Australia may have sprouted its own capacity for start-up funding and talent but local businesses still lack the Silicon Valley ability to dream big, according to technology blogger Robert Scoble.
Scoble is well known – and well connected – in the technology industry. He was formerly Microsoft’s technology evangelist and currently works as Rackspace’s startup liason.
Speaking with Business Insider Australia during his first trip to Australia this week, Scoble said local entrepreneurs were “still swimming upstream” when trying to reach Silicon-Valley-like levels of success.
Scoble was in Sydney to judge Rackspace’s start-up pitching contest. One of the runners up was a “billion-dollar idea”, he said, but its founders weren’t aiming quite as high.
Here’s what he had to say:
I said, “If you come to Silicon Valley and spend three months among people like [PayPal co-founder] Peter Thiel or [Netscape co-founder] Marc Andreessen, they’re going to tell you you’re thinking way too small.”
I don’t like to say that [Australian start-ups still need to go to Silicon Valley] because I think the world is flattening. Ten years ago, you really needed to go there. Now you can go for money in other places; people who can program, you can find all over the world.
But it’s the belief. The belief is still not flat. The idea that you’re around other people who can help you with your business and prod you to think bigger, that’s still a tougher one.
It’s not cultural – Mike Cannon-Brookes from Atlassian thinks like that.
But [in Silicon Valley] a lot of people around you are like Mike Cannon-Brookes, are big thinkers, are taking over the world, changing the world, disrupting the world. And you go to conferences and that reinforces the idea that you need to think bigger.
[Australian start-ups] need to get to a place where they can really dream big and Silicon Valley is good at that because there are so many people who have done it.
There’s the confidence in San Francisco that you can do it because there are examples in the street. When you walk into a coffee shop in silicon valley, Mark Zuckerberg is sitting over there, so it’s very real to you and you can go and talk to him.
There’s lots of advice that you can get if you’re in that ecosystem.
I drove around one CEO in Cupertino who started Vidyo and we drove by Apple’s headquarters and he said: “This is why I’m in Silicon Valley. Because I can look at the building and know that I can do it. It can be done.”
It’s the belief, the confidence to look someone in the eye and say: “I’m going to do this. I’m going to change the world.”
Late last year, Deloitte released results of a study that found Australian technology start-ups more risk-averse than their US equivalents.
Deloitte said fewer than 5% of Australian start-ups were scaling into sustainable global businesses, and tended to raise 4.8 times less capital in early stages and 100 times less capital in later stages than those in the US.
“Australian entrepreneurs are less ambitious than those in Silicon Valley and New York, and tend to tackle much smaller markets,” Deloitte reported.
“Sydney entrepreneurs are 86% less likely to want to get rich, 45% less likely to want to change the world, and 37% more likely to want to build a great product, than their counterparts in Silicon Valley.”