Innovation has country flavour
They're a start-up scene of two but that has not imposed limits on their imagination. Wagga Wagga technology entrepreneurs Simone Eyles and Tolsa Harrison are here to show their city counterparts that small towns can spawn big ideas.
About 30,000 coffee drinkers across Australia and New Zealand use Eyles' coffee ordering app 365cups to bypass queues and have their brew ready to collect when they swing by their local espresso haunt.
The iOS and Android app is free to customers, but cafes pay a start-up fee and a monthly subscription to receive orders on their screens or print them to a thermal printer.
Co-founder Eyles says the system improves venues' workflow by reducing the number of phone orders staff have to take.
Two years after launch, 365cups now provides a decent income for Eyles and her business partner Mariusz Stankiewicz as well as work for five contract staff. They also make bespoke apps for other clients.
Eyles travelled to Silicon Valley in April as one of 25 start-ups selected to participate in an Advance Innovation Summit and is in talks with several players in the hospitality sector.
Her success inspired fellow Wagga resident Harrison, 27, a mobile lender for Commonwealth Bank, to pursue his own big idea, after he saw her story on 60 Minutes last year.
Launched in January, his PopUpGigs app connects music lovers, performers and venues by using the smartphone's geo-location feature to alert users to live performances in their area.
"The idea originally came about when I was living in Melbourne, trying to find information about what real live bands were playing at local venues," Harrison says.
"I was looking to find a local band - I didn't mind who it was. I was trying to research what was on while I was on the train.
"The concept of PopUpGigs is that the information will simply pop up on your phone."
Facebook integration enables users to see which of their friends are attending a gig and to invite others along. Venues pay an annual fee of $99 and $14.95 monthly to access the app.
PopUpGigs has been adopted by eight venues in the Wagga area and downloaded 2000 times, says Harrison, who went to Silicon Valley in June to meet potential investors, including Angry Birds backer Richard Wong.
Connecting with Eyles on LinkedIn and catching up with her for coffee gave him the impetus to progress his idea, Harrison says.
The pair have struck up a friendship and are keen to see other entrepreneurs join their micro-tech hub, in a town best known as an agricultural and military centre. Wagga has a population of 63,000 and is home to an RAAF base, a campus of Charles Sturt University, the Australian Army's Kapooka training centre and is birthplace of many sports stars.
Director of commercial and economic development at Wagga City Council, Peter Adams, says start-ups are offered free use of a high-tech meeting room in the town library.
"We're very supportive of what Simone is trying to do - it's a hard path to promote the adoption of new ideas," he says.