He may have earned a Bachelor of Computing degree, an Honours degree and a PhD at Federation University, but Robert Layton did not think he would soon be on his way to running his own business.
Eurekative was formed after Dr Layton and some of his friends at Ballarat Hackerspace noticed people were coming to the community organisation for help to start commercial projects.
“(As a not-for-profit) we thought it was not the right vehicle for that job,” Dr Layton said.
“So we formed the company two years ago, where we’re helping to build Ballarat’s start-up culture.”
In need of a space, Eurekative partnered with Federation University to create Lab79 at Ballarat Technology Park as a place to test out ideas and work collaboratively rather than competitively.
The programmer, data analyst and trainer spends his workdays mostly building prototypes or data analytic systems, as well as working on business development for both himself and his clients.
Although Ballarat’s tech community was small, the 32-year-old said it was growing and, with the sharing of knowledge and more network opportunities, this would be an invaluable resource for professionals.
“We don’t have the numbers in Ballarat to start big, but there is a lot of interest,” Dr Layton said.
“Ballarat generally in tech punches above its weight. We have a high per capita tech skill base, it’s just they are all commuting to Melbourne or working from home.”
He believed the more opportunities there were to get together and share ideas the better for Ballarat.
“Tech moves so quickly, so what you knew last year is probably irrelevant by now,” Dr Layton said.
“So if you’re not talking to people about those sorts of things you can get outdated with your skills in this area very quickly.”
In terms of facilities and resources, the entrepreneur has seen positive steps in recent years with City of Ballarat becoming “really active” with its digital strategies and Federation University more externally focused and seeking more collaborations.
Dr Layton counts the release of two products from startups among his greatest achievements to date.
One is a human resources app designed around helping new recruits settle into workplaces, the other an in-car GPS tracking system that can communicate the location of your car at all times and alert you if stolen.
Dr Layton always planned to remain near Ballarat because of the lifestyle, but as an undergraduate noticed a lack of job opportunities.
“It seemed the jobs that were here were held onto very tightly,” he said.
While starting a business was one way to avoid the job hunt, Dr Layton has since noticed a shift in the field.
“I’m seeing a lot more opportunity now,” he said.
“And for me personally getting clients is seemingly much easier now because the tech area is expanding in this region.”
For information on More Than Gold search @morethangold.ballaratstories.