How Melbourne’s coffee culture is fuelling startup growth (with more than caffeine)

Pierrick Boyer

More and more startups are basing themselves out of Melbourne, but it’s not primarily because of the infrastructure or facilities. It’s for the coffee, according to Michelle Fitzgerald, chief digital officer and smart city office manager for the City of Melbourne.

Speaking at LaunchVic’s Thrive Conference yesterday, Fitzgerald said when she was working on Melbourne’s Startup Action Plan, which was released in June last year, she took the opportunity to ask as many startups as possible about the city.

The action plan is a “vision for Melbourne to be recognised as the number one destination for startups and entrepreneurs to start to grow and go global across Australia and Asia,” she said.

During the research period, Fitzgerald and her team worked out of 10 co-working spaces and canvassed the opinions of some 400 startups to try to understand what brought them to Melbourne in the first place.

“Of course, the starting point was less about some of the mechanics you would expect with the economy,” Fitzgerald said.

“It was all about the city,” she said.

Melbourne is “just so liveable”, she noted. Although the city lost its number-one spot for the most liveable city in the world earlier this year, it’s still in second place, behind Vienna, Austria.

Startup founders and employees in particular love a café culture, Fitzgerald said, but that’s about more than just fuelling late nights and weekend workathons.

“If you look at any innovation ecosystem around the globe, not surprisingly, the quality and accessibility of the coffee is really important,” she said.

“Coffee and cafes and open spaces … encourage people to connect,” she added.

Another common reason for being based in Melbourne was access to talent. There are about 226,000 students in Melbourne at any given time, Fitzgerald said one of the highest concentrations of students in any city in the world.

The café culture means students are interacting with startup founders, while founders can connect easily with potential customers or investors.

“That city environment is really important,” she said.

NOW READ: The Sydney-Melbourne rivalry could stunt Australia’s startup growth, says StartupAus chief Alex McCauley

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