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5 things San Francisco's startup scene has that Australia is missing

Photo: Getty Images.

After spending time in San Francisco, you immediately notice some big differences between the startup culture here and in Australia, and it’s very easy to see why people are flocking over to work here.

An estimated 20,000 Australians working in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, most at big companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple, but also a big chunk are here working on their own startup dream.

Business Insider has been chatting to several Australians in San Francisco, some who founded their own startup, others who work for one and people who have carved out awesome career paths with big tech companies. This is what they’ve said is missing in Australia that the thriving tech startup scene in San Francisco has.

1. Government incentives

The biggest thing here isn’t government funding for tech startups, most of the guys pointed out that there aren’t too many big ones that started off with government money, but rather tax incentives for investors.

Investors are too scared to take the risk and invest in startups, but if there was some kind of tax break or tax incentive to make it more appealing for investors, we could see more money thrown in that direction.

In saying this, the Turnbull government is proposing amended tax laws that would allow retail investors a 20% income tax rebate, capped at $200,000 per year on any startup investments, while a 10% tax rebate for venture capital investors in established startups.

2. Keen investors

The problem in Australia isn’t that there’s no money, it’s that investors aren’t willing to bet on startups and would rather the safer, proven options.

In San Francisco, there are VCs everywhere wanting to give as many great ideas a go as they can, knowing 90% of startups fail, but the 10% that succeed bring in huge return. They’re also super keen on utilising their network of contacts to help others – one Aussie says he even had Elon Musk get in touch with him thanks to one of his investors who also invested in Tesla. Those networks simply aren’t available in Sydney or Melboune.

3. A culture around technology

This was the biggest thing Business Insider noticed in San Francisco. The whole city is full of people embracing and celebrating technology to its fullest.

Every problem, or everything that was previously difficult or annoying to do now has an app or gadget that makes it easier. Our favourite thing to use while here is Lyft Line, which is like UberX but you share the ride with someone else going in a similar direction. The end result is a couple of minutes extra on the trip, but the cost is as cheap as $US8 to get from one side of San Francisco to the other.

It’s not just the embracing of technology, but also the people working in it. Everyone is encouraged to get into technology —
there’s no nerdy stigma or a cultural push into other traditional industries. While that attitude is definitely changing in Australia, it still has a long way to go.

4. Having a great network of people nearby

This is the biggest thing for Australians who have moved over here. All the tech giants are literally right around the corner, and everyone is willing to help everyone. We were visiting a couple of offices near AT&T park, and within walking distance was everyone from Braintree to Ubisoft, Twitter, Yahoo, Airbnb, Pinterest and Uber just to name a few. One of the guys working on his own startup said he regularly rolls up to the Pinterest offices to ask for some advice from people there. Having access to that calibre of mentors around makes a huge difference.

5. Infrastructure

This has been the subject of debate for years now in Australia with the NBN. But if we want to move to an economy based on innovation, a first class broadband network is needed.

Everywhere you go in San Francisco, whether to an office or cafe, there is wi-fi faster than the majority of connections in Australia and makes collaborating and uploading files really easy, removing a barrier to efficiently get work done.

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