Startup Central Victoria

Startup Central Victoria: Building entrepreneurial skills in regional Victoria.

Partnership at a glance

  • In response to COVID-19, the City of Greater Bendigo wanted to create an opportunity for entrepreneurs in the region to develop the skills needed to turn an idea into a business and scale it.
  • A Regional Opportunities Forum was held to highlight business opportunities in the region.
  • La Trobe developed an online Accelerator Programs in partnership with Startup Central Victoria. These incorporated hackathons to develop ideas, coaching and mentoring from business owners.
  • Expert presenters brought in from La Trobe University, local businesses and successful alumni to share experience and advice.
  • Over 100 potential startups and scaleups attended with the 2021 and 2022 Accelerator Programs booked out.

Case Study

A woman imagining a business 3D-printing machine parts. An 81-year-old retired businessman with a brilliant idea to reduce fuel theft at petrol stations. A dairy farmer hoping to improve access to rural online counselling services. A coffee roaster hoping to scale up.

This is a diverse handful of the would-be entrepreneurs Startup Central Victoria has helped in just its first year. In partnership with La Trobe University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship team, it has delivered workshops and courses that bring their ideas to life and change the direction of their business.

It has supported and encouraged a range of aspiring startups from grassroots hopes to ambitious ideas, from home-spun to high tech and everything between. The diverse nature of the group challenges the stereotypes about business potential outside a major city.

So far, the La Trobe–Startup Central Victoria partnership has delivered a Regional Opportunities Forum for 57 participants and two Accelerator programs – online coaching intensives and sessions with business mentors. By the second Accelerator, in early 2022, the secret was out: more than 30 hopefuls applied for 15 places. Last year’s Hackathon involved a cohort of 20, providing practical tools on how to build a business all in one action-packed weekend. There are regular meetups featuring entrepreneurs from within the region and afar, sharing learnings of their business journey.

“We’ve seen time and time again the impact of accelerator programs like this on regional communities – so we wanted to throw our support behind it and make it a success” said Cerasela Tananescu, Director of the La Trobe Innovation and Entrepreneurship Team.

We’ve seen time and time again the impact of accelerator programs like this on regional communities – so we wanted to throw our support behind it and make it a success

Cerasela Tananescu
Director, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, La Trobe University

Building a framework of support

The impact of the project to date doesn’t surprise Startup Central Victoria project lead Kerry Anderson. She knows there’s a huge appetite for information and has been grateful for La Trobe’s experience and support in connecting participants with their experts.

A specialist in building entrepreneurial ecosystems, Anderson has worked extensively with rural communities to fire their startup ambitions and help make them happen.

With COVID “clipping her wings” and making travel impossible, the pandemic offered Anderson the welcome opportunity to share her expertise and connections in her home region, through online programs supported by Regional Development Victoria, the City of Greater Bendigo and resourced by La Trobe University.

It also gave her the chance to reconnect with her own neighbours across five shires and hear about their plans to start up or scale up. The common thread, she says, is a lack of confidence.

“They need a framework and network to support them. Startup Central Victoria fulfils that important need,” she says. “A collaborative approach is such a big thing: to get them talking and listening to other entrepreneurs, connecting them with the assistance they need, and believing in them,” says Anderson.

But apart from providing resources to enrich Startup Central Victoria’s work, Anderson says that its pride in the achievements and their unwavering support of the businesses they’ve advised that makes La Trobe University a great partner.

“I get that sense with La Trobe that they still talk about people who did an Accelerator Program three years ago. They follow their progress and are genuinely interested. If we all offer an encouraging word and assistance when we cross paths … that means the world to businesses.”

To find out more on our partnerships, please contact us.