The City of Melbourne will seek to bolster Melbourne’s startup ecosystem through increased collaboration, funding and access to resources, according to the a draft Startup Action Plan released this week.
The draft plan, released on Wednesday contains a series of recommendations aimed at supporting Melbourne’s startups to “start, grow and go global” over the next four years.
Drawing on input from more than 400 startups and stakeholders, the blueprint was created in conjunction with LaunchVic, the Victorian Government, Melbourne academic institutions and the private sector.
The startup action plan houses 12 action items within four overarching ‘themes’: sustainable growth, places for innovation, inclusive and collaborative culture, and adaptive governance.
One of the plan’s key action items is “expanding community innovation labs” and “maker hubs” in Melbourne, by “providing new equipment, technology and training”.
York Butter Factory is one such innovation hub, and it’s founder Stuart Richardson believes co-working spaces are “an integral part of any startup ecosystem,”.
The plan’s focus on supporting co-working spaces and innovation hubs aims to provide “open and accessible places for community innovation”, yet Richardson maintains that diversity and density, rather than just accessibility, is key for developing a world-class startup ecosystem.
“While the focus [of the plan] tends to be on ‘co-working’, or ‘flexible spaces’, what’s far more consequential to the new economy is the density of entrepreneurial activity and diversity of communities, at scale,” Richardson says.
“This brings together communities of startups, corporates, academia and government into innovation precincts.”
Michael Jankie, co-founder of Melbourne social media intelligence startup PoweredLocal, agrees that while supporting places for innovation is helpful, the key to a strong startup ecosystem lies in cultural diversity.
“I have worked out of a handful of co-working spaces in San Francisco, New York, Berlin and of course Sydney. To be a true co-working space you need more than just square metres, you need a co-working culture.”
To develop an inclusive and collaborative startup culture, the City of Melbourne plan intends to “provide skills-building programs that support our local startup community’s values … [of] diversity and inclusion, accessibility.”
The plan also looks globally with a goal to “provide connections in major international markets including China and India”, as well as cut red tape for startups seeking to employ international talent and students.
Jankie believes having a global mindset from the outset will help accelerate the growth of Melbourne startups.
“The world has become very insular in terms of politics — there’s real value in building relationships with other places that can provide opportunities outside of the home base,” he says.
Didier Elzinga, co-founder at Melbourne-based analytics startup Culture Amp, contributed to the plan. He believes leveraging Australia’s geographical position is key to developing Melbourne’s startup ecosystem.
“The world is moving east towards Asia so Melbourne is perfectly placed to benefit from this,” Didier says in the plan.
“Being located in Australia forces you to think global from the outset.”
For startup founders like Jankie, the Startup Action Plan sends a strong message to the rest of Australia, and the world, that Melbourne is a key startup hub.
“It’s good to see the City of Melbourne adding to this point of difference. It provides confidence for partners and we need all hands on deck — municipal, state and federal — to build that trust,” he says.
“Any assistance will be embraced by startups. We’re hustlers, we’ll find the advantage and everyone benefits.”
The draft Startup Action Plan will be presented to the Melbourne City Council next Tuesday.
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