Should Australia Build a Great Technology Sector?

July 18, 2010

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.


Aussie entrepreneur moved to the US “because I wanted a career as an entrepreneur”

July 2, 2010

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australian entrepreneur Andrew Lacy, co-founder of Tapulous, maker of the Tap Tap Revenge mobile music games for the iPhone and the iPad, has just sold the company to Disney for an undisclosed sum reported to be in the multiple millions USD.

Lacy started the company in Melbourne with Bart Decrem in 2008. As part of the deal, he will join Disney as a senior VP on its mobile app development team. Tap Tap Revenge the most popular game series on the Apple App Store, with over 35 million downloads and over a billion songs played.

Lacy said he “moved to the US because I wanted a career as an entrepreneur.” The move clearly allowed him to grow Tapulous, make the right connections and complete this significant deal. (Read more)


The Startup Bus to SXSW – Another Aussie Innovation

March 5, 2010

SXSW (that’s South by Southwest), the mega show for creative types in the interactive, film and music industries, has been around for nearly two decades. Weekend startup camps have been popular exercises for entrepreneurs since the mid-‘00s. While offering a startup camp at SXSW may not be a new idea, putting a startup camp on a bus bound for SXSW next Tuesday surely is. Australian Elias Bizannes is the man behind the Startup Bus, an innovative way to create new ideas in a confined space in 48 hours and deliver the innovators from San Francisco to Austin just in time for the kickoff of SXSW 2010.

We first met Elias in Sydney early last year after discovering his Google Group Silicon Beach. ANZA TechNet is always looking for young and dynamic Aussie entrepreneurs – and Elias put many of them all in one place – Friday night drinks at the Grace Hotel. Silicon Beach now has nearly 800 members affiliated with the Aussie startup community who use the group for information exchange, advice and networking. The Friday night drinks are still going strong, but without Elias – who has relocated to the US.

Changing continents and keeping your dream to help build sexy startups alive may be daunting for some, but not Elias. For his first SXSW while living on American soil, he has recruited 12 techie strangers, rented a bus, invited key industry experts and bloggers to ride along and nailed down sponsorship, including Atlassian who are “powering the bus” and eStrategy who are “mentoring” it.

The Startup strangers will divide themselves into groups to conceive, build and launch three startups in just two days. They’ll present their startups on arrival in Austin to a group of investors and Silicon Valley influencers in true SXSW fashion – at a party on March 12.

Will these startups fly? Watch this space. Do you want a piece of the action? We’ve heard that interest in the project has been “overwhelming” and a seat or two may open up for the right entrepreneur. You can also still get your name attached to the project in the form of sponsorship (email viki@anzatechnet.com for more details).

If you’re going to SXSW and need to know where the bus will park and when the party will start or just want to follow the bus on its 2-day tour, follow Elias and the Startup Bus on Twitter.


Tradeslot Wins ANZA Technology Network’s Gateway to US Guy Manson Award

October 9, 2009

The winner of the Guy Manson Award for Hottest Company at ANZA Gateway to US, Tradeslot. From left to right: John Dyson, Starfish Ventures; Jesco d'Alquen, CEO Tradeslot, Mark B. Johnson, Tradeslot' s Gateway coach and Viki Forrest, CEO ANZA. Photo by KazzaDrask Media.

The winner of the Guy Manson Award for Hottest Company at ANZA Gateway to US, Tradeslot. From left to right: John Dyson, Starfish Ventures; Jesco d'Alquen, CEO Tradeslot, Mark B. Johnson, Tradeslot' s Gateway coach and Viki Forrest, CEO ANZA. Photo by KazzaDrask Media.

Victorian-based B2B Auction Technology Company Takes Top Honors among Australian Companies at Silicon Valley Summit

Tradeslot
was named the “Hottest Company” tonight at the conclusion of the 2009 ANZA Gateway to the US Summit at the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, CA.

Pitching alongside 9 other Australian-founded companies taking part in an intensive three-day immersion in Silicon Valley, Tradeslot, from Melbourne, Victoria captured the Guy Manson Award for its real-time combinatorial auction platform that dramatically improves the efficiency and profitability of B2B transactions for both buyers and sellers. The award is given to the Australian or New Zealand company deemed “most ready” to do business in the US marketplace.

