A range of Australian startup entrepreneurs, investors and industry bodies are praising the NSW government’s new 11-floor Sydney Startup Hub, citing a number of benefits.
Co-working provider Fishburners, which will move into the York St facility as an anchor tenant hosting 610 desks, was relieved to end a long search for financially viable office space in downtown Sydney.
“We’ve been working on the new location for Fishburners Sydney for three years, and I couldn’t be more excited to finally be able to cater to the demand we’ve received from startups looking for not just the right space, but also the right community to start their journey in,” said Fishburners chief Murray Hurps.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian revealed the plans for the new facility on Thursday, saying that the government has poured in $35 million to make the project happen. The 17,000 square metre hub will be housed in the Transport House and Railway House buildings above Wynyard station.
“When Fishburners started six years ago, there were few options for startup founders looking for support,” said Hurps.
“It’s incredible to see the progress in Sydney’s ecosystem since then … This is a quantum leap forward for us and for Sydneyâ€™s startup community.”
The prospect of co-location with other startup support organisations such as Stone & Chalk and Tank Stream Labs would benefit everyone, according to Hurps.
“Fishburners has a long history of graduating startups into other spaces and accelerators, and now for the first time this can happen all under one roof.”
Michael Jankie, founder of wi-fi startup PoweredLocal, said that this showed the state governments are beating their federal counterparts in supporting innovation.
“I’m loving this new interstate rivalry. It used to be about exclusivity on sports events, now we are in an age where the states are all about one-upping their opportunities to business and innovation.”
Mandeep Sodhi, chief executive of fintech startup HashChing, said that finding downtown office space in an expensive city like Sydney has always been a struggle for startup businesses.
“The subsidised rates that will be available in the Sydney Startup Hub will certainly help with attracting the best and brightest new businesses, with the knock-on effect of creating more job opportunities,” he said.
“With a massive ecosystem of accelerators, startups and VCs all in one space, this new hub will enable Sydney to better compete on a global scale when it comes to attracting and retaining entrepreneurial talent.”
Tech investors have also given the thumbs up, but for different reasons. BMY Group co-founder and investment analysis lead Julius Wei said that such a big investment from the government in a new hub is “the right way to go” because of the signals it sends to the global market.
“For example Chinese capital and institutions are encouraged by the government to seek overseas investment into technologies rather than properties. So having a hub that is backed by a state government in Australia is a strong reassurance to those investors.”
Wei said that the next move might be to open entrepreneurial hubs that are co-hosted by multiple governments to “combine the resources and advantages” from both countries.
The Sydney Startup Hub is due to open in November, but with the startup community burnt in past experiences with proposals at places such as Barangaroo and Eveleigh, Tech Sydney chief executive Dean McEvoy hopes the timeline will not slip.
“We are keen to see the Sydney Startup Hub open quickly, particularly given there have been a number of stalled attempts to create this sort of space in the past. Sydney has some great community spaces for startups — but they are currently overflowing.”
McEvoy agreed with Sodhi that the hub would help the local tech industry attract and retain valuable talent.
“This will be a place where the smartest and the brightest can learn from each other,” he said.
“In this fast moving industry the knowledge of how to successfully build a high growth technology company has a very short shelf life, so the only way you can accelerate the learning of these founders is to put them close to other founders at a similar stage.”
Amid the celebrations, Karen Lawson, chief executive of corporate startup engagement advisor Slingshot, warned that startup spaces were just one element out of many that needed to be fulfilled for a successful tech industry.
“For us to truly compete on an international scale, we need to look at the whole ecosystem beyond just startups. Successful hubs need open networks, access to capital, knowledge transfer and customers to scale.”
Industry body FinTech Australia is currently located within Stone & Chalk and is expected to shift across to the new venue. Chief executive Danielle Szetho also espoused the benefits of co-location for exchange of ideas.
“Having a space that promotes collaboration and connectivity both within the startup community, and outward toward greater NSW and the Asia-Pacific region will ensure we have a vibrant and dynamic ecosystem with a forward-looking international perspective.”