I attended the http://www.sydstart.com event yesterday and there were a couple of standout features that I think should excite every Australian tech entrepreneur and catch the attention of U.S. based investors:
Mentors from globally successful businesses are investing time and money there.
The panel of mentors and speakers would be impressive on any stage, let alone in Sydney – A few to highlight:
Mitchel Harper, Founder and CEO of BigCommerce - Fastest growing e-commerce platform (Investors http://www.generalcatalyst.com)
Matt Barrie, Founder and CEO of Freelancer.com - The word’s largest outsourcing marketplace for business
Benjamin Ranck, Founder Institute Sydney
The Founder Institute’s ‘Globalization of Silicon Valley’ is about to set Sydney on fire
During my time in San Francisco I have invested much time in getting to know people who are executing well and engaging in communities of best practice. Of the many experiences I had, one of the most engaging was watching the Founder Institute ‘Founder Showcase’, where participants in the program pitched to angels and VC’s. The quality of these pitches relative to what I was seeing in other geographies was testament to the value of learnings the Founder Institute can pack into their 3 month program.
I am delighted to see that this tier one program is headed to Sydney with the support of entrepreneur Benjamin Ranck. If you are interested in joining the inaugural program in Sydney, reach out to Benjamin for access to the secret URL – They are testing for demand, therefore not publishing the URL right now.
The money comes next
My prediction is that with the arrival of Founder Institute and tools such as Leanlaunchlab making the world a smaller place, we will see 2012 as the year that Sydney starts getting mainstream investment from the U.S. and that the virtual bridge between San Francisco and Sydney will start becoming highly trafficked.
Those familiar with the current debate about branding the tech community in L.A. as ‘Silicon Beach’ may be surprised to hear that Australia has a valid ‘prior use’ claim – In 2008 Elias Bizannes and a crew of fine Australian entrepreneurs kicked off the ’Silicon Beach’ tech community in Sydney, rallying around a Google group and Friday night drinks in the city. This flap of the butterfly’s wings has contributed to a veritable tsunami that has hit the U.S. West coast – Lookout, the KiwAussies* are coming!
I choose to split my time between San Francisco and Sydney, with business development activities in the U.S. and R&D primarily based in Australia. One of the very exciting things I can report is that the path from Sydney start-up in the home office through to VC backed growth business in the U.S. is becoming less obstructed with every day that passes.
I feel that the support networks and infrastructure are now in place for Australian entrepreneurs to really start cross-pollinating (tip of the hat to www.pollenizer.com.au) with our friends in the U.S. If you have ambitions of getting state side, then my recommendation would be that you follow this path:
1) Get connected to the silicon IV drip (fire hose) and make it part of who you are
2) Get out of your home office and connect to like-minded people in your city.
You can find out who is where by joining the appropriate Google group: Check out www.siliconbeachaustralia.com
3) Get a desk at a tech focused co-working space: e.g. www.fishburners.org
These spaces are full of people facing the same challenges you are and have broad networks both within Australia and in the U.S.
4) Start building relationships via social networks, blogs and email with people in your field of interest in the U.S.
Comment on blogs, reach out to people directly via LinkedIN etc and start a dialogue with people that you have mutual interests with so that you can both get value from the relationship.
5) Get yourself to San Francisco for a reconnaissance mission to drink from the source.
- Get in touch with the tight group of KiwAussies that are incredibly welcoming and helpful in terms of getting connected. If you don’t know who they are or you can’t get connected, then you haven’t followed the steps I gave you above :-)
- Prepare for the trip by checking out upcoming events on www.meetup.com , www.plancast.com and by looking at upcoming events at iconic co-working spaces
- Book a bed at www.startuphouse.com This is a prime location that is owned and operated by KiwAussies whom are building a combined co-working / accommodation site that to my knowledge has no peer. Affordably priced, located in the heart of San Francisco’s start-up mecca, SoMa, this is where you want to be.
- Research the portfolio of target VCs and reach out to the CEO’s of those companies so that you can meet them during your visit – They will provide invaluable coaching on the funding process and if you are credible and considerate, may even offer to provide you with a referral.
Side-note on networking: If you are looking to build a strong network that will help you to achieve your ambitions, then you must start from the perspective of offering value before you request it. There are flows of social capital that must be accounted for when you are seeking favours. Everyone has a store of social capital within their network, but every request you make of someone else is a withdrawal from the emotional bank account – If you want someone to draw down on their social capital, then you need to have offered value in return, otherwise it doesn’t make sense.
In simple terms, don’t be the guy that sees John Smith is LinkedIN to a powerful VC and then after one interaction asks Johnny for a direct intro – This is both presumptive and less than likely to succeed. Begin with the idea of creating value for Johnny so that you have some social capital to draw down on.
*KiwAussies: I refer to New Zealanders and Australians interchangeably, which despite offending both nations is convenient because Aussies and Kiwis are invariably found in the same places, doing similar things. It should be noted that Australian passport carrying New Zealanders are often referred to as ‘KiwAussies’, amongst other less printable terms by their domestically landlocked countrymen.
It should also be noted that former N.Z. Prime Minister Robert Muldoon famously stated that every New Zealander emigrating to Australia raised the collective I.Q. of both countries :-)