SydStart, Australia’s biggest startup conference delivered a very impressive lineup of speakers to over 2,000 attendees last week.
Some of the presentations were entertaining: Anyone that has seen Mark Bouris in front of an audience knows his talent for entertaining and his rugged tone, but a genuine breath of fresh air was Jane Lu, the founder of Australian online fashion retailer Showpo. Lu was by far the most organic and joyous presence on stage all day.
Some of the presentations were insightful: The pick of the bunch was surely from Christopher Koch from UBS who masterfully explained to the assembly lay-folk the difference between how VC and public markets value tech businesses.
There was a lot of insight for both experienced and new startup devotees but when I tell people about SydStart 2015 I will recount these three insights.
First, Nicky Ringland, founder of Grok Learning, made the revelation that the government has not installed a programming language on any of the laptops it has issued to students. This is quite extraordinary given the new digital technologies curriculum was endorsed by Australia’s education ministers last month.
Second, with a prize for the most candid statement of the day, was Envato founder Cyan Ta’eed. Cyan ran through an excellent case study of how to “test before you invest” that was surely of value to budding entrepreneurs. She told the audience that now Envato always conduct lightweight market trials of new products before scaling out those businesses if they prove successful and scalable. By way of contrast Cyan told us “in the early days of Envato we kind of fluked it.” Fantastic honesty.
Finally, the most important statement of the day came from Startup Weekend founder Andrew Hyde. It’s a message I’ve been boring people with for forever-and-a-day. Andrew asked why our startup narrative so often ends in aspirational comparison to Silicon Valley. He is right, not just Sydney, but no city is soon likely to match the mighty Valley and it’s floods of talent and venture capital. In fact there is no need for us to parrot the epicentre of the startup world.
There is plenty of innovation to be had and there is no reason we can’t or shouldn’t build our own culture and brand as a hub of entrepreneurship and creativity. After all, copying a market leader can never led to overtaking them unless they falter.
As the sometimes reluctant luminary of the Australian startup scene Pete Cooper informed us, “Australia now has a startup ecosystem.” Now we have a solid foundation, we should create our own cultural, economic and product architectures. In the same way startups constantly seek to build differentiated products, we must build Sydney to be a viable alternative with a unique value proposition to customers, entrepreneurs and investors alike.
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