group, which will also attend Queensland Government’s Advance Queensland Innovation and Investment Summit in Brisbane on April 27-29, includes a previous winner of Startup Weekend Mackay, a previous winner of Startup Weekend Cairns and the second place, third place and People’s Choice recipients from Startup Weekend Townsville.

Jarryd Townson, who is a coach and mentor at Startup Weekend Mackay, said attending Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast would provide a valuable opportunity to forge new connections across regional Queensland’s entrepreneurial ecosystems.

We’ve got a very strong startup community in Mackay, and people are always willing to travel to compete in these kinds of events, as it allows us to see what people are doing in other regions,” he said.

“It’s also a good chance to hone our own skills. For me, it’s about looking at how I can be a better mentor and improve what we have on offer in Mackay.”

Jarryd, who is the founder of the forthcoming Split Spaces coworking space in Mackay, is also a former University of the Sunshine Coast student.

Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast organiser Retha Scheepers said the Mackay contingent would add valuable energy and experience to the local event.

“Startup Weekend is all about collaboration and learning, so we are excited to welcome seasoned participants from other parts of Queensland to share their ideas, passion and skills,” she said.

“Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast has the highest proportion of students of any regional event in Queensland and having the opportunity to work alongside people who are committed to building entrepreneurial communities is a great learning experience for everyone involved.”

One of the aims of our event is to show aspiring entrepreneurs that it’s possible to succeed in regional Australia.

“For many founders, the key to building a successful startup is not geographical location anymore, but the quality of connections and support around you,” Retha said.

“Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast showcases the enthusiasm, talent and passion within regional Queensland, and we’re excited to welcome some of Mackay’s leading entrepreneurs to the Coast.”

Tickets are still available for Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast. To register click here.

Developers: what’s in it for you?

Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast brings together entrepreneurs, designers and developers for 54 hours of fun. The format emphasises fast, efficient product development – so if you can code, you’ll be a valuable addition to almost any team. But what’s in it for you? 

We’ve spoken to some former participants to discover the key takeaways for programmers and developers.

Build something in one weekend
If you’re a student, a parent or have a day job, it can be tough to find time to work on side projects. At Startup Weekend, you can devote an entire weekend to developing and building something new. Whether you pitch your own idea or join someone else’s team, you have 54 hours to make something happen – which is an efficient way to showcase your technical skills and develop your portfolio.

Learn Lean Startup
At Startup Weekend you’ll use the principles of Lean Startup Methodology to develop and refine your business model. It’s a framework that’s best learnt by doing, and the weekend provides the perfect opportunity to get your hands dirty. Whether you’re new to the startup space or a seasoned entrepreneur, you’ll walk away with a better understanding of how to grow (and pivot) a startup, and the tools you’ll need to do it again in the future. 

Make new connections
Former participants will tell you that one of the best things about Startup Weekend is the people you meet. From fellow participants through to mentors and judges, you’ll be surrounded by likeminded people who are as passionate about tech, design and usability as you are. Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast brings the local entrepreneurial ecosystem together, so it’s a great place to network, meet potential cofounders or just make new friends.

Challenge yourself
The Startup Weekend format involves long hours, tight deadlines and plenty of teamwork. It’s a great opportunity to develop your technical skills – from traditional programming to UX and rapid prototyping – in a supportive environment. Here, failure isn’t frowned upon: it’s considered a crucial part of the process.

Broaden your skill set
Tech skills are important, but to succeed at Startup Weekend you’ll also need business, design, sales and marketing know-how. That’s where your team comes in. Building a multidisciplinary team gives you the best possible chance of success, but it also means you get to work alongside people with vastly different skill sets to yours. It’s a great way to get some hands-on understanding of how all these elements interact to deliver a final product. 

Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast 2016 is on April 29 to May 1. To register as a developer click here

The Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast experience

Former University of the Sunshine Coast student Jessie Lee pitched the winning idea at Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast 2015. Here, she shares her reflections on the weekend that was.

“Wow, what a weekend! So many emotions are rolled into the space of 54 hours. From meeting likeminded people to gaining inspiration from successful entrepreneurs, Startup Weekend gives you both of these and more.

“For me, Startup Weekend was a learning experience. As a journalism student I was there to learn about businesses and technology. My idea was based on a traditional software system, but needed to use today’s technology to keep up with the times – something I had no clue about and therefore no idea where to start.

