Acquired in 2018 and developed into the high-calibre innovation and entrepreneurship festival that exists today, _SOUTHSTART hosts an annual lineup of dinners, conversations, workshops and other interactive activations. The festival draws leading national and global voices to South Australia, to help foster networks, skills and knowledge required to provide the fertile ground for innovation.
Danielle Seymour, Director at _SOUTHSTART, says that the event seeks to support entrepreneurs and startups at any stage of their journey, by fostering connections across the broader innovation ecosystem.
“Starting, growing or leading a company (from the outside or within), requires a strong connection to purpose, community and positive learning pathways. At the end of the day, we’re connecting people and organisations to these elements; driving encouragement in what can often be a challenging space ” says Seymour.
“We’re tasked with the challenge of providing visibility to the unseen or disconnected components of the ecosystem. ”
An integral part of that process is connecting with past participants to understand where they find value in the event, with _SOUTHSTART conducting annual attendee surveys through Square Holes.
“It’s been useful to understand the critical metrics that have resulted from our efforts, and to be able to use those to guide those paths forward. Without feedback and without, more importantly, the analysis of that feedback, we would not have been able to evolve our brand, experiences and the service offerings that sit within it,” says Seymour.
Danielle says that the research has also been critical in substantiating the positive impact of the event to _SOUTHSTART’s stakeholders. A major coup of the economic impact report conducted by Square Holes was the procurement of long-term funding from the government for the event to continue in the state.
“The Square Holes survey was foundational in helping us to secure longevity of funding, removing the historical challenges we’ve faced over ambiguity on this front.”
The three-year confirmed contract is a win for the state, with the event drawing in entrepreneurs and start-ups from all over the country to engage with businesses here.
“There’s a real benefit in mobilising our interstate networks and bringing in a refreshed lens on all the fantastic aspects of our city, as it reminds us of what we have right at our doorstep, and can often take for granted” says Seymour.
“There’s something really beneficial about bringing that positivity into our state, rather than it needing to be fuelled outwards.”
“I think there’s a really significant cultural disconnect in understanding that innovation sits across every single component of our lives.”
Jason Dunstone, Founder and Managing Director at Square Holes says that South Australia is very lucky to have an asset like _SOUTHSTART in our state to draw in interstate attention and to foster the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
“Square Holes are thrilled to be working alongside _SOUTHSTART to track their impact on the innovation ecosystem and to help them substantiate their value to their stakeholders,” says Dunstone.
“We can’t wait to see how they use the data and insights we have provided them with to further innovate and create a truly unique and valuable touchpoint in South Australia for start-ups and entrepreneurs.”
The challenge moving forward for the brand, is tracking their intangible value as attendees use those networks and connections to grow their brands in astounding ways.
“Something that presents a challenge for us currently is the intangible nature that stands at the core of our event. For example, how can we look at the dinner that we hosted a year ago, and tell the narrative of how many people were subsequently connected, how many new hires were made, how many investment deals were started and so on, particularly when all of these factors often require a long term view on value creation” says Seymour.
“For example, we hosted Cameron Adams, the co-founder of Canva, at our first _SOUTHSTART. Now it’s a multi-billion-dollar company. I would love to know how many founders now refer to him as a source of inspiration and knowledge based on hearing him speak at our event, or how many people decided they too were capable of creating a company.”
It’s that story and those connections that drive what the team at _SOUTHSTART are trying to achieve.
“By creating the environment for people to show up as themselves and form meaningful connections, aligned partnerships and pathways naturally bloom,” says Seymour.
“We have supported founders in raising money from investors. We have contributed to countless talent hires. None of that we’re directly controlling. We’re just creating the environment for people to be there and meet.”