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Queensland’s new Chief Entrepreneur

Well-known investor, tech founder and Shark Tank judge Steve Baxter will take over from Mark Sowerby as Queensland’s next Chief Entrepreneur in October.

Steve is a proud Queenslander, born in the remote town of Cloncurry and raised in Emerald in the State’s central highlands. He left school at 15 and joined the Army, enlisting in its apprenticeship program. There, he became a technician working in the field of electronics, telecoms and guided weapon systems.

In 1994, at the age of 23, Steve put his life savings of $11,000 on the line to launch his first startup, the pioneering internet service provider SE Net, from the spare room of his Adelaide home. Servicing more than 35,000 customers, SE Net was eventually acquired by Ozemail/UUNet under the stewardship of its founding Director and now Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

In 2001, Steve teamed with a schoolmate to launch his second startup, PIPE Networks, a provider of wholesale telecoms infrastructure that was listed on the ASX in 2005. Eight years later they sold it to the TPG Group for $373 million.

Steve spent a year working with Google in California in 2008, leading a project to deliver high-speed telecommunications systems across North America.

Since 2010 he has become a major early stage investor in startups leading to the founding of Brisbane tech startup hub River City Labs, foundered and underwrote the Startup Catalyst and River Pitch programs; he has been on the listed boards of Vocus Telecoms, Indoor Skydive Australia Group and OtherLevels as well as being on the board of Commercialisation Australia.

Current Queensland Chief Entrepreneur Mark Sowerby said that no other person has given back to the Queensland startup community like Steve and personally invested in building local talent.

“Steve has leveraged his success to give back and set up River City Labs in 2012 to help build more tech startups in his home state. He’s a die-hard Queenslander and the natural choice as Chief Entrepreneur.

The incoming Chief Entrepreneur said some of his early plans in the role would be to drive the startup support ecosystem across Queensland, particularly in regional parts of the state where there are already several accelerator hubs setup, including in Rockhampton, Mackay, Bundaberg, Cairns and Townsville.

“Queensland is a very special state. More than half the population lives outside the capital city so we need to get out to places where people are doing some really cool stuff, and encourage those people to build entrepreneurial networks across their communities,” he said.

Steve has been heavily involved in the early days or founding of numerous industry groups and forums such as the South Australian Internet Association, South Australian Internet Exchange, Australian Domain Name Authority, AuDA, INTIAA, IIA, AusBone and AusNOG.

Steve has been a ‘Shark’ on Channel 10’s Shark Tank program for the past three seasons.

In 2006 Steve received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Northern Region. In 2016, Steve received the Pearcey Medal for Lifetime Achievement in recognition of distinguished lifetime achievement and contribution to the development and growth of the Information and Communications Technology Industry.

Steve is married and the proud father of a 4-year-old daughter as well as twin baby girls and is a keen private pilot and recreational fisherman.

This article from Office of the Chief Entrepreneur

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