Thoughts on Sydney Startup community

I have 20mins to go before boarding my flight to the US so here are my parting words whilst in Sydney Airport. Coming back to Sydney is always great. Its my home and where I grew up. I came back for 1.5 weeks for work. In this trip, I also had the opportunity to catchup with some people in the tech community as well.

It was awesome to come back in a week where there was also some startup events on from Fishburners birthday party cruise and the Startmate demo day where I saw 8 companies pitch. I was fortunate to visit the new Sydney Startup Hub which houses 2,500 desks over 11 floors. Its filled with entrepreneurs, VC’s, incubators and more. I feel that the startup community now has a physical space and that’s easily accessible as its next to Wynard station. We still have ATP in Redfern too.

Its really awesome to see Sydney Startup Hub. Its actually a mixture of an industrial looking building with some heritage maintained which looks similar to the Atlassian building on 341 George street. It also has this edgy look similar to a design agency. Whilst sitting in the lobby waiting for some people, I saw a lot of familiar faces. There were people that walked over to us to chat about Sydney Startups and how they could help. You can’t deny the benefits of serendipity. I also met a friend outside there as he was working from there.

That whole strip in York Street is the new tech street (if it wasn’t already). Now it has Sydney Startup Hub and its gravity attracting a lot of the startup community. In a stone’s throw you also have two Atlassian buildings where I worked out of. In between there’s Tyro and Airtasker. I caught up with friend from Bambora, a payments company for lunch. I also met with Ansarada, Airtree ventures, IAG ventures nearby. I bumped into Colette Grgic, head of Corporate Innovation from Blue Chilli on the street too.

Those moments are brief yet important as we exchange ideas. They happen because there’s density of tech community activity. Its obvious, but I’ll state it again – we’re not that big in terms of a tech community. So there’s a ton of value in being all together in a specific post code. Silicon Valley is very spread out, but there’s more numbers there and it’s been going for way longer. If we want to get there faster, we have to work closer together and be co-located. Silicon Valley has had many laps of innovation and Australia’s probably done 1 or 2.

I was able to visit Airtasker to catchup with some friends there. I briefly caught the second half of their AMA with the design studio that designed airbnb and Premier league logo. I got to learn about their expansion into the UK. I noticed they had some sticky notes stuck on a wall with some user journey mapping. It was really cool to talk through that with them. They are also going through an inflection point from focusing on liquidity to now focusing on the product to build for scale. They are on their way to becoming a success story in the Australian (& UK community).

Another area I’m interested in is investing in startups. I caught up with some investor contacts in Sydney at various events. It’s something I’d like to learn more about and where I could add value. I’ve previously advised some portfolio companies in VC firms and also through incubators. I help them with product management, strategy and how to get stuff done. I’ve also been living and working in Silicon Valley for one year full time now. I have a lot of contacts in Silicon Valley & SF. I’m planning to have some discussions when I get back to US with some investor contacts in Silicon Valley to find out more about it. It’s something I’d like to do in the medium to long term to do some passive investing. Now I need the cash 🙂

I would like to work with people that know more than me in areas than I don’t know about and who would be fun to work. This includes access to big markets, connections to China, and good product sense. In no particular order:

*China/Australia connection: Xiaochen Zhang (Toutiao), Terry Hilsberg, Rayn Ong (lots of startup tshirts)

*US/Australia: James Martin from Sydney Startups, Blackbird Ventures (Niki Scevak, Samantha Wong, Nick Crocker), Rachael Foo (Stripes Group, New York)

That’s all from me.

Good bye Australia and hello America in 13 hours!



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