Spark fires up the next generation

Margaret Lim

This weekend marks the start of Spark Festival Sydney, which describes itself as “nine day celebration of Australian startup and entrepreneurship culture.” That’s if you come from New South Wales; the event’s sponsors are Jobs for NSW and the City of Sydney.

A glance through the program shows just over 100 separate events associated with the festival, which is pretty impressive. They will be held at various locations around the CBD and at the Australian Technology Park and Sydney University. Some will be at Parramatta and one, The Silicon Paddock Launch, in Wagga Wagga.

Many are free, or can be attended for just a nominal fee. The sessions are a mixture of seminars, chats, panel sessions, training courses, and the like, broken into 15 streams inlcuding: Going Global, Design, Health+Sport, Social Enterprise, Media Tech, Machine Intelligence, Fintech, Startup Journey, Cybersecurity, Diversity, Government, IoT, and Cleantech.

Spark Festival: Even more startup stuff going on in Sydney than usual, yay

A key focus is on education and on getting school students involved, encouraging them to explore innovation “in a fun and interactive way,” and to give them the opportunity to nurture their creative and entrepreneurial skills.

“We’re very excited to get the students in here and show them what’s happening in the startup space and what’s possible,” co-leader of the education track and UTS Business Practice Manager Stephen Rutter says.

These events are about opening up minds to new possibilities. The future world of work in five years’ time will already be vastly different to what it is today, when these students are graduating from school or university.”

The Spark POPUP Space on October 27 is a fully immersive and dynamic educational experience where students will discover the delights of the latest in science, technology and creative entrepreneurship. As well as experimenting with robots, virtual reality and drones, students will get the chance to code their own iPhone app and print 3D objects.

The Fish Tank on October 28 will provide a special opportunity for budding entrepreneurs to sharpen their business ideas and learn how to pitch.

“Budding student entrepreneurs from UTS, The University of NSW and the University of Sydney will also get a chance to go through their own Shark Tank and have the tables reversed,” says Mr Rutter. “Can their pitch be understood by a 12 year old?”

The Spark Festival education track is supported by Data61, Everything IoT, the Powerhouse Museum and UTS Business School.

“Spark Festival Sydney is about bringing entrepreneurs together in a way they can connect with people who can help grow their businesses, coach them to success and share their experiences with the next generation,” says Chris Clark, the event’s co-founder and director.

“We want to do whatever we can to encourage the establishment of globally scalable enterprises by helping Australians tap into the tremendous talent available here in Sydney — whether this is potential employees, investors, corporates, academia or government entities. The solutions are businesses that are ‘born global’ with foundations here in Sydney.”

Event themes will focus on the startup journey, early stages of innovation and entrepreneurship, women in technology, the power of diversity, digital government and smart cities. A sample of events from the program shows the range:

  • Journey of a Digital Health Startup.
  • Humourvation with Anthony Ackroyd – Using comedy to accelerate creativity and innovation,
  • Capital Raising from Business Angels.
  • How to land a job at a startup.
  • Creating a social enterprise – for educators.
  • Designing Public Services for the Digital Age.
  • Idea Exchange: Inspiring innovation in the ageing and disability sector,
  • Fireside chat: Raising Capital in Singapore and Southeast Asia.
  • Sales Secrets of Hyper Growth B2B Companies: Direct from Silicon Valley.
  • Women in Fintech meetup

The City of Sydney is one of the major sponsors. “Sydney is home to Australia’s highest concentration of tech startups and we’re developing a global reputation for supporting innovation,” says CEO Monica Barone.

“We’ve developed an action plan for supporting tech startups to make sure Sydney is a place where entrepreneurs can quickly scale innovative businesses and create the jobs of the future. Events like Spark Festival Sydney will help us build the skilled and connected community we need to make that happen.”

Spark Festival is still inviting people and organisations to host events. It is expected to attract more than 10,000 local and international industry players. More information at

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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