“We weren’t voted into the top group in the beginning and had to form our own team. Thankfully two of my classmates had worked in the industry I pitched and wanted to help out. A team of three, with some great help along the way, is all you need to get an idea rolling.

“Honest feedback is what you get over the weekend. Some people believe in your idea, others don’t, but the inspiration you see reflected in your mentors’ eyes keeps you going and wanting to know more. The best thing is I’ve made some friends along the way who have freely given a lot of advice over the year.

“My advice for someone who has an idea is to pitch it. At least for the feedback you’ll receive. Of course, even if you decide not to pitch, joining a team and learning as much as possible is what Startup Weekend is all about.

“Everyone is there to help someone achieve their dreams, so why not use this weekend to learn some skills on how to make your dreams a reality too?”

To register for Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast 2016 click here.

— By Jessie Lee

Collaborative solutions created in a collaborative environment

Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast concluded on Sunday night with a wave of energy and an overwhelming number of connections made between budding entrepreneurs from all walks of life.

The marathon weekend commenced on the Friday night with over 200 in the audience listening to 43 raw concepts pitched in under 60 seconds each. Participants then formed in to thirteen teams who worked furiously all weekend to prove their concepts and ready themselves for the grand finale on Sunday night.

Collaboration was clearly a theme with many teams creating tools and ideas that connect, share and improve productivity in many different shapes and sizes.

The Startup Weekend winners are a team called Hitched In, led by 27 year old Jessie Lee a final year Journalism student at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC).

“Hitched In is an online platform that connects brides with wedding planners, and in turn connects wedding planners with industry professionals, resulting in better communication and most importantly, happy brides,” said Jessie.

Hitched In_2

The three member team including from left to right Racheal Rose-Rehardt, Simon Doonican and Jessie Lee were crowned as winners on the Sunday night and narrowly beat a strong field of contenders.

“Winning certainly wasn’t the primary objective of most people attending Startup Weekend,” said Retha Scheepers, USC lecturer in Entrepreneurship and lead organiser for the event.

“Nobody fails here, everyone wants to see everyone else succeed and learn along the way.  The future belongs to the ones who show up,” said Retha.

The judging criteria included topics such as customer validation, execution and design as well as business model viability.

Many of the teams reached out to communities that they were trying to target resulting in thousands of customer survey respondents and interviews over the course of the weekend.

The journey may have started at Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast however continues and builds on the connections made creating an even stronger entrepreneurial Sunshine Coast community.

To stay connected join the Silicon Coast Facebook page.


The next chapter: What happens after Startup Weekend?

With over 300 people collaborating, creating and coordinating over the last 54 hours at Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast, many are wondering what’s next and some are craving for more.

A similar scenario presented itself last year, therefore a group of enthusiastic participants formed an entrepreneurial community called Silicon Coast with the hope to continue the legacy.

Andrea Martins, a local entrepreneur and participant at last year’s Startup Weekend event, has become an advocate for the Silicon Coast group and shares her perspective.

“Silicon Coast is the first group here on the Sunshine Coast that I’ve truly felt at home with,” said Andrea.

“Carrying on the positive energy from Startup Weekend, Silicon Coast brings together a group of local ‘dreamers, doers and done thats’, in a friendly and integrated way.”

“No business idea pitched ever feels or sounds stupid. No level of experience ever feels not enough or too much. I never miss a meet-up and I thank everyone in the group for the energy they give me,” expressed Andrea.

Andrea Martins was the co-founder of the global resource site Expat Women, and is now the co-founder of Australia’s first online marketplace for lawnmowing called Greensocks.

“I started working on Greensocks after being inspired by Startup Weekend last year, and will launch in a week or so,” said Andrea.

Andrea believes that Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast as well as the Silicon Coast Group have contributed to the ongoing growth and development of the Sunshine Coast’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

She is very passionate about the Silicon Coast group’s future and wants to encourage more locals to get involved.

“Each event usually involves about 30 mins of networking, 30 mins of updates and pitches, and then either a small group brainstorming event, or some short guest speaker spots, or just more open networking,” said Andrea

“Whatever the format, the idea is always to make everyone feel as welcome as possible, so I hope more Sunshine Coast locals come out of the woodwork at Startup Weekend and come along to Silicon Coast meet-ups in the future.”

