Daniel Petre: COVID-19 changed the way we work, but startup hubs can still succeed

Daniel Petre startup hubs

Source: SmartCompany/supplied.

Much has been written about the ‘new’ work model that was brought into existence by COVID-19. Not only did most office workers not come into the office for months on end, but many elected to move (tree change, sea change, fuck-off-traffic change) to areas where they could live more comfortably while also holding down Sydney office jobs.

Coming out of COVID-19, many of the new work world order characteristics will remain. Specifically, it is highly unlikely that any business — which is keen to retain higher performing talent — will be able to force people into the office for more than three (maybe four at a stretch) days a week. 

No level of free coffee, warm muffins, harbour views or tantric yoga sessions will make a two-hour commute to the office attractive. So the norm will probably be three days a week.

Some businesses, however, have indexed to remote working to a much higher degree. Atlassian famously established its “Team Anywhere” approach, which now has 25% of staff working remotely 100% of the time. Of course simple maths suggests that 75% of Atlassian staff will come into the office at least some of the time.

So what does this all mean for startups and startup hubs? Well not that much. 

Firstly, most startups need spaces such as those offered by hubs (and then groups like WeWork) to provide decent office support facilities but on a per desk model — allowing for flex as the startups grow. 

Sure this could be provided (and will be) in remote (from Sydney/Melbourne) locations but the further rub is that startups want to be where the talent pool is, and where they can more easily collaborate with other startups and maybe even people from the gang of Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Atlassian and Canva. 

This means that tech hubs placed in locations where there are good transport facilities and a wealth of other startups, as well as large tech companies, will still do well.

This augers well for the major Sydney Tech Hub being developed near Sydney’s Central Station.

But if you are a low functionality/facility hub in a location with poor facilities, and you do not offer decent scale of other startups or access to the large tech talent pools, then you might just be a little bit fucked.

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