Over 40 Australian startups and global giants launch TechSydney

More than 40 technology companies have united to launch TechSydney, a new not-for-profit venture aiming to turn Sydney into Australia's Silicon Valley.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Airbnb, Amazon, Atlassian, and Uber have joined forces with over 40 Australian startups, global tech giants, and entrepreneurs in yet another attempt to convert Sydney into Australia's Silicon Valley.

The not-for-profit group, TechSydney, said it will work to address what it considers is the greatest challenge for Sydney's innovation ecosystem -- collaboration.

The idea came from Dean McEvoy, who launched the now Yahoo-owned Spreets and will oversee TechSydney as CEO; Mick Liubinskas from Telstra-backed incubator muru-D; 25fifteen's founding partner Kim Heras; Riley Batchelor from cleaning startup Tidy Me; and OneShift's founder Gen George.

In addition to Atlassian, Airbnb, Amazon, and Uber, the group has a combination of global and local tech giants, and a number of serial entrepreneurs on board including: Dropbox, Pandora, SAP, DesignCrowd, LinkedIn, GoCatch, The Iconic, Local Measure, Pollenizer, StartupAUS, and Stone & Chalk.

"Recent moves from all levels of government to support our startup and technology sector have been heartening, but we can't rely on them to carry it forward," McEvoy said. "By working together, we will drive the initiatives that will turn Sydney into a world class, top 10 hub for technology companies."

Despite efforts from major tech companies as well as state and federal government intervention, the consortium said Sydney's global startup ecosystem ranking slipped from 12 in 2012 down to 16 in 2015.

It also said it became apparent that while all of these groups were working towards a common goal, they tackled it in isolation, which limited their impact and ability to change the sector for the better.

Heras believes there is a real threat to the Australian economy if significant action in unison does not occur.

"TechSydney is a really important initiative bringing key voices in the Sydney technology ecosystem into the national conversation. Efforts like this around the country are essential to building a globally competitive national framework in Australia," he said.

"For the first time there is a common understanding of that threat with every part of the Sydney tech industry committed to doing something about it -- starting with the creation of TechSydney."

TechSydney said it intends to create a hub for Australia's startups and high growth technology companies and work to promote this as a viable career path for those yet to take the leap, with a focus on encouraging women to get involved.

In order to achieve these goals, the group hopes to serve as an organising body and a central point of contact for all initiatives relating to Sydney's high growth technology sector, and bring together the best in the industry so they can learn from each other and address the common issues via advocacy to government and implementation of initiatives.

The consortium also wants to promote both Sydney and Australia's startups and high growth technology companies locally and abroad and attract world-class technology talent down under.

George, founder of job matching startup OneShift, said Sydney has a lot of potential to be a serious competitor as a global startup ecosystem ranker.

"On the back of the release of the innovation statement by the federal government, we have seen so many positive conversations happening to create more accessibility and visibility to the national ecosystem," George said.

"However, in true entrepreneurial style, the Sydney Startup community knows if we want to have a fighting chance of being in the top 10 globally, we need to connect all the stakeholders from universities, incubators, investors, startups, small businesses, corporates to truly drive this from the ground up."

Unveiled in December, the federal government's AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda covers over 20 measures centred on its "Ideas Boom" rhetoric, which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull believes will incentivise innovation and entrepreneurship, reward risk taking, and promote science, maths, and computing in schools.

At the time, the Australian startup community in large praised the initiative, with StartupAUS former CEO Peter Bradd congratulating the government, saying at the time it championed a lot of the recommendations that his advocacy group had previously made.

"It's a credit to the government that it has listened to the needs of its stakeholders on this topic. Startups have had a strong and consistent voice in this process -- and the result is that we are now seeing innovative, effective measures to boost jobs and growth," he said.

In the six months since the agenda was announced, the federal government has kicked off a number of its promised initiatives, including the AU$11 million startup landing pad initiative, confirming earlier this month that its fifth and final location would be Singapore.

The inaugural landing pad was unveiled in February, with the government selecting Silicon Valley's RocketSpace technology campus to kick off the initiative.

Tel Aviv was then announced as the second host city for the government-funded project; Shanghai was unveiled as the desired location for the third landing pad, and Berlin was revealed as the fourth location.

Each of the five landing pads will have its own locally engaged coordinator who the government said will bring their unique knowledge and experience to the table. It is expected that a tender for the five roles will be published soon.

According to the government, entrepreneurs accessing the landing pad will be assisted to commercialise their products and services through access to the expertise, infrastructure, innovation, and marketing networks of local partners.

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