Where are the Aussie Startups?

18 months ago, Tom Coates over at Plastic Bag asked “Where are the UK startups”? The question is being asked over at the Guardian of late, all of which prompts me to ask – what about the Aussie startup scene?

A recent post by Vishal Sharma at Read/Write Web listed a few, but for mine, I don’t really feel we’ve ever had much of a startup culture in Australia, compared with energy and dynamism you get in places like San Francisco, or even Austin Texas.

But am I wrong – do we have a decent startup culture here? Is it a problem? Are we doing fine?
Or is there something in our nature that makes us rather conservative, at least in terms of business?
Would you consider starting up your own (not necessarily web) venture?

I’ve been in business with web oriented and based projects (software, training, conferences) for well over a decade now, and I must say I do feel like we are something of the exception not the rule.

I’d love to see a vibrant startup culture here – I’d love to see intelligent seed capital, an eco-system of good designers and developers, mentors for those starting out, events to help network (yes I am aware of things like the recent STIRR events (site seems down?), Dinner 2.0 (I have to admit to only hearing about these events subsequent to their happening, despite feeling pretty well connected), as well as thing like Webjam and the kinds of events we run is conjunction with Web Directions)

But, what do you think?


[tags]startup, entrepreneur, Australia[/tags]

15 responses to “Where are the Aussie Startups?”:

  1. I personally think it’s coming…

    I feel we are a bit behind ‘the Brits’ who are starting to get a bit of coverage in the States as a collective that is building. And they are, you look in Austin SxSW and they were there in force last year and this year they are running a party and taking out a whole floor in the Hampton I am sure.

    As for Aussies, we formed a good posse last year, which I figure has lead to great things happening in the industry with Web Jams and WSG meetings, etc. There is definitely a vibe happening, which I am sure will continue on with more Aussie’s present for SxSW this year.

    Next steps? Breaking off and doing our own thing. I know there is a lot of talk about it everytime I am out, and many are doing it on there own, but more ClearLeft style collectives will soon be formed in Oz.

    ‘per capita’ I figure it will go off pretty soon :-P

  2. John, the Aussie startup scene is alive and well. It isn’t quite booming yet, but things are definitely hotting up. STIRR and Dinner 2.0 were both great events (and naturally, I quite like Webjam)

    Jon Yau started up a wiki page for listing Australian startups. There’s quite a few on the list now

    Gleddy is right. The Aussie web scene is primed to go off!

  3. I agree, I think it is happening. Communication issues are compounded by the spread of startups around the country, but I’m in constant contact with people in Perth, like Minti, and PerthNorg, as well as others around the country including TPN, Touchstone, Tangler, Gnoos, and Omnidrive. I’m also constantly meeting and speaking with others who are starting Internet companies in Australia, and I feel like we’re all trying to give each other a help in hand. I know there is always someone I can email or IM when I need to ask a question.

    The press are also doing a great job of pumping up the “startup market.” Josh Gliddon did a great job with his “Silicon Beach” story, and there has been plenty of press about new funds for Aussie startups.

    Blog posts like this can only help ;).

  4. […] John Allsop asks Where are the Aussie Startups? on the webdirections weblog. […]

  5. I think culturally Australia has a history of producing fantastic ideas but forcing the inventor/creator to go offshore to get finance/backing (eg. Why is Australia good at creating inventions and poor at developing them?). To make things worse we often end up buying our own ideas back from overseas manufacturers/companies!

    I doubt that web startups are any different from the more traditional “inventor”. It’s all about ideas and Aussies are a very smart, creative bunch. Yet we tend to be a bit conservative – we like “quiet achievers”. Startups tend more towards “loud and brash achievers” so maybe it just doesn’t come naturally (yet).

    Then of course there’s the dreaded Tall Poppy Syndrome. We like people to be successful, just not TOO successful. I suspect successful startups seem a bit too much like “easy success” since the hard work isn’t quite so visible.

    We’re a complex bunch under all that laid-back attitude, eh :)

    Looking to the future though… the Australian web industry seems to be building up to something. Not sure what it’s going to be, but it’s going to be fun finding out! ;)

  6. Alive and well I reckon!

    I spend a fair bit of time in the valley and noticed a lack of events, which is why I organised for a STIRR and the more regular dinner 2.0’s. The response from the community has been great.

