Should Australia Build a Great Technology Sector?

by Viki Forrest, CEO ANZA Technology Network

First, I’d like to go on record and congratulate two recent Australian technology success stories – Atlassian and its co-founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar and Tapulous co-founder Andrew Lacy. For all who have been following Aussie tech news this month, Atlassian’s closing on a $60 million (USD) round of funding from Accel Partners here in Silicon Valley and Tapulous’ multi-million dollar sale to Disney prove yet again that America looks to Australia’s innovative tech sector for fresh ideas that are well executed.

I didn’t join in on the dust up over at the Delimiter blog, when blogger Renai LeMay chose to call out the Atlassian founders for taking American VC, rather than trying to raise such money in Australia. As the CEO of the ANZA Technology Network it’s our business to link the Australian and American tech communities. Since 2002, when ANZA was founded, that link has been one-way – Aussie innovation toward American dollars and customers.

While ANZA strives to accelerate Australian entrepreneurs getting a foothold in the US market, while reducing costs and risks – it is also our goal to see Australian companies succeed here in the US. It’s not about Australian companies coming to America and creating jobs for Americans. It is about Australian companies taking advantage of the welcoming climate for their innovations in Silicon Valley – and ultimately, to see those who are as successful as Mike and Scott and Andrew to “give back” to Aussie innovative technology by working with – and maybe someday investing in – the next generation of entrepreneurs.

I have met with Mike and I have very recently corresponded with Andrew and I can assure you that both men are eager to work with Aussie entrepreneurs. Not to create a “brain drain”, but rather to help get some top-class Aussie innovation to the world stage. From there anything is possible – including more jobs for Australians in R&D and engineering (these positions tend to stay in Australia when a company expands into the US) and reinvestment back into the community (not necessarily as VC, but into the universities, the incubators, the industry organizations).

So – to answer Renai’s blog post question, “How Can Australia Build a Great Technology Sector?”, by which presumably he means one that is its own ecosystem including funding, I have to ask the question “Why does it need to?”

I need to look no further than a webinar ANZA is hosting tomorrow called “Sizing Up the US Market” and the words on my own website. The US market is 15 times the size of Australia’s. Stop. In a webinar we’ve scheduled for next week on funding – we note that less than 1% of companies – worldwide – ever even receive venture capital. Case closed. Australia needs to continue to do what it does best – innovate. The US market demands it.

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