Published at The Guardian Australian’s edition
Melbourne Knowledge Week is shining a spotlight on entrepreneurs, showing them as the connected collaborators pushing new ideas – far from the stereotype of cashed up jargon-spouting suits.
Now, they are seen as being in the thick of it all, people like Chris Joannou, creator of Start-Up Grind, a network for entrepreneurs, and one of the events scheduled during Melbourne Knowledge Week. Joannou sees entrepreneurs as people who “see opportunities in problems and take action”. It’s not an idea that makes an entrepreneur though: “Everyone has brilliant ideas but only those that do a remarkable job of execution can claim the crown”, Joannou says.
Joannou also believes building an entrepreneurial community is vital. “Communities are popping up around the country”, he says, that are “geared towards supporting each other and encouraging excellence”.
The community approach of entrepreneurs is at odds with how we think entrepreneurs work, with Joannou admitting that “going out on your own to try something is the path that all entrepreneurs take”. But combining the two makes more sense, given entrepreneurs realise success involves trading ideas, skills and their knowledge – which is why Joannou created the Start-Up Grind.
While it’s persistence that will get the entrepreneur ahead, it’s the strength of building relationships that gets them and their vision over the finish line. “Working in isolation makes the journey harder than it has to be”, says Joannou.
It’s this approach that makes them integral fixtures within knowledge cities like Melbourne, where the secondary currency is trading knowledge. Entrepreneurs are the conduits between ideas, talent and investment to produce solutions and products.
Part of the City of Melbourne’s work supporting this culture is making sure anyone can contribute, a culture where entrepreneurs can run between and build connections. Events such as Joannou’s Start-Up Grind and theSilicon Beach meet up during Melbourne’s Knowledge Week are the sort of gatherings that foster these connections and build a greater sense of entrepreneurial community.
Making a city open to innovation creates a welcoming environment for entrepreneurs like Marina Paronetto who says the support meshes with entrepreneurial spirit and “that is why it’s so liberating”. “No bureaucracy, no system, no set rules”, Paronetto explains. “You only need the will to start.”
Paronetto believes the unconstrained approach of entrepreneurs is because they are so “focused on adding value to customers” without playing by traditional rules “hence why they are disrupting well established industries”.
Her focus on finding solutions that add value explains her work with the Startup Weekend Education Melbourne as part of the Melbourne Knowledge Week festival. The event draws people passionate about solving education challenges and supports them as they validate their ideas with experts, while the winners getting funding to further develop their prototype.
By matching creative minds to existing problems, Paronetto believes the event “gives attendees the opportunity to test ideas in a risk-free environment” which is crucial for supporting emerging entrepreneurs.
It’s a creative approach to finding and testing a solution to see if it will work, rather than whether it will sell. Both Joannou and Paronetto believe this approach is vital for encouraging an entrepreneurial culture, one that sits well within the many tech start-ups taking shape throughout Melbourne.
Hackathons and Startup Education Melbourne have a flow-on effect that reaches beyond the initial events. According to Paronetto, “many teams continue working on their ideas after the weekend and some become established companies”, creating a new generation of people contributing to Melbourne as a profitable and innovative knowledge city.
When an entrepreneur is supported, the result is larger than just helping an individual. By supporting entrepreneurial culture, connections are made and solutions found – often solutions that further contribute to the local economy, the hallmark of a true knowledge city.
For more information, visit Melbourne Knowledge Week atwww.melbourne.vic.gov.au /knowledgeweek