Right now there are an estimated 22,000 Australian nationals working in tech centres in the USA.
Meanwhile there is a growing community of commercial startup hubs – over 50 of them – and they may be the solution to plug this ‘brain-drain.’
“If we cast our minds back 20 years we have not had the most innovative of nations,” Stuart Richardson founder of Adventure Capital told OmniChannel Media.
Adventure Capital is an early stage technology venture fund, and Richardson is described as the ‘architect’ of the ecosystem that surrounds it which includes the York Butter Factory, a hub for tech ‘heads’.
Located in Melbourne’s CBD in a colonial building first open for business in 1855, the York Butter Factory is now host to innovators who churn ideas in the hope, Richardson said, of promoting economic growth in Australia and creating a vibrant entrepreneurial energy.
He counts amongst the York Butter Factory’s success stories the ‘SnappyCam’ app which was acquired by Apple in 2014, 121Cast’s ‘Omny’ a personalised radio service, and ‘Equiem’ an integrated service model for building management. Richardson is a co-founder of the latter as well as Aurelius Digital and an investor in 121Cast.
He said that hubs like the York Butter Factory have altered the culture of the startup, of garages and bedrooms as the roots of the classic entrepreneur, where keeping things close to the chest was the key and “ideas never got the oxygen they needed to become a true business concept.”
“Now people are becoming more comfortable in coming into an environment such as the York Butter Factory where they can start to explore their entrepreneurial curiosity,” he said. “Ideas are [fashioned] into a proper market fit and escalate into a result.”
There are 70 startup companies spread across two floors in the venue, which Richardson describes as a ‘curated workspace’ where they can connect with the wider tech community and corporate players.
Of the startups he said there is a bias toward enterprise and business, business companies, and building out communities of interest with expertise in FinTech, HealthTech, Big Data, IoTs and Cloud products.
Amongst the York Butter Factory’s corporate partners are ANZ, Coles, and IBM. The hubs ‘eco-system’ includes Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, Zendesk, iStock, and Dropbox. Richardson said these players provide ‘opportunities’, including funding, distribution, credits, and promotions.
“It is a chance [for big players] to interact with upstart companies in the space,” he said. “That starts to seed the opportunity for them to say ‘well is there a way for us to get involved’”.
In the last year, the hub has been host to 200 events and each day over 150 people are meeting, pitching, or in talks.
The value in all this activity Richardson said is in filling a gap between a corporation’s desire to innovate and the pressure startups feel when trying to rapidly refine their products for customer use.
“We are showing the green roots of the next generation of [tech innovation],” he said. “In terms of timeline, from concept to commercialisation, there is no real average for startups but sometimes it does not always occur until seven years into the life cycle.”
Still, said Richardson, in the four years since Adventure Capital had its first fund and the York Butter Factory opened its doors, “it only now that the companies involved are hitting their growth trajectory having successfully achieved product fit.”
Richardson said he has seen “significant respect” in the market on a global level and considerable growth in Australia for the opportunities generated through hubs like the York Butter Factory, “We are right on the leading edge and with that is an increased confidence.”