It has almost been one year since the formation of the Silicon Coast, however the group has evolved and adapted quite significantly over this period of time.

“Some people have left town to pursue their startup dreams, but others have happily filled their place,” said Andrea.

“Old faces and new faces come along to each meet-up. Everyone that shows up just gives their time, experience and advice so generously.”

“I can’t wait to see who joins after Startup Weekend 2015. I’m sure more awesome startup folk.”

Silicon Coast FB group

About the Silicon Coast Group

We’re creating the most vibrant, relevant and value adding entrepreneurial community on the Sunshine Coast.

We say: Let’s be awesome! Let’s create the future. Let’s talk about big ideas and startups. Let’s establish Silicon Coast! Bottom-up, for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs! Less talk, more action! ‪#‎siliconcoast‬

Silicon Coast Group aims to promote business creation, connect entrepreneurs and facilitate entrepreneurial events on the Sunshine Coast.

The founders of the Silicon Coast intended for the group to create monthly events, whereby the events are largely based on the nature of the Startup Weekend.

The Silicon Coast group actively collaborate ideas through the Facebook group as well as holding real life group meetings quarterly.

Have your say, join today.

Blog post written by Rachel Thomson, Public Relations Student at University of the Sunshine Coast.


Tips from last year’s Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast winners

Wilfrid Watson and Danum Harris-Lusk did not start their careers the conventional way. Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast 2014 gave them an opportunity of a lifetime and enabled them to launch a new company and attract investment funding within 12 months of commencement.

Together Wilfrid and Danum were the winners of last year’s event with their VRSmartView prototype for a virtual reality headset, now the main product being developed by their business called Phenomec.

Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast 4 May 2014

When asked about their experience they said that the seed to their business started in a classroom at University, whilst both studying their bachelor degrees at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

“However we truly did not have a clear vision of what we were getting ourselves into at the beginning of Startup Weekend”, said Wilfrid.

“Which is exactly the point, you need to just go with the flow and understand that no idea is a bad idea”, added Danum.

Both Wilfrid and Danum are currently juggling their studies with the demands of starting up a business with 26-year-old Wilfrid doing a double degree of Business and Arts, and 22-year-old Danum finishing up a Business degree, where he will graduate November 2015.

With Wilfrid’s experience in sales and interactive multimedia and Danum’s familiarity with the entrepreneurial community, together the dynamic duo created something special.

“Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast gave us a multitude of opportunities, however it takes hard work and commitment to make it work,” said Danum.

Since the inaugural event in May 2014, Phenomec has had their product featured at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) and the Dublin Web Summit and they have had positive business interactions with Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Oculus.

The boys were asked to give future participants some tips for the upcoming Startup Weekend on the 8-10 May, 2015.

“Prepare to not sleep that much”, said Wilfrid.

“Also, the extreme rush of adrenaline will fill you up with energy, and the last thing you want to do is to go to bed,” added Danum.

In the end, both of them agreed that future contestants should not have any set expectations for the weekend.

“It is a type of event that cannot be compared to anything else,” said Wilfrid.

Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast 4 May 2014

Confidence is an important aspect of Startup Weekend. The two young entrepreneurs discussed that having confidence in yourself is extremely important, adding that in the beginning, people had doubts about their idea of Smartphone integrated virtual reality headset, as at that time, virtual reality was not nearly as popular and a lucrative business as it is today. Today, there are hundreds of applications for smartphone integrated virtual reality headsets.

When asked to sum up their experience at Startup Weekend, Wilfrid and Danum chose the words self-actualising and life-changing.

“The mentorship we received throughout the weekend and after the weekend has played an important role in our business and our growth,” said Danum.

In terms of the future of Phenomec, the duo are expanding the company’s focus into consulting and developing immersive software.

“Virtual reality is a powerful communications medium, engaging us at the deepest levels. We are creating compelling and interactive worlds that can be used to enhance the way we learn, work and play,” said Wilfrid.

For more information about Phenomec go to their website:

For more information about Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast go to

Blog post written by Thy Lam, University of the Sunshine Coast Public Relations Student.

Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast welcomes Creatives

Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast is taking place 8-10 May and welcomes all creatives, designers and graphic artists. So much that there’s now a special discount offered, which can be accessed by emailing the organisers at:

Why should creatives sign up to Startup Weekend?

“I signed up to step out of my comfort zone,” Amy, a designer by profession, says. “To shake things up, learn something new, and see how far I could push myself.” The idea of creating an app sounded very technical, but at Start-up Weekend teams focus on the user experience, creating a brand, making interface mockups, and formatting the final presentation. All tasks that benefit from the help of a designer. Not to mention, it’s advantageous for any Startup Weekend team to have a member who can offer a different creative problem solving perspective.

Creatives & Designers creating the future, iForage team 2014
Creatives & Designers creating the future, iForage team 2014

Because of designers’ skills, they are hot commodities at Startup Weekend. Every team wants one and values the skills he or she can bring to the table. Sharon explains, “They appreciate you! I don’t think I’ve ever received so much positive feedback and confidence in my choices and development of an identity. With such positive energy, it pushes you to make it the best it can be and it’s so rewarding.” Other attendees understand that good design can make or break a product and having a designer on their team is like having a secret weapon. She adds that she liked how everyone enters the room as equals. “I felt like I walked in with a clean slate and no one judged me either way. It was amazing! I got to prove myself with the work I did THAT DAY.”

Building a startup in a weekend has its share of challenges. Designers typically need time to develop creative solutions, but in Amy’s words that’s not an option. “Perfectionism is a road block to momentum, and there’s not really any room (or time) for it. You have to manage your time, and you have to be fast. Period. That was hard.”

Looking back though, Sharon says it is totally worth it. “The rewards you get from taking a weekend away and designing for some amazing new companies is priceless.” Amy’s reaction was quite similar. “It’s definitely addictive, especially for a designer that might be working in the corporate world where they work with the same brand every day. You leave Startup Weekend with an incredible sense of accomplishment. As a designer, it’s easy to fall into a staleness, where you aren’t challenging yourself or learning new skills. Startup Weekend is like a creativity boot camp that recharges your system. Amy says, “I feel like I can take anything on and have been running strong all week. It totally re-ignited my passion for what I do.”

Being social at SWSC2014
Being social at SWSC2014

In addition to leaving recharged, you might walk away with some great contacts and possible future opportunities as well. Sharon received eight freelance requests from the weekend. “I highly recommend going and staying late at the very last happy hour celebration. I made most of my connections there because people could pin you with your work. And the drinks didn’t harm either,” she shares.

Still on the fence? Here’s Amy’s take. “On one side of the fence is this amazing opportunity to totally reenergize your career, meet new people, step outside your comfort zone and make something wonderful. On the other side of the fence is the same weekend you had last weekend…which, I’m sure was awesome…but not THIS awesome.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast 2 May 2014

The Art of the 1 Minute Pitch

The Art of the 1 Minute Pitch

The 1 minute pitch takes place on Friday night at the Sunshine Coast Startup Weekend. While pitching can be stressful, it can also be lots of fun, as demonstrated by Bryn and his team, pitching Duty-Free Mule at our Pre-Event Party at the Post Office, 22 April 2015.

Winning Pitch
Winning Pitch

Pitching on Friday night is optional. Some participants come with great ideas, others come to take part and turn that idea into a reality. Our experience shows great ideas spark other great ideas, so you want to get ready and ‘sell’ your idea to a potential team.

Do you have a genius idea?

Your purpose to get others excited about your idea, not to educate them. You only have 1 minute to pitch, so every second counts. We suggest you allocate your time as follows:

  • Who you are? (5-10 seconds) Start strong and help people remember your skill set (use a hook) Example: My name is John and I’m a futurist and designer creating the next generation of drone videography tours in the real estate industry.
  • What is the problem? (10 – 20 seconds) Describe the problem in simple terms that the audience can relate to. The audience needs to understand the problem, otherwise they cannot vote for you
    Example: Have you tried to buy or sell a house lately? All the websites and ads look the same. The real estate market presents homes in a boring, predictable way to potential buyers, despite the technology available today. This limits the seller’s chance of getting their home sold and potential buyers’ chances of truly experiencing a home’s real potential.
  • What is your solution? (10-20 seconds) Make your solution plausible and logical. Add your secret sauce, i.e. your special skills set that shows you can make this work.
    Example: I propose to develop a stylized packaged of videos and photos that buyers can use to showcase their homes, recorded and photographed by drones and put together by designers. Quirky name: LightWhisper Design
  • Who do you need? (5-10 seconds) End with an invitation or call to action for specific skill sets. This sets the expectation of what prospective team members can bring to the table.
    Example: I am looking for IT professionals, business, legal and marketing people to turn this dream into a business.

