The development of a tech and innovation strategy for a city cannot be taken in isolation, according to Clover Moore, Sydney’s longest-serving Lord Mayor and a champion of the city’s cultural growth.
Even as the city drives implementation of its ten-year Tech Startups Action Plan, Cr Moore says the success that the Sydney CBD has already had in the startup space – Sydney is home to 64 per cent of Australia’s startup businesses – is a validation of the strategies that are designed to make it an attractive place to live and work.
“It is interesting that over the last ten years, economic growth activity in New South Wales has been focused on our central business district and its surrounds, and an important contributor to that has been the sort of Sydney we have created,” the Lord Mayor told InnovationAus.com.
“We think a city that people want to live in is also a city where people want to work and do business,” she said. “And so we have placed a high priority on making Sydney a very liveable environment.”
Those priorities have involved a strong policy on things including design excellence in new developments, or creating streets for people – ensuring attractive walking and cycling options for getting around.
“It has also involved the development of a rich cultural life [for the city],” Cr Moore said. “All of these things contribute towards people wanting to be here in this city, which not only has fabulous natural attributes like climate and harbour, but is also an interesting place to live and work.”
It is against this backdrop that the local startup ecosystem has enjoyed such strong organic growth. The Lord Mayor is not claiming ownership of that success – where startup precincts have sprung up across Surry Hills, Ultimo, Pyrmont and the CBD – but she says it is worth noting as a contributor, as the Tech Startup Action Plan is rolled out in full swing.
The action plan includes a focus on building entrepreneurial culture and networking opportunities; creating skilled entrepreneurs through a robust ecosystem; increasing the startup ecosystem density in the city; supporting startup’s access to capital; and helping develop tech entrepreneurs’ access to markets.
The plan, which was approved by Council in June 2016, includes the creation of a giant new co-working space over three floors at 200 George Street, at the Richard Francis-Jones designed EY Centre.
But a central plank of the plan, according to Cr Moore, is the Visiting Entrepreneur’s program, which kicks off this month with the arrival of three US-based, globally successful entrepreneurs who will participate in a series of Sydney-based networking, conference and roundtable events in support of the local startup ecosystem.
“We think it’s incredibly important that our local startup founders are able to get access to globally successful entrepreneurs, people that have taken companies right from the earliest stages right through to success as global businesses,” Cr Moore said.
“That was one of the consistent messages in feedback when we developed the action plan – that entrepreneurs wanted access to other entrepreneurs,” she said.
One the one hand, this meant Council assisting in support of workspaces that drive density among startups, but it also lead to initiatives like the Visiting Entrepreneurs Program, which the council hopes will give local founders some insights into building their companies into the next level of scale-up enterprise.”
The first of the Visiting Entrepreneurs under the program are:
- Vicki Saunders – A Toronto-based serial entrepreneur and founder of SheEO, a global initiative to radically transform how we support, finance and celebrate female innovators.
- Jager McConnell – Chief Executive of high-profile platform Crunchbase, which is used by millions of entrepreneurs and investors globally to find innovative companies and the smart people behind them.
- Marcus Segal – Currently General Partner at Upshift Capital, an ex-partner at Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator, and ex-senior VP at Zynga, the global gaming platform.
“I think many startups [in Australia] feel like there is not enough access to entrepreneurs who have really done the hard yards – who have grown all the way through the startup stage and into a global company,” Cr Moore said.
“And they really want exposure to that incredibly valuable experience,” she said. “And that’s what this program is really about – to bring that kind of deep experience here.”
The three Visiting Entrepreneurs will be take part in more than 25 networking events across the city, some hosted by the City of Sydney, and others in partnership with ecosystem organisations like TechSydney, Stone & Chalk, Blue Chilli, and Fishburners. You can find more detail of these events here.
“We see our role as facilitating and supporting tech startups in our city,” Cr Moore said. “And that’s an important role, with 64 per cent of [Australian] startups based here.”