By the time the StartCon exhibition and conference series closed its doors at Royal Randwick in Sydney on Sunday night it had attracted more than 3,100 visitors, cementing its place as the nation’s most important gathering of the startup clans.
Founded in 2009 from humble beginnings as an informal conference called SydStart for the then nascent Sydney startup scene, the event has grown to a national event. It was rebranded as StartCon with its acquisition by Freelancer.com two years ago.
After a misfired plan to move StartCon to Melbourne for 2016, Freelancer.com chief executive Matt Barrie says the event is now settled in Sydney. Attendee numbers grew about 40 per cent over its 2015 showing when it attracted about 2000 visitors to its previous venue at Sydney Town Hall.
The event will remain in Sydney in 2017, returning to the Royal Randwick racecource (where StartCon takes the entire venue.) After hosting on weekdays in 2015 and over the weekend in 2016, it is likely the event will next year be held on a Friday and Saturday to maximise attendees.
The focus of StartCon has changed with the maturing of the startup sector in Australia. In 2016 it focused on just on the earliest stage entrepreneurs, but included an imposing line-up of international speakers drilling attendees on world-leading growth strategies.
Mr Barrie said he wanted to build a concise two-day event that would deliver actionable insights into the Australian market, with strategy sessions suited to attendees whether they were just planning to start a company, or if they were well into their growth journey.
Speakers on the main stage included Head of Rider Growth at Uber Andrew Chen; SurveyMonkey Senior Vice-President of Growth Elena Verna; Growth Hackers Founder Sean Ellis; Zillow Vice-President of Teams and Growth Nate Moch; and 500 Startups Partner Chandini Ammineni.
Corporate heavyweights included NASA’s Director of Advanced Explorations Systems Jason Crusan; Bloomberg Global Tech Media Specialist Christopher Lowe; Alibaba’s Australia New Zealand Managing Director Maggie Zhou.
Some 88 local and international startups and corporates filled the event’s mini exhibition hall.
The event included the Australiasian Startup Awards for the first time, set up with the University of Technology Sydney, attracted 200 nominations across 14 categories and were decided by 50,000 popular votes.
Startup of the Year: Snooper
Technology Company of the Year: Xero
Other nominees: Canva, Envato, Atlassian, Campaign Monitor
E-Commerce Company of the Year: Vinomofo
Other nominees: The Inconi, Kogan, Showpo, and Mon Purse
Best Mobile App of the Year: PocketBook
Other nominees: Commbank, Clipp, Pocket Cast, Domain
Startup Founder of the Year: Christy Laurence from Plann
Other nominees: Liz Kaelin from Caitre’d, James Jansson from Tapview, Kym Huynh from Weteachme, and Jess Ruhfus from Collabosaurus
Startup Investor of the Year: Blackbird Ventures
Other nominees: Mike Cannon Brookes, PAN Group Australia, Elaine Stead
Startup Journalist of the Year: Yolanda Redrup
Other nominees: Michael Bailey, Frank Chung, Gina Baldassarre, Paul Colgan.
Startup Incubator or Accelerator of the Year: Incubate (Sydney University)
Other nominees: Aeona, Muru-D, Slingshot Accelerator, Startmate
Best Bootstrapped Startup: Plann
Other nominees: AurBuddy, Going Expert, Vouchify, Knokal
Best Startup for Social Good: Uprise
Other nominees: CancerAid, Zottie Dottie, Foodnest, Genomix
Best Student Run Startup: WipeHero
Other nominees: The Student Tutor Network, Project Huni, The Sorting Hat, KeyHub
Best Fintech Startup: Brickx
Other nominees: CoverGenius, Cashrewards, Estate Baron, Simply Wall St
Best Mobile App Startup: Snooper
Other nominees: Brauz, Fit for Battle, Clinivid, Sparrow Flights
Best E-Commerce Startup: The Wine Gallery
Other nominees: HART: LDN Home Décor, Spare Workspace, Tapview, WeTeachMe
Best SaaS Startup: Health Engine
Other nominees: Collabosaurus, iRecruit Australia, Small Builders, Link4 Australia