Published: January 16, 2018

Having an idea’s one thing. Making it a reality can be a whole new ballgame. Start-ups face different challenges to traditional small businesses, which is why Adelaide Smart City Studio’s Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program should be your first port of call for expert advice.

The EIR program is about nurturing aspiring smart city entrepreneurs looking to establish and build globally scalable businesses, from Adelaide. The program offers one-on-one mentoring to people wanting to learn how to validate and scale their business idea and runs skill-focused events.

With 20 years’ experience working with leading edge digital technologies – ten at Microsoft – Adelaide’s Kirk Drage was a smart choice as the Studio’s first EIR. Passionate about supporting start-ups with potential to ‘go global’ with products or services that will draw revenue into Adelaide and create jobs, Kirk’s already met with over 30 people including students, university graduates and small business owners looking to scale up.

He said the conversation often begins with why start-ups face unique challenges.

“The big difference is that a small business – be it a bakery or gold mine – starts with a known business model which is well validated,” said Kirk.

“Start-ups don't have a business model to follow. They need to experiment to discover a model worth scaling.”

Some of the ways start-ups fall over include scaling, hiring or developing products too quickly – before they're validated. But by building a start-up in a certain way, chances for success can rise dramatically. The EIR program assists with advice and can shed light on other potential roadblocks, such as a lack of diversity.

“Imagine two graduate engineers decide to build a company together,” said Kirk. “They think alike, do everything alike and have no alternative perspective. The more perspective you can get, the more chance you have of being successful. It’s important to have a team diverse in age, gender, ethnicity and experience. Inclusion is what drives innovation.”

Hugh MacGillivray is Director of Hop the Wall an online business assisting Australian merchants looking for a safe, secure and low cost entry into China. Mentoring during Hop the Wall’s infancy paid dividends.

At the time of meeting Kirk we’d just had confirmation we’d receive an early commercialisation grant of $50,000 from TechInSA,” said Hugh.

“We were thrilled and about to spend it all on contractors to build our platform, until Kirk gave me some advice around how to better use the funds which dramatically changed our strategy. It probably saved the company around $25,000. Access to expert advice like this could have been the difference between success and failure for Hop the Wall.”

To request a mentoring session with the EIR, visit