It’s a time-honoured tradition: the moment an international figure steps foot on Australian soil, the gathered media is almost required by law to ask them what they think about Australia.
In classic little sibling fashion, we crave approval from the big kids. In most cases, the international figure doesn’t shed any light on interesting matters, rather saying they love the beaches and how friendly everyone is.
It’s a little different in the startup world, where we look to big names to give us insight into how they grew their startup and in what ways their community helped.
Having helped grow Boulder, Colorado into one of the world’s leading startup ecosystems, founder of Startup Weekend and employee number one at Techstars Andrew Hyde is spending three months in Melbourne to gain insight into the city’s strengths and weaknesses.
Hyde is in Melbourne as LaunchVic’s entrepreneur-in-residence, part of a new community ambassador program the organisation has put in place to help grow the state’s startup landscape.
Already two months into this stay, Hyde is confident that Melbourne has what it takes to become a global leader.
“It’s brilliant here, I really, really like it. Melbourne is a world class city and I think it’s funny that I need to convince people of that sometimes,” he said.
“I’m inspired by everything I do here.”
To help inspire others, Hyde will be giving a keynote at Pause 2017 next month, taking to the stage on the festival’s Tech Day to discuss the development of Melbourne’s startup landscape so far and how it can transition into a global leader.
While admitting Melbourne isn’t yet Silicon Valley, Hyde believes all the crucial ingredients are nonetheless already there.
Among the most important are the growing startup culture, community, and support for it, and the sense of pride Melbournians have in their city, the combination of which is seeing more entrepreneurs reconsider whether they actually need to base themselves out of the US in order to succeed.
“I think that was once true that Australians would head over, but I don’t find that to be currently true and that’s changed really quickly…now you have the support, the communities, and all you need in startup culture here, so why would you leave?” Hyde asked.
“The US is one of the top markets in the world, of course, and unfortunately here that’s when you naturally sleep. That’s really the only negative that I see from being in Melbourne, that if you are targeting the US as a market, it’s not a time when you’re usually awake. That’s pretty much it.”
Hyde believes that the supportive culture and burgeoning community in Melbourne also translates to the types of businesses that are being built.
“Part of the problem is that in the US you’ve got a lot of entrepreneurs who really don’t have any other option; they’re an entrepreneur because they can’t get hired or because they don’t quite fit in,” he explained.
“Here, you’ve got a lot of entrepreneurs who have a lot of places where they can fit in, and to be an entrepreneur you actually say no to a lot of much better things, so in a sense entrepreneurs here are much more authentic in that they really want to solve problems.”
With all the ingredients that make a startup hub ready and waiting, Hyde believes the key challenge now is growing recognition of startups not only within the community, but within the mainstream across Victoria, Australia, and internationally.
“Almost everybody knows about Melbourne, and everyone who’s been here loves it, so now it’s about, how do we make sure everybody knows about the startups that are here? That’s the challenge,” Hyde explained.
“The startups are here, it’s just that you have the same problem New York does, in that there’s all these different vibrant communities here, from sports, hospitality, and tourism, so how do you get people excited about startups?”
As Dr Kate Cornick, CEO of LaunchVic, admitted, part of this is the startup community’s marketing problem, where much of the mainstream believes that ‘innovation’ is a dirty word that means killing jobs of everyday Australians.
Despite this idea, Cornick in fact believes that some of those most scared of innovation are actually among the most innovative Australians out there. Similarly, Hyde wants to push the notion that entrepreneurship is open to anyone.
“The biggest goal I have – not just for Victoria but globally – is, if you want to be an entrepreneur you can, it’s accessible to you. It’s not something you should have to do, it might not be what you want to do, but if you see a problem and you want to solve it, there’s so many people that want to help and tools that you have,” he said.
As he gears up to discuss the growth of the Victorian ecosystem at Pause 2017, Hyde said the festival is a key example of the kinds of initiatives needed to bring communities together and push them forward.
“It’s a really well-put together event from start to finish, and I wish I’d had it in Colorado. It feels progressive, and it’s a very needed conversation for startups.
Pause Fest 2017 will take place at Federation Square on the 8th-10th of February 2017. Tickets can be purchased here.