I read with some dismay yesterday in The Australian that Aussie startup companies are being actively courted by the city of Wellington in New Zealand. Recently, five Australian startups were lucky winners of the ‘Wellington Adds Up‘ competition and were flown ‘over the ditch’ to inspect the city’s tech and startup scene. They came away impressed, touting the city as a real option for Aussie startups.
Meanwhile, Dr Peter Binks, the foundation director of the Wade Institute at the University of Melbourne, was in Adelaide earlier this week to deliver a speech on the importance of startup companies to the SA economy. He was interviewed by the ABC:
‘There are a couple of hubs in the world that attract entrepreneurs from all over the place – you look at Silicon Valley, you look at Boston, Tel Aviv, places like that have made a business out of attracting entrepreneurs and fostering them,’ he said.
‘Australia doesn’t do badly in this and Adelaide has got a really strong basis of expertise, both managerial and technological, and is actually developing its own companies that are starting to play an important role.’
So why the bloody hell are Australian startups even considering moving to ‘the land of the long white cloud’? No disrespect to our Kiwi ‘bros’, but New Zealand ain’t exactly the nerve centre of global technology.
So why is this happening? Because Wellington is having a crack and we’re not trying hard enough.
Look at all the positives, taken straight from Wellington Adds Up website:
- Do more for less – Office rental, residential property, company and payroll tax all lower than major Australian cities.
- Support for startups – A hub for government-supported innovation and startup accelerators, and crowdfunding-friendly.
- Hot right now – Top of the BBC world’s 5 hottest cities to live in 2015 list.
- Digital capacity – NZ’s greatest concentration of digital enterprise.
- Better living – Tops NZ Quality of Life surveys, stunning waterfront and green belt, short commutes.
- Talent spot – NZ’s most highly educated workforce – 30% tertiary qualified.
These represent pretty good reasons to check out Wellington as a potential startup location.
So why not ‘Adelaide Adds Up’? We score pretty well on most of these fronts, too – it’s much cheaper to live here than the eastern states; we have leading educational institutions; we’re home to some leading edge technology in defence and medical research; and we certainly measure up in the ‘better living’ category. Not to mention the fact that we’re five times as big as Wellington and we’re not perched out on the remotest extremity of the globe…
The government is abolishing a bunch of stamp duties and taxes as a part of its most recent state budget, but is it enough to get businesses excited about moving to South Australia? Time will tell, but we can do more.
How about this for a plan?
Redevelop the old Royal Adelaide Hospital as Adelaide’s new ‘Technology Precinct’. Actively court major international technology businesses to become anchor tenants of the new precinct – Hewlett-Packard already has a significant presence in Adelaide; lobby hard to have a Microsoft, Cisco, Samsung, Yahoo! or Google establish a major presence in Adelaide – with appropriate concessions.
With three major international tenants locked in, fill the rest of the space with tech-focused small-to-medium enterprises and startups. Throw in some shared working spaces, innovation incubators, venture capital firms, R&D labs, technology advisory firms (eg. Deloitte), offer free fixed and wireless NBN-speed internet access, build a tram extension along North Terrace, and provide appropriate access/egress into the neighbouring education precinct – and you have the foundation of a whole new industry for South Australia.
For the last century, Kiwis have left New Zealand in their droves to reach the land of opportunity, Australia. Surely we can’t allow that situation to reverse?