Is it any wonder Sydney made the top 20 list of the best cities for launching a start-up? According to the 2017 Global Start-up Ecosystem Report from Silicon Valley start-up Genome, which publishes a report annually, Sydney nabbed the 17th spot, beating Bangalore, Chicago and Amsterdam, and coming in behind Toronto.
The primary question addressed by the report is: in which ecosystems does an early-stage start-up have the best chance of building a global success? It assesses factors such as available funding, the value of companies, a city’s ability to attract fresh talent, and potential for global reach.
Last year was a banner year in venture capital for Sydney – with AirTree Ventures securing an impressive $250 million, making it the biggest funding round in Australian history, speaking to a promising future.
To celebrate the ranking, we’re recounting the biggest lessons we’ve learnt from Sydney-bred startups.
1. “The most important thread is determination.” Canva
Recently voted JobAdvisor ‘Coolest Tech Company’ in Australia for the second year running, graphic design software firm Canva is swiftly evolving from start-up savant to global giant in just a few short years (with a US$165 million worth to boot). With insightful CEO and co-founder Melanie Perkins at the helm, it’s only the beginning for Canva.
“The most important thread is determination,” Melanie told us of her company, which she founded in 2013 with Cliff Obrecht and Cameron Adams. “For many reasons, [the media] focuses on the highlights, but actually I think the exciting part is all the hard work underneath. And all the rejection and all the times you had to pick yourself up and be determined and see things through. They’re the things that are character-building and actually build the company.” You can read more of Melanie’s leadership insights here.
2. “Build a brand and a philosophy that people believe in.” Airtasker
Why do a task when you can pay someone to do it for you? That’s the question job-outsourcing platform Airtasker is answering for people across the country. Two strong funding rounds and a clever partnership has seen the company soar to new heights since its launch in 2012.
“One of the things we are really proud of is building a brand and a philosophy that people believe in, so our marketplace is filled with openness and transparency, other than us being the draconian ruler of what we do,” co-founder and CEO Tim Fung told us last year.
3. “Experiment with playfulness and break the constructs of default thinking.” Atlassian
Both for its purpose and culture, Sydney-based and founded start-up Atlassian has firmly replaced Google as the place people want to work. With ShipIt days encouraging employee creativity and ingenuity, as well as a fortified global mission, Atlassian has the future firmly ingrained in its company fabric.
They also reward failure, as the company’s Head of R&D Dominic Price recently informed us. “We’ve been experimenting with playfulness and finding ways to break the constructs of default thinking and explore curiosity. A way of taking cognitive diversity and seeing it as an investment, not a tax,” wrote Dominic.
4. “Allow the support of your community to motivate you.” Vinomofo
Anything that gives us quicker and cheaper access to good wine is definitely a great idea, and after a few tries, Sydney start-up Vinomofo hit the nail on the head with clever branding and a top-notch product. Founders Justin Dry and André Eikmeier were keen to not only disrupt the wine industry, but also their own careers, and Vinomofo is the result (after a few years of hard slog, of course).
“There were definitely moments where we questioned what we were doing,” Justin told us last year. “Particularly [during] times when we were exhausted, strapped for cash and just generally having a hard time. But we always had a lot of support from our original [online wine community site] Qwoff audience. These were the people, along with our families, backing us and pushing us to keep going, and that’s what we did.”
5. “Keep innovating.” Koala
Founded by Byron Bay mates Dany Milham, Mitch Taylor and Phil Johnson, Koala sold $1 million worth of mattresses in less than three months (and $13 million in the first year). Boasting an impressive four-hour delivery time for customers, you can rest easy thanks to the genius of this Sydney-based start-up.
“Our mattress itself is a first of its kind… but we want to keep innovating. We don’t want to stop there. We don’t want to be a once trick pony,” Dany Milham told Business Insider Australia.
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6. “Focus on building a rewarding staff culture.” Stylerunner
Honesty is the best policy for co-founder and CEO Julie Stevanja, who managed to build a global business that stocks more than 70 major sports brands and ships to 1,000 cities around the world (not to mention some killer turnover).
A dedicated focus on a rewarding staff culture has seen Julie and her team build year on year with no end in sight.
“We have one-on-ones now and the first question I ask is, ‘Where are you on a scale of one to 10?’” she says of her new management style. “Because if your staff are feeling a ‘four’, you need to know about that early, so you can work out what the reason for that is and what can you do to change that. We work on that [by asking], ‘What can we do to get you to a 10?’”
7. “Think up inventive ways to approach the VC market.” Shoes of Prey
Sure, she has herself an adorable apartment in LA, but more than impressive is the fact that Australian entrepreneur Jodie Fox, along with co-founders Michael Fox and Mike Knapp, built a business that broke even in just two months. The customisable shoe brand, founded in Sydney and now based in LA, is a global hit, with more than 6 million shoes designed since the company’s launch in 2009.
“A lot of the venture-capital market is made up of men,” says Jodie. “But we discovered that a lot of the administrative staff for these VCs were women. So we would organise for them to design a pair of shoes and deliver them the day before our meeting. The responses these women had gave the men the insight they needed.”