Australian expats in Silicon Valley have formed an 'Aussies only' club to support newcomers

Aussie Founders Network board: Elias Bizannes, Kate Kendall, Patrick Collins, Geoff McQueen, Phadeon Stough. (image: supplied)

Australian entrepreneurs end up packing in their bags for Silicon Valley for a number of reasons — chasing venture capital, seeking like-minded collaborators or just to execute their idea in a bigger market.

But thousands of others have the same dream every year — and the competitive atmosphere and the culture shock can be daunting for Australians chasing their startup dream.

Now a mob of veteran expats have formed a group to help.

The Aussie Founders Network, based in San Francisco, today formally launched as a community of Australian entrepreneurs, investors and advisors. The group aims to help startup founders with advice and networking opportunities.

AFN board member and StartupHouse founder Elias Bizannes said that many investment deals, “opportunity creation” and mentoring had taken place in the past ten years from informal meetups of Australian expats in the San Francisco Bay area.

“We wanted to formalise this – opening up this informal transfer of knowledge and capital to boost Australian success in startups – by running events and online communications for a broader group of people who would benefit from this,” the Sydney University alumnus said.

The newly formed body, which was registered as a public benefit corporation in the US, has a goal of putting together a network of Aussies that represent companies valued at $100 billion in total.

“We want to encourage more Australian entrepreneurs to think big and to build the reputation of what it is to be an Aussie founder globally. We also want share the knowledge and resources that exist here in the US, especially in the Valley,” said CloudPeeps chief executive and AFN board member Kate Kendall.

Kendall, who hails from Melbourne, remembers the connections and advice from other Australians when she made the move to California in 2010.

“[AFN] is uniquely positioned to help the next generation of founders. Myself and the board are all busy running our own companies, yet there’s something about creating a network for founders, by founders, that makes a real impact.”

Accelo chief executive Geoff McQueen, Moovweb general manager Patrick Collins, and Innovation Bay founder Phaedon Stough are also on the board of five. Other expats involved with AFN at launch include 99Designs’ Patrick Llewellyn, Nitro’s Sam Chandler, Aconex’s Leigh Jasper, Redbubble’s Martin Hoskings, Bugcrowd’s Casey Ellis and Linqia’s Maria Sipka.

Membership is free but applications must be accompanied by two referrals from existing members.

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