Tech Startups Are Changing Australia Right Now, So You’d Better Get Used To It


Perhaps this is news, perhaps it is just my own realisation of a dawning new reality in Australia.

Regardless, it is going to impact us all, immediately.

Tech startups are a thing. But this is not a casual observer’s view — this is based on a deeper perspective than most.

More importantly this new thing is seriously transforming our country and I am not talking about incremental change in a decade or two.

This is happening right now, by the hour, much much faster than most of us realise, and it’s everyday Australians that are leading the charge.

I thought being in tech for 20+ years and startups for 15+ years would have prepared me more than most but this new set of changes is remarkable.

Here is how it came to my attention. You will have to read through these real life examples from this week to put the pieces together at the end of this article.

Over the last few months there has been a notable step change in the sheer volume and quality of tech startups in Australia.

For me this was visible through (and contributed to by) weekend accelerator programs. The most recent were at and around UTS and of course SydStart (a huge conference we run which is the largest in Australia purely for tech startups).

The names of the programs are probably a little obtuse for most, Lean Startup Machine Sydney by Daniel Ringrose and Startup Weekend Sydney by Thai Hunh.

The results however are much more direct and clear.

Hundreds of potential startup entrepreneurs apply proven techniques to iterate on hundreds of ideas, typically pitching around 50 in one night and then selecting 15-20% to work on in teams.

The three from this weekend that I loved were indicative of the type of change that will impact us.

Smarter Care inspired by Paul Baker and worked on by an handful of passionate entrepreneurs takes aim at the invalid care market in a new and arguably aggressive way, targeting the 30 to 40% of government support that goes to care provider agencies in fees.

I am no care expert but Paul’s passion here was obvious and more importantly he knows first hand and is somewhat of an expert.

He spends most of his day in an electric wheelchair driven using a small hand control using his left hand which is his main tool for controlling his life – given other complications from a life changing experience – I won’t go into those today but let’s just say I naively shook his right hand.

His disability is only motivating him to impact change, recent legislation is an enabler for him as he now has some control of the money the government provides for his care. Way more than ever before.

His team is a collection of diverse passionate people with real experience in each of the core relevant areas. The Smarter Care (their working title) team produced a real draft business and technology in just 54 hours to operate a new marketplace in Australia connecting carers and the people that need care.

Imagine being able to pay carers more because there are less intermediaries and all parties having a better quality of life because Paul found carers near his home rather an hour than across town.

Imagine too what the impact of redistributing an enormous percentage of our nation’s health budget will have on every single aspect of the industry.

The second change is equally interesting but is not limited to Australia. SoundNinja offers a new way of finding and buying music, from inside your web browser without even changing your daily routine. Perhaps you are reading an online news service or just scrolling through facebook updates.

If a musician, band, concert or album is mentioned there is a new kind of link applied so when you hover over that link all the latest ranked songs appear. you can sample them and click to buy via itunes and soon via other music stores.

Why is this disruptive? Well, you can buy anywhere, without having to go to another site, and the Sound Ninja team can sell you music from any store from Apple to Google to JB Hi Fi.

They get a small affiliate fee and you don’t have to pay any more for your music, best of all you are probably making better decisions with less effort and being more on trend with the latest music world developments.

But the real power is their technology can be applied to more than music.

Imagine buying shares in a company or online services.

This is not new technology either, it is just that we finally have the right combination of technologies coming together to disrupt potentially dozens of industries.

Giles Butler (web software engineer), Chris Nguyen (experience designer), Nicholas Peter (music producer) and their extensive team produced a polished product once again in around 54 hours.

Are you starting to see what is happening now?

Multiple industries are being disrupted in just hours but normal people working together in new ways. And there are no robots in sight.

The third example from Sydney Startup Weekend also sounds simple at face value. It is a coffee loyalty card.

How boring I hear you say. Well this is new.

Jade Feng was selling coffee on Facebook with ease and effortless “hustle” while her business partners including Dan who led the on-stage pitch and Angela Bee Chan a hipster blogger who has other cool startups under her belt already were leading examples of these new entrepreneurs.

CoffeeUp disrupts the existing loyalty card providers with a bulk purchase program that drives downs costs for consumers, increases convenience for consumers and cafes and actually cuts the big payment providers out of the picture.

Coffee has been sold for centuries, the mass retail espresso trend is more recent and electronic point of sale is even newer. But mobile and cashless convenience have meant more fees. This new model saves across the board.

So what is special about all these businesses?

Firstly, there is almost no capital being applied. Sure they will probably raise money and the more the better if they want to move fast, but vendors are literally giving away cloud computing capacity for startups and a few thousand dollars goes a long way.

Secondly, these business did not exist last week. The rate of change is remarkable.

Thirdly, the teams are made up of normal, everyday Australians.

We might have a higher than global average in education and language skills and diversity but these are normal people like coffee fans and invalid carers clubbing together. They have a few of the “new tech startup skills” in subjects like UX (user experience) design and are working in new ways using “lean” and “customer validation” techniques that take us from art to science when building a business.

Finally, no one is safe: payments, health care, global multi-nationals – they’re all being challenged.

But best of all, were the smiles in the room as our next generation of entrepreneurs take on the world.

Pete Cooper is Regional Director at (ASX:FLN) the world’s largest crowdsourcing and freelancing marketplace for business services like design, apps, translation and data entry with 13.7m people in 30 languages across 200 countries and 700 categories of work. He is also a passionate startup advocate and father of two.