Sydney has the highest density of startups in Australia. So last week was the perfect time for the city’s thriving startup community to head along to the inaugural StartUp Week Sydney 2015.
StartUp Week Sydney brought together 8,000 people to attend over 60 events to discuss everything you could possibly imagine about the challenges and rewards of startups.
Designed by startups, for startups, StartUp Week didn’t just showcase the successes of existing entrepreneurs and startups. Crucially, it aimed to facilitate introductions and conversations about investment and commercial engagement between startups, investors and government.
Michelle Williams, National Manager, StartUp Week Australia, said the week came at a vital time for Sydney’s startup community.
“Global economic uncertainty is contributing to a new focus on innovation and entrepreneurship in Australia. As whole industries face digital disruption, now is the time to catalyse existing and aspiring entrepreneurs to build and grow Australia’s innovation and growth opportunities,” Ms Williams said.
Eora 3D, otherwise known as co-founders Rahul Koduri, Richard Boers and Asfand Khan, are one of the many bright young Sydney startups that took part in events throughout the week. Eora 3D’s product is a high-precision iPhone-powered 3D laser scanner which they developed after they were presented with a $20,000 bill for a 3D scanner that they wanted to buy. Their scanner costs just $199 and was funded through a combination of a Kickstarter campaign and seed funding.
Rahul Koduri said the week was the perfect opportunity to learn, and share, knowledge and experience.
“Hearing about other startups’ experiences and how they navigate challenges in marketing, product management, or hiring has been very helpful. Innovative companies in Australia are spread out over various geographic locations and having an event where chance introductions and conversations can happen is very beneficial. You are forced to consider problems faced by others in various pitches and talks, and this cannot be taught, only experienced through others retelling their stories.”
Eora 3D had a chance to meet some of their first customers at StartUp Week, something which they describe as “humbling and inspiring.”
The week was jam-packed with conferences, hackathons, workshops, pitch nights, debates and exhibitions, with several key themes emerging.
If you were new to the startup community and wanted to find out where to start, then you could join the Startup Bus, co-created by Pollenizer and Piivot, to visit some of Sydney’s most exciting new startup spaces and resources.
The tour included a whizz around co-working spaces Stone and Chalk and Fishburners; TankStream Labs, home to over 50 startups including BuzzFeed; hosting space iCentral; Blue Chilli, a technology resources provider; The Ventura, Sydney’s first women-only startup space; The Hatchery at UTS; and ATP Innovations, who offer personalised assistance and mentoring to startups.
Technology trends were popular with the Everything IoT Conference, showcasing some of Australia’s leading Internet of Things entrepreneurs and their devices.
HealthTech brought together medical researchers, software developers and user experience developers to investigate how new breed of technology entrepreneurs can fix healthcare by leveraging new technology to mend an old system.
Smart Cities for Startups connected startups with companies such as Arup, Deloitte and Committee for Sydney to explore how technology can improve our cities.
There were four events focused on understanding China’s startup ecosystem, government policies and market insights. Attendees were able to gain key insights from leading incubators and accelerators and to network with startups targeting the Chinese market.
The ever-present issue of investments and funding were covered at several events including Plugging the Funding Gap/Venture Capital Conversations where leading Venture Capitalists and funders shared advice with startups about how they can access the funding they need to grow and develop. There were further useful events on how to raise capital and impact investing.
Startups and corporate investment were scrutinised at an Australian Financial Review and Westpac Reinventure Group panel which brought together a respected group of senior banking executives to discuss FinTech Capital and Corporate Innovation.
Panel member Simon Cant is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Reinventure Group. He said despite the high failure rate for startups, they are still an important asset class for super funds and high net worth investors.
“Some of these startups, a very small number, could become massive businesses that disrupt today’s incumbents,” he said.
Mr Cant said initiatives such as StartUp Week bring real benefits, especially to new members of the community.
“There is a tremendous amount to learn for people looking to get into the sector. StartUp Week facilitates both that learning as well as the making of important connections between people in the space, particularly newcomers,” he said.
Mr Cant said he would now like to see policy makers and industry leaders do more to support the startup ecosystem including more funding for retraining the existing workforce in STEM skills and consideration given to tax incentives such as the UK’s successful Entrepreneur Investment Scheme.
There was strong support from state and local government for StartUp Week, a welcome demonstration of how seriously they take startups.
“Startups are lean, responsive and key to our future economic growth. That’s why the NSW government is investing heavily to create an environment which will attract and grow the world’s best start-ups,” said Anthony Roberts MP, Minister for Energy, Resources and Energy.
Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney, also wants local government to nurture and invest in startups.
“We want the thriving talent and long-term benefits of a fertile tech culture for Sydney, with local startups that lead their fields. Our support for StartUp Week is part of a long-term strategy to help build the skilled and connected community we need to make that happen,” Ms Moore said.
After a successful inaugural week, there are now plans to expand Startup Week regionally and nationally next year – watch this space for further details.