    At the end of this week Tangler is also helping put together BarCamp as well. I would guess we’ll see 200+ at that event.

    There’s so much going on down here it’s amazing we stay hidden so well. We’re such quiet achievers. :)

    • By: John
    • February 26th, 2007

    Probably won’t make barcamp this time, as will be too long away from the family with webjam, and planning for Web Directions taking me up to Sydney this week. Then off to the US for IASummit, and Web 2.0 Expo.

    We certainly have events like barcamp, and Web Directions, but most of the focus of those isn’t startups, though they certainly are related. My guess is a small % of the attendees are actually in startups, though happy to be wrong on that.

    I’ll try to swing an invite to the next dinner 2.0 ;-)


  7. My reply was getting longer and longer, so I upsized it from a comment into a full size blog post.

    Trackbacks don’t seem to be working (or turning up?), so it’s linked here.


  8. It’s funny, because at this distance, it seems as if Australia has at least a few startups who’ve established themselves, whereas Toronto has so very few.

    • By: Matt
    • February 27th, 2007

    Hi John

    Great challenge, I talked a bit about starting up Minti and also the challenges of fund raising on a podcast with the 2WebCrew shortly after we first launched. It’s long but deals with a number of your questions: http://2webcrew.thepodcastnetwork.com/2006/04/28/2web-crew-007-matthew-macfarlane-from-minti/

    A key point I would mention is the difficulty in getting access to capital pre-launch. Generally the VC’s we talked to had a very very hard-nosed approach to the business and stated that “targets would be set and if they are not met then a professional management team would replace the founders” – the Web 2.0 world is not about setting targets, its about being flexible and dancing to the latest tune that will bring you revenues or more value creation. For example we recently launched a whole suite of photo tagging and ranking functions on Minti.

    Minti/Vibe has changed dramatically in it’s focus since launch and we are now actively negotiating software licenses (nope that was not in our pitch to the VCs) and also launching new verticals from our parent company Vibe Capital (that was a one line bullet point in our initial pitch).

    Minti is not currently generating substantial revenues but that is a tap we can turn on when we choose. There are no other parenting sites on the web with as few ads as we operate on. Meanwhile our content base is growing wonderfully with over 3,800 parenting articles there is something there for any parent and we are larger than most of the big US players in terms of content depth.

    Australia is an awesome place to live and well founded web based businesses give you a choice in base location, although I dare say we may have missed a few funding opportunities compared to if we lived in the valley but we are doing very well in terms of funding and now have a lot of interest in the site due to our focus on execution of the vision.

    All the best
    Matt – Minti/Vibe Capital Co-founder

  9. The number of web related conferences that are announced and then cancelled is not helping. While there are many conferences running, many of them are high cost (for students) and not going to be attended by people without a current startup.

    For those people who are not currently connected to the startup community here in Australia, there aren’t any large signposts pointing somewhere for people they can look to for guidance, or at least exchange war stories with.

    Stronger ties with universities, community groups and the public will raise the profiles of current Aussie startups and help those kids in high school find a path for their next cool thing.

