When an estimated 4,000 delegates gather in Sydney next month for the nation’s largest conference devoted to the startup entrepreneur sector, they might be able to answer a question that many would wish didn’t have to be asked: ‘Where will the next Silicon Valley be?’
StartCon chief executive Cheryl Mack said that the Santa Clara Valley technology district, whose nickname has become metonymic of the US’ digital mega economy, was starting to lose some of its sparkle and at risk of losing its mantle as the world’s tech startup exemplar.
Hence, the slightly sophomoric phrase that will guide the event’s key theme this year: ‘Silicon Valley is dead. Long live Silicon Valley!’
“In the past people have put Silicon Valley up on this pedestal, and you have these almost God-like personalities like Elon Musk that have come out of the it. But I think, in particular recently, it seems that things aren’t going as well as they possibly could for these companies,” Ms Mack said.
“We’re seeing a lot of high-profile people leaving the Valley, as well as lot of people saying you don’t need to be in it to start a great company anymore,” she said.
“Our argument is that it’s all coming to a head and, if it’s not Silicon Valley anymore, then what is the next leading startup ecosystem to lead the way? What’s the next city?”
There are a couple of strong candidates already. Ms Mack said that there were convincing arguments that Mumbai or Bangalore in India deserved the mantle, as well as a couple of cities in China. There was also a dark horse in the race much closer to home – Sydney.
Ms Mack said she believed the South East Asian and Pacific nations more generally were going to be home to some of the most active startup ecosystems the world has seen.
StartCon features around 65 speakers and 150 exhibitors. The speaker events and exhibits will orbit the conference’s main event; the final of a $1 million pan-Asia Pacific pitching competition being sponsored Right Click Capital.
Among the key speakers announced so far are Matthew Brimer co-founder of technology education specialist, General Assembly, which was sold to Adecco Group for $US412m in April, and Alana Podreciks, co-founder of McKinsey & Company’s New Ventures Platform.
The event organisers have also announced Jay Samit, author of best seller Disrupt You! has joined the speaker line-up tomorrow.
Ms Podreciks’ speech is expected to be watched closely, in part for her insights into New York’s innovation community, but also for her views on the role of artistic inspiration in driving innovation. It’s understood that she’s yet to settle on a topic at this stage.
The event is attracting its fair share of government support starting with its major sponsor, the City of Sydney which is using the event as a platform for its visiting entrepreneurs program (Mr Brimer in this case). It will partner with Jobs for NSW to help it promote support a series of start-up events that in the week leading up to StartCon.
Austrade will also be a key partner using the pitching competition to strengthen its relationships with startup ecosystems throughout participating countries in Asia-Pacific region.