Sydney can go head to head with any international city when it comes to lifestyle, culture, education, and a whole host of other features, given it’s regularly ranked in the top 10 of the World’s Most Liveable Cities index.
Of course, it’s also home to a couple of globally recognised icons that also do their part for the local economy: a report from Deloitte released for the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Opera House in 2013 found the venue has a “cultural and iconic” value of $4.6 billion, with the total value added from its activities and its ability to attract tourists to Australia estimated to be around $775 million per year.
While it may not yet be as iconic as the Opera House, Sydney’s startup ecosystem is working to climb the global rankings and become a go-to hub for local and international entrepreneurs looking to start tech businesses.
With an estimated 2,100 active tech startups in the city, giving it an overall ecosystem value of US$6.6 billion, Sydney already sits at 17th in the Startup Genome global startup ecosystem rankings and is the only Australian city to have cracked the top 20 – no mean feat.
Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done to catch up to the leaders of the pack: in first place, Silicon Valley’s overall ecosystem value sits at US$264 billion, while New York comes in second at US$71 billion.
Sydney is well-placed, however, to make the climb; with the latest Startup Muster survey finding that almost 35 percent of Australia’s startups are based in Sydney, the local ecosystem has a lot to work with as it looks to develop.
Playing a key role in its development is the City of Sydney.
With access to advice and mentorship from successful entrepreneurs often cited as a key barrier for local startups, the City of Sydney is this month launching the Visiting Entrepreneur Program (VEP) to to provide local founders easy access to expertise.
A key component of the City’s Tech Startups Action Plan, aiming to strengthen the local startup ecosystem and help foster a culture of entrepreneurship, the first run of the program will take place from November 20-30 and see SheEO founder Vicki Saunders, Crunchbase CEO Jager McConnell, and Y Combinator’s Marcus Segal travel to Sydney for more than 25 community-focused events run in conjunction with 15 ecosystem partners.
The basis for the program, according to Lord Mayor Clover Moore, is simple: the future success of the city depends on residents and business communities being digitally active and skilled so they can enjoy the benefits of digital technology.
“Through a range of events – including mentoring sessions, workshops, fireside chats and a large-scale networking lunch – this program will strengthen our culture of entrepreneurship and innovation. By providing links with overseas ecosystems and mentoring for local entrepreneurs, we’ll help accelerate the growth of local startups,” the Lord Mayor explained.
“It will also help foster a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, and raise awareness of Sydney’s tech startup ecosystem locally, nationally, and globally.”
As well as ecosystem tours showcasing the growing Sydney startup landscape, among the events being held through the VEP include Capital Connections, with Saunders and Councillor Jess Scully hosting a forum exploring the opportunities and options for female founders raising funding; a workshop on How To Grow Your Startup, with Segal hosting a hands-on workshop with local startups at Fishburners; and a networking lunch with the VEP entrepreneurs and more than 20 international speakers from StartCon at International Towers.
The Lord Mayor believes the VEP program plays on one of Sydney’s biggest strengths as a city: its global links.
“Although we’re ranked 17th overall, one of our biggest strengths is that our community is globally connected. Our startup leaders have relationships with entrepreneurs in other countries and a keen interest in understanding global business models and international markets,” she explained.
For Saunders, who has a strong focus on female entrepreneurship, global relationships and collaboration are critical factors in helping an ecosystem develop.
“In my experience, putting entrepreneurs and innovators in a room together and setting them free to connect and collaborate is the only path for changing the world. Sydney’s Visiting Entrepreneur Program is a highly innovative model that I hope other communities will replicate,” she said.
“Sharing our experiences and our unique approaches to economic development is critical to building more inclusive ecosystems.”
Building a more inclusive ecosystem will prove critical in not only helping Sydney climb up the global startup rankings, but also help its wider economy prosper.
As the Lord Mayor put it, “By supporting businesses that promote digital skills, knowledge and infrastructure, we are promoting a diversified local economy that is more resilient, connected and attracts talent from around the world to our city.”