Published: November 18, 2015

Search through a list of the best startup cities in the world and a trend quickly appears: they are cities of a certain size, big enough to attract capital but small enough to build a supportive network.

With a population of 1.2 million, South Australia's coastal city of Adelaide falls squarely in this trend and that could explain why it has been steadily been building a reputation as the startup business capital of Australia.

"People would tend to say Adelaide was incredibly well networked,” says Paul Daly, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Advisor at City of Adelaide. “But, one of the things we are really keen to do is make sure that the networks in Adelaide are open."

Today the city, which was recently named the best place in Australia to grow a technology company, is witnessing a huge shift towards collaboration, resulting in a rich entrepreneurial ecosystem.

In the last five years, Adelaide has seen 116 innovation programs, including 18 co-working spaces and 13 incubator programs emerge, luring entrepreneurs from both interstate and abroad.

"We're building a culture that says, when you find someone that's new to Adelaide, you open your arms and help them progress their ideas quickly," says Daly.

In 2012, Daly was tasked with the challenge of mapping Adelaide's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem.

"There was just so much happening. We had mentors working across programs they were creating a level of awareness of what else was happening in the ecosystem," said Daly.

Daly began mapping the university programs, meet-ups groups and networking events through to the accelerator programs, government grants and venture capital funds.

The idea being, whether you are an established business owner or start-up entrepreneur, you could tap into the ecosystem and find the help you need to move your business forward.

"What's been powerful in mapping Adelaide's entrepreneurial ecosystem is the way it has helped raise awareness of the support available.

"For others working in the ecosystem, it gives us a way of seeing what's missing, what's working and who should be collaborating with who," said Daly.

The result: last month the City of Adelaide and its surrounding suburbs were awarded the inaugural Innovative Regions Award in the Australian Technologies Competition.

"Adelaide has worked hard over the last few years to understand and enhance our innovation ecosystem and has now achieved a remarkable level of collaboration and co-ordination," says Dr Felicity-Ann Lewis, chairperson of the Adelaide office of Regional Development Australia.

Daly says it's the size and scale of Adelaide that has supported this culture of collaboration.

"Some of the best start-up cities in the world are smaller cities," he says.

"I've always felt its human elements of the ecosystem are the most important ones, and Adelaide is in the sweet spot from that perspective."

He says, "it's not so much somebody looking at the map and saying, 'aha, that's what I need,' it's the conversations that happen around it, the map is just a small part of it."

One of the first accelerator programs to establish a place in Adelaide on the cusp of the city's entrepreneurial boon was ANZ Innovyz START.

Emil Davityan and Filip Eldic, co-founders of GPS software company, Bluedot, moved from Melbourne to Adelaide in 2012 to be part of the three month accelerator program designed to help existing businesses and entrepreneurs commercialise their ideas and grow.

"To be honest I don't believe the company would be here had we not participated in the accelerator program.

"We just wouldn't have had guidance or understanding to be able to pivot from our original idea to a much more scalable and globally relevant idea," says Davitay.

Today, Bluedot has offices in Melbourne and San Francisco and their success since leaving the program has been "meteoric," says Innovyz director Brett Jackson.

Bluedot's story is one of many on a long list of tech companies starting up in Adelaide and exporting new technologies around the globe.

Adelaide based 3D printing software company, Makers Empire, are just shy of celebrating their second birthday and are exporting their educational software to schools and colleges around Australia, the US, Hong Kong, Korea and India.

Co-founder Roland Peddie says given the competitive nature of developing an idea into a viable business, the network that exists for entrepreneurs in Adelaide is uniquely open.

"People are willing to share their experience and knowledge without necessarily expecting anything in return," he said.

To date, Innovyz has assisted 51 companies raise more than $27 AUD million, through their programs in Adelaide.

"I think the best way of looking at what is happening in Adelaide," says Daly, "is people see themselves being part of something bigger than just an individual program or a mentor associated with a couple of programs, they see where it fits into the whole scheme of things.

The example he gives is Voxiebox, a company developing 3D holographic display technology.

"They progressed their concept through the MEGA digital entrepreneurship program (now Venture Dorm Powered By Mega), attended various networking events like Mobile Mondays, and have used the 3D printing facilities at FabLab and with New Venture Institute at Tonsley to develop and refine their first prototype

"I've had people say to me this could never happen in Sydney or Melbourne, I'm not sure that's entirely true, but with the city the size of Adelaide and the kind of networks we have here, makes it easier for this to happen."