Keep in mind you are inviting people in to be part of your idea, so think about who is listening. Use your 60 seconds to let your personality shine through. Be the best version of you (even though it’s Friday night). No one wants to work with a boring jerk. People want to work on something meaningful, something big that will solve an important worldwide problem.

In our experience, the best pitches are practiced pitches. Take the time to think about your audience and not just your idea. To watch (and calm your nerves) a few pitches, check out the recent Brisbane Health Friday night pitches.

Best of luck!

Pre Event to help demystify Startup Weekend

The Startup Weekend organisers are inviting energetic, entrepreneurially-minded hackers, hustlers and designers to join them for the pre-event at The Post Office, Ocean Street, Maroochydore on Wednesday 22 April at 5.30 – 9pm.

This free event, with a cash bar will give participants the opportunity to learn more about the Startup Weekend, scheduled for 8-10 May.

The friendly team of organisers will be on hand to answer questions such as; What is Startup Weekend? How does it work? What can I expect?

Dr Retha Scheepers, lead organiser and entrepreneurship lecturer in the Business School at USC, believes that attending the pre-event is extremely valuable for all participants.

“You will learn far more about the event, as well as meeting and networking with other passionate, enthusiastic and talented individuals like yourself. Meeting people at the pre-event takes a lot of anxiety out of Startup Weekend, since you run into the same people again,” Dr Scheepers said.

The event will aim to break down the barriers and allow for participants to engage with coaches, experienced entrepreneurs and past participants.

“We’ll play a pitching game and exchange creative ideas over some drinks. You’ll be in a room with 80-100 high-energy entrepreneurial people, so you might be talking to your future co-founders, developers and idea generators,” Dr Scheepers said.

RSVP for the Pre Event here:

Find out more about Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast here:

Pre event poster for 22April

Tickets selling fast

Tickets are now on sale for Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast 2015, and they are selling fast.

Building on the success of the inaugural 2014 event, Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast 2015 will be held at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) on May 8-10. The intensive, inspiring 54-hour event will connect budding local entrepreneurs, developers, designers and startup enthusiasts eager to immerse themselves in hands-on entrepreneurship.

Over the course of the weekend participants will form teams, collaborate on ideas and connect with professional mentors, with the intent of building their own startup. Dr Retha Scheepers, lead organiser and entrepreneurship lecturer in the Business School at USC, said Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast is designed to foster innovation and create a vibrant, supportive and inclusive startup community on the Sunshine Coast.


“Startup Weekend is a great action learning opportunity, bringing together a range diverse skillsets and harnessing entrepreneurial energy,” Dr Scheepers said. “Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast believes entrepreneurship is a driving force whereby we can create jobs across the Coast, uniting and growing our community. During the weekend participants learn by doing, surrounded by abundant resources.”

The Australian Startup Weekend community labelled the 2014 Sunshine Coast event as one of the most successful Startup Weekend events in regional Australia to date. The event sold out two weeks prior and directly engaged with more than 240 participants, creating significant impact in the local community.

The 2015 event will be bigger and better, thanks to the quality of local talent of experienced entrepreneurs and the support of event partners such as USC, the Queensland State Government, Sunshine Coast Council, Regional Development Australia and the Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast.

Innovation Centre CEO Mark Paddenburg said events like Startup Weekend are crucial to diversifying the local economy.

“The Sunshine Coast already has a vibrant, growing startup community, and Startup Weekend offers a great opportunity for local organisations to support action-driven entrepreneurship and innovation,” Paddenburg said.

“Startup Weekend is a community-driven event – it’s about building the local ecosystem by equipping entrepreneurs with the skills, connections and hands-on experience they need to create and launch their own ventures.”

Startup Weekend Sunshine Coast is on May 8-10 at the University of the Sunshine Coast.   To purchase tickets go to

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