AKQA Supports Startup Gippsland & Creates Meaningful Link With Regional Entrepreneurs

AKQA Supports Startup Gippsland & Creates Meaningful Link With Regional Entrepreneurs

Global design and innovation company AKQA has offered its support to regional entrepreneurship initiative, Startup Gippsland.

From bushfires to COVID-19 lockdowns, the Gippsland region has had a difficult time in 2020 and AKQA have lent their support by way of judging, sponsoring and offering mentorship to the Incubator Program, designed for early stage entrepreneurs.

The want to support comes from a personal space, as many of AKQA’s employees, including Managing Partner Brian Vella, and Executive Creative Director, Tim Devine, grew up in Regional Victoria. They now have leadership roles with AKQA, recently recognised by Fast Company as one of the top 25 places in the world for Innovators to work.

“I was born in Gippsland, nurtured and educated there, though I felt it was more luck than anything that I found my way to Melbourne. Companies like AKQA felt a million miles away, and I’d like to change that for the next generation. The region is rich in incredible, diverse talent, with a great spirit, and I’m looking forward to us helping not only the individuals there, but the region itself” said Brian Vella, Managing Partner, AKQA Asia Pacific.

“Being a judge for the Incubator Programs final showcase, it was clear that the future of regional Victoria was at the heart of every idea. It was inspiring to see communities that have gone through an intense 12 months shaping their future, and an abundance of creative and diverse approaches.”Said Tim Devine, Executive Creative Director, AKQA AUNZ.

Based in regional Victoria, Startup Gippsland’s focus is to support the development of thriving startup ecosystems outside of the major urban centres as a key piece of the puzzle for the future of regional economies.

Dr. Elena Kelareva, CEO of GippsTech, said – “When we first began planning Startup Gippsland in 2018, we weren’t even sure if there were any startups in our region. Now we have over 100 amazing program alumni who are all working towards creating a better future for Gippsland. 2020 has been an incredibly hard year for everyone, and on top of the pandemic, Gippsland has also had to recover from one of the worst bushfire seasons in history. It’s critical that our region empowers entrepreneurs and innovators who will create new industries and jobs for many years to come”

The Startup Gippsland program is designed specifically for scalable business ideas that have the potential to sell at a national or international level.

“There are a lot of people in Gippsland who have great business ideas, but they don’t know how to bring them to life. What do we need to do? How do we get our products out there? Having business expertise available locally is essential — programs like Startup Gippsland help micro businesses become big businesses. It’s instrumental to regional and rural development.” – Mark Johnstone, founder of Snowy River Black Garlic, First Prize Winner.

Carolyn Woolard, founder of Code Word Brain, winner of both Second Prize and the AKQA Most Innovative Idea Award said: “From my experience, the general collaborative mindset of regional communities is different. We all share a unique spirit. I’ve tried going it alone with my business development but now, as a Startup Gippsland graduate, I can definitely say we are all stronger together! Startup Gippsland rewards us all with a new sense of connection throughout all the various Gippsland shires and this definitely helps keep the wheels of business development turning more freely and quickly, which will ultimately bring new and exciting opportunities in the region”

“There was a strong alignment between the work AKQA has developed in the play based learning space and what Carolyn is exploring in Code Word Brain. In great collaborations everyone learns something so I’m excited to work with her from both a growth and experience perspective.” Said Tim Devine, Executive Creative Director, AKQA AUNZ.

This is the beginning of an ongoing partnership between AKQA and Gippsland Startup to continue to support the region’s people to grow sustainable businesses.

AKQA is named by Gartner and Forrester as one of the world’s leading experience design and innovation agencies. Across the Asia Pacific region, AKQA transforms brand experiences for clients such as Afterpay, Google, Officeworks, Nissan, Nestle Purina, Nike, HESTA, Bridgestone, Foodstuffs NZ to name a few. AKQA is part of WPP AUNZ, Australasia’s leading creative transformation company.

Now in its second year, the Startup Gippsland Incubator program has innovated to deliver much-needed support to businesses and entrepreneurs across Gippsland, as the region works to recover from the ravages of the most recent bushfire season, and even as the state continues to grapple with the impacts of COVID-19.

Startup Gippsland is a project by the Bass Coast Shire, Baw Baw Shire, East Gippsland Shire,

Latrobe City, South Gippsland Shire and Wellington Shire councils, co-funded by the Latrobe Valley Authority, Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, and LaunchVic, and delivered by GippsTech.



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