“Tradeslot was the clear winner among our judging panel,” said Viki Forrest, ANZA CEO. “The companies were rated on market opportunity, their solution to an existing problem or market need and their readiness to do business in the US. This company is ready to be here.”

The Guy Manson Award includes a 25 percent discount to the ANZA Fast Track to the US program. The mentoring program works with Australian and New Zealand entrepreneurs to significantly accelerate their company’s expansion into the US market.

Tradeslot CEO Jesco d’Alquen accepted the award from ANZA and Starfish Ventures. Starfish Ventures investment principal John Dyson took part in a Q&A judging panel session during the pitches along with Eliane Fiolet of Ubergizmo and Simon Anderson of Pictage.com.

“When you have a start-up there are as many reasons to believe as there are doubts,” said d’Alquen. “The Guy Manson Award definitely helps me know that I am on the right path.”

This year’s line-up of Gateway companies was particularly impressive in that it represented innovation at every level: technology, business models and customer acquisition.

Other presenting companies included: Earth Utility, iPOWOW!, myCaRMS, myownpad, Software Shortlist and Spinergy. Company bios are available at: http://www.anzatechnet.com/page-3/parent-1/section-1.html

Past winners of ANZA’s Guy Manson Award include Neuro Vision Technology, Buzka, Silenceair, cineSync, Digislide and In the Chair (now StarPlayit).


Gateway to the US 2009 Companies Demonstrate Innovation at Every Level

September 29, 2009

ANZA TechNet is pleased to announce this year’s Gateway to the US companies, who will be pitching their companies and demo’ing their products next Tuesday, October 6, at 9 am at the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale.

The companies are:

  • Earth Utility, a sustainable utility company that makes sustainability simple and affordable.
  • iPOWOW!, an integrated platform and tools for online video, which collects attitude and opinion from any video in real-time, and allows for sophisticated reporting on responses.
  • myCaRMS, enterprise software that addresses the dual requirements of regulatory compliance and risk assessment for financial institutions.
  • Myownpad, social networking and social gaming integration into a unique virtual world platform that provides an immersive, interactive and social 3D experience.
  • Software Shortlist, a proprietary method to help businesses identify software that is most appropriate for their business.
  • Tradeslot, combination optimization technology and auction technology that creates transparent and efficient primary markets for scarce resources such as carbon, timber, grain, iron ore, water and more.

They will be joined on stage by a select group of Australian-founded companies already up and running in Silicon Valley: Aruspex, 5th Finger and Embedster.

“Australia is known for its world class innovation,” said Viki Forrest, ANZA CEO. “This is our chance for a great group of companies to show Silicon Valley some Down Under innovation at every level — technology, business models and customer acquisition.”

The companies will pitch before a panel of judges including VC John Dyson (Starfish Ventures), tech guru Eliane Fiolet (Ubergizmo.com) and serial entrepreneur Simon Anderson (Pictage.com). Tickets are just $55 can be purchased at this link.


Xumii Acquired by Myriad Group

September 18, 2009

Myriad Group AG (SIX: MYRN), a global leader in mobile technology with software in over 2 billion phones, announced this week that it has acquired the brand, technology and 17 employees of privately-held Xumii, Inc., a provider of mobile social networking services based in San Mateo, California and Sydney, Australia.

Xumii was the first software developer to combine social networks and instant messaging into a seamless mobile experience.

Jennifer Zanich, CEO of Xumii is an ANZA mentor and a long-time member of ANZA Technology Network. Once again, a job well done by Ms. Zanich, who is well known throughout the tech industry in Silicon Valley, Sydney and all points beyond.

Read the press release about this deal here, as well as additional input from Kim Heras at TechNation Australia.


Duel Fates of Two Australian Web 2.0 Start-ups

July 31, 2009

Brad Howarth provides his usual insightful view into the Australian tech community and savvy entrepreneurs’ forays into Silicon Valley in his Bootstrappr column on ZDNetAustralia. He examines the very different fates of two Aussie Web 2.0 startups and their founders, Omnidrive’s Nik Cubrilovic and Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar.

One company has had a good deal of success, while the other has failed. Read their stories here — it is a lesson in just how different the outcomes for start-up companies and entrepreneurs can be.