  10. […] I have been thinking about the culture of Australian start-ups after reading these posts…http://blog.scouta.com/2007/02/26/aussie-startups/http://www.webdirections.org/2007/02/26/where-are-the-aussie-startups/ The reason why there Australia seemingly has no culture of start-ups IMO is that there is no sense of community aroundstart-ups. What I mean by this is there are plenty of people out there willing to help me out but, the conversation is often via email, Skype or over a coffee.So no one else hears the discussion or even knows that it took place. The Victorian Government and Microsoft have a program called VictoriaDotNet http://www.victoriadotnet.com.au/ Specific benefits of being a member of the VictoriaDotNet cluster include: Leveraging our brand to raise the profile of its members Networking and partnering opportunities for like-minded organisations Being part of a larger entity at trade shows and exhibitions Having a point of contact to reach and consult with the industry or individual organisations Being showcased for local PR and accomplishments in these technologies Having a single voice for the industry to communicate with Microsoft, Government and other associated vendors   I think VicDotNet has died in the ass over recent years…or at least I don’t hear much about it anymore…Franky any thoughts???So there is movement and it shows that people and government are trying to address the problem…albeit if there motivation is about getting users to adopt there technology. For me start-up culture is based on community and a sense of belonging to a group not energy…If I heard an Australian going off like an American presenter/speaker I’d laugh! Wouldn’t you?That high energy that you get in the U.S doesn’t translate here…”Sheel be right mate!” attitude is an Australian now we just need to find a way to end the conversation with “Sheel be right mate, oh and come and let me introduce you to….insert VC name here” :) How do we do that?Community…community…community…it’s all about community and community comes from engaging your fellow start-ups! So like Rich, John, Bronwen and others lets get something happening by engaging each other, working as a group to better leverage skills and contacts.   Thursday, 01 March 2007 23:28:23 (AUS Eastern Daylight Time, UTC+11:00)      Comments [0]   Web 2.0  |  […]

  11. I think the Aussie Web-startup scene is going well.

    We have some really bright ideas down here, good networking between people, and a unique coding/usability aspect and culture that stands us apart from the US/UK.

    As the founder of atmail.com based locally, we have experienced some fantastic export success for our software solutions, and encourage other startups to take the plunge, keep your idea simple and lean, and FOCUS!

    Remember, its not the idea, its the execution. Take a leaf out of the US marketing book for that one …

    • By: Mark
    • March 6th, 2007

    I’ve only been observing the scene for 3 – 4 months, but I can honestly say that it definitely appears to be growing (and at a fast pace). Barcamp Sydney was a brilliant example of the growing interest in this arena ( the support shown for raveaboutit.com.au was amazing!)

    scientaestubique on 26/02/07 at 11:35 am

    “… While there are many conferences running, many of them are high cost..”

    I definitely agree with this – there are a lot of industry events (breakfasts with key people in the industry) etc, but at around $150 a pop, these don’t come cheap for a student (or some boot-strapped start-ups for that matter :) )



  12. I don’t know you know. I looked at this post and the responses that John got to it when it was first made and thought that maybe he was being a bit harsh, and that we were in fact pulling our weight in the tech startup world. But I’ve just been doing a bit of idle late night browsing and come across this, about Canadian startups. Which I think makes for sobering reading. Canada is only 50% bigger than Australia in terms of the crude raw metric of population, and yet look not just at the sheer volume referred to here, but the breadth of what they concern themselves with.

    No idea what it means. I guess some sort of proximity to the US and Silicon Valley, SFO in particular may have something to do with it. But I do think it casts a bit of a harsh light on what we have going on here in Australia.

  13. […] A few weeks back I posted here asking “Where are the Aussie Startups?” […]

  14. Paul Graham has written a lot about How to Be Silicon Valley http://www.paulgraham.com/siliconvalley.html and we’ve been talking a lot about this here in Toronto.

    Joey has been pontificating http://accordionguy.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2006/5/24/1981829.html

    The culture of risk. The combination of rich people and nerds. I think Aussies are really similar to Canadians.

    I’m not sure I want to live in Silicon Valley, but I do want a vibrant open creative community. And this requires a lot.

  15. I’d say there is no established “IT Entrepreneurship culture” here for several reasons:

    1. It’s hard for one person to comply with all the regulations and paperwork as well as run their business

    2. Our conservative federal government has cut funding to universities by a huge amount in the last 10 years

    3. Fewer people each year are studying IT at university because a lot of the IT jobs in big companies have been downsized or outsourced overseas and people don’t see the possibilities for a stable income

    4. A lot of Australians setup small businesses but the vast majority of these are “old school” type good/services businesses, not dealing in bit and bytes.

    5. Our government and large businesses often award IT projects to overseas companies even when a local company could have done the job better and at less cost and as a result of that and hardware imports we have a huge ICT trade deficit

  16. We are now running Ausie Startups Carnival March 3-17 ,2008. We hope to discover few more and write about them. Details here – http://startups.sharmavishal.com/2008/02/registration-february-11-24-2008.html