Australian entrepreneurs seeking to develop the start-up ecosystem have returned from a trip to the epicentre of innovation and flourishing start-ups, Silicon Valley, armed with fresh understanding and new ideas.
Aaron Birkby and Greg Burnett are co-founders at Gold Coast incubator Silicon Lakes. They returned from Silicon Valley this week, after visiting as many start-ups, training groups, incubators and accelerators as they could.
Birkby, a serial entrepreneur who has launched nine start-ups, told StartupSmart while Australia couldn’t replicate every aspect of Silicon Valley, there was a lot to be done to boost the ecosystem.
“There are a lot of things that we can’t replicate here. They’ve got this fantastic density there we can never get close too. There are 20,000 start-ups in the [San Francisco] Bay area alone,” Birkby says, adding they saw more co-working spaces in a day than we have in Australia.
Birkby told StartupSmart the team at Silicon Lakes was developing a two-week trip to take founders to Silicon Valley so they can gain first-hand experience of the cultural benefits of this density. It’s set to be announced late next week.
“This density of start-ups, investors and mentors creates a really collaborative environment, with much more openness, cooperation and sharing, as well as a very different approach to failure.”
Burnett and Birkby also visited a range of Australian start-ups based in Silicon Valley.
“There is a massive Aussie contingent other there, and they move over for all the reasons we can’t replicate here but a key one is the funding. Investors over there have a very different mindset and a very different risk profile,” Birkby says.
Birkby says they learned a lot about the structure of training programs and the critical role events play in connecting and encouraging the start-up community.
He is now developing a program to encourage high school students to pursue entrepreneurial plans and an angel investor education program to attract more traditional investors to the start-up space.
“We want to put together an angel investor education program, taking some of Australia’s financially successful people and introducing them to start-ups and the start-up space, helping them to understand what it means, what it looks like and what the rewards are.
“We want to break the mould about what an investment looks like, it doesn’t need to be so traditional anymore,” Birkby says.