The economic impact of startup incubator iAccelerate to the Illawarra community was highlighted at The Illawarra Connection President's lunch on Tuesday.
iAccelerate chief executive Omar Khalifa revealed between 2012 and the end of 2018 startups at the University of Wollongong Innovation Campus facility created 517 jobs. The number grew by 131 in 2018.
During last year revenues increased 37 per cent to $37 million in the iAccelerate building and wages rose 90 per cent to $11 million.
Mr Khalifa said the figures were dominated by a couple of companies but that is how it works. He said it was important to give opportunities to companies of all sizes and potential.
Read more: National win for Wollongong startup ExSitu
Mr Khalifa said the number of female founders compared to males rose to more than 50 per cent for the first time in 2018.
"This is quite an achievement given most startups are at 20 to 30 percent maximum," he said.
The number of resident companies inside the building reached 70 a few weeks ago, the number of students involved with the startups was more 70 in 2018, products launched has grown by 76 per cent to 95 and there have been 40 IP applications.
"We have had investments of $8.7 million," Mr Khalifa said
"iAccelerate is on an interesting journey. When we moved into our new building three years ago we created something a bit special. We have international mentors come by who talk to us and talk to our companies inside. And they come away with some really interesting comments".
One in particular Mr Khalifa really enjoys is about Australia and Wollongong having a really good model for creating innovation. And how it is less about the whiz-bang and more about solving real problems and real innovation by real entrepreneurs.
"It is a refreshing model and one that has a much better sustainability opportunity," he said.
Mr Khalifa said that makes local startups more attractive to invest in because they are more solid problem solvers.
"What we do at iAccelerate is really to package up a bunch of capabilities and provide the opportunity for those who want to take a journey to figure out how to build a great business. And give them every opportunity we can for them to succeed".
Mr Khalifa invited business leaders at the Illawarra Connection lunch to consider becoming a mentor to such progressive startups with innovations providing real world solutions.
He said in doing so they would be helping many locally based growing companies that hire directly out of the university.
"We are giving people a job when they are interns at the university and potentially a great job afterwards so they can stay here," Mr Khalifa said.
iAccelerate takes in two cohorts a year and the next one is about to begin.
"We had 30 applications for this cohort and we selected 11 of them to come in. Which gives you an idea of the scale of what is happening here in this region," Mr Khalifa said.
"We put them through a program that lasts 12 weeks. We then assess whether they are ready to continue to move on.
"We provide them access to a seed fund that gives them a boost to keep going. We then incubate them for more time if they need to continue to develop their program or their business and to seek more money and to get them market ready".
Mr Khalifa said basically iAccelerate wants to help companies get established so they could kick them out and give another exciting startup an opportunity to get started and succeed.
He said in the process iAccelerate is also giving value back the local community.
"We are helping to create real capability and real opportunity. We are helping people get ready to soar. And making this their home base. Which is why Wollongong is becoming known as the innovation centre and a great place to start a company, develop a company and to grow a company".
- Meet the man behind a hi-tech Jamberoo IT startup employing 35 people in three of the towns old buildings
- Tim Jones takes over from his father Geoff to be the third generation Jones to be managing director of MMJ
- How a Globe Lane salon is putting a smile on many faces with free hair cuts every six weeks
- NEC global president impressed by Wollongong during on his first visit to Australia