How to _SOUTHSTART – why you want to be in Adelaide in March

With _SOUTHSTART in Adelaide just six weeks away on March 5-7, we asked the festival’s co-directors, Danielle Seymour and Craig Swann, to explain how to get the best out of one of the most popular and well-loved gatherings on the startup calendar. Here’s what they said.

_SOUTHSTART is Australia’s largest festival of innovation, big-thinkers and game-changers.

Since our inaugural steps in 2013, 500+ speakers, 10,000+ attendees and a collective >$30bn in invested capital have descended on Adelaide to make connections and celebrate not only ideas and innovation, but imperfection.  Next month our community will convene once again.

Southstart is about opening up

This year will be our most significant yet, however there won’t be a single ‘speaker’. Instead, we’ll have over 500 voices; those on stage, and those participating. 

That’s because _SOUTHSTART is built different. We’re not a traditional, transactional event where a small number of ‘speakers’ impart their wisdom on the majority. Instead, everyone has an equal role to play; participation replaces passivity.

We believe there’s magic to be explored and friendships to be forged in the offline, offsite experiences we’re cultivating. So what differentiates _SOUTHSTART? How can every participant make the most of their _SOUTHSTART? And what will we be exploring together?

What differentiates _SOUTHSTART?

The start-up sector is synonymous with speed. Speed to market, speed to scale, speed to ROI, speed to monopoly, speed to unicorn status. Sell up, then start again.

At _SOUTHSTART, we’re synonymous with slowing down. Here, we encourage people to decelerate; to take their foot off the gas, connect with peers, and enjoy more meaningful work and meaningful conversations.

After all, meaningful connections occur when we’re breaking bread rather than exchanging business cards.

We are to traditional events what Adelaide is to Sydney and Melbourne. We’re not trying to break attendance records or fill out Sydney’s ICC, we’re small, we’re intimate and we believe less is more. We’re focused on hospitality, on the outdoors, on freedom, and on switching off and being present for one another.

Technology is pervasive, and reminders of our digital existence are everywhere. However, the simple truth is that people actually enjoy connecting in authentic, human ways.

That’s what Adelaide and _SOUTHSTART stand for. 

So our role is providing the space where connections can become conversations, and conversations can become change. Unlike traditional events, we don’t hide from the uncomfortable conversations, we encourage them. But in order to have them, we must be comfortable with one another.

That, ultimately, is the environment we’re striving to build – and you’re all participants in that.

So with that being said, how can you make the most out of your _SOUTHSTART?

How can you _SOUTHSTART

We’re not an event, we’re a gathering, so come curious – equal involvement is important to us. Here, we’re abolishing the well-defined delineation between speakers and attendees that you’d find at traditional events. So when you join us, do so with a willingness to ask questions, share your perspectives and think differently.

Wine may be involved at _SOUTHSTART

It’s also important not to come burdened with pre-conceived goals and objectives; let them grow naturally. If you arrive with a razor-sharp focus on one outcome, that is all you’ll achieve. And if you don’t achieve it, your experience will be deemed a failure. Ultimately, if you come with an open mind rather than a specific objective, creativity and conversation flourish, and opportunities you might never have considered could present themselves. 

And finally, when you are here, be candid, vulnerable and authentic. Running a start-up is f*****g hard. We know that because we are that. _SOUTHSTART is a start-up, navigating many of the same challenges, being influenced by many of the same trends and policies, and chasing many of the same dreams as you.

So don’t come to save face or hide your difficulties, come to be introspective and share your struggles and frustrations.

There will be hundreds of other voices in the same boat as you. Everyone is on a similar journey, and it’s easy to forget you’re not alone.

We’re here to abolish the notion that striking out on your own means working alone. They can help with your challenges, as you can do with theirs.

What will we be exploring?

Too often, there’s a fear of the unknown, or an unwillingness to consider the elusive. By their nature, ideas are elusive. Together, we’ll celebrate the unknown and explore the elusive. By forming a dialogue around the ideas, conversations and concepts that might be harder to grasp, we can dive deep, refine, and turn theoretical promise into practical reality. Together our community will be turning abstract concepts into tangible outcomes, into innovation and into progress.

We’ll be exploring power structures and their impact on marginalised groups within our community. We’ll be bridging the generational divide.

We’ll be talking about the opportunities for Australia’s tech sector on a global space. We’ll be turning competition into collaboration within our VC community. We’ll be holding each other accountable, because we’re better collectively when we do.

And we’ll be grounding ourselves, while looking to the stars (literally, and more on that later). So slow down, bring your curious, authentic self and be part of a different way of thinking, and a different way of doing. 

For program details and tickets, see


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