Is Melbourne Australia’s Silicon Valley?

Aja Stuart

We all know Melbourne is great for coffee, fashion and laneways, but what is less well known is how central it is to Australia’s tech scene.

So what is it that makes Victoria’s offerings so much sweeter for the IT-inclined than anywhere else in Australia? As it turns out, there are a few factors at play.

John Fargher is a co-founder of Agriwebb, an award winning farm management software company that was founded in a garage in Windsor, Victoria. John explains that it was the dual combination of available tech infrastructure and its’ proximity to farms that made Melbourne the perfect spot for Agriwebb.

“We wanted a prominent city that had access to strategic networks and connections to facilitate growth, which Melbourne supports,” Fargher says.

“We wanted a prominent city that had access to strategic networks and connections to facilitate growth, which Melbourne supports.”

99designs is an online design marketplace that connects freelance designers with customers in need. Started in Melbourne, it now has three main offices in each corner of the world.

“Our story here is probably a bit different from most. We were originally founded in Melbourne and moved our headquarters to San Francisco to be closer to our customers and investors, but given the quality of the team we built up locally it made sense to keep the local office going,” explains John Barton, engineering manager at 99designs.

Melbourne has a strong pool of tech talent, a veritable glut of ICT graduates, flowing from its’ tech-focused universities.

“Speaking as an Engineering manager, the main benefit [of setting up in Melbourne] is the depth of engineering and product talent” says Barton.  “While the talent pool isn't quite as large as the bay area, I'd say per-capita we're punching above our weight.”

“While the talent pool isn't quite as large as the bay area, I'd say per-capita we're punching above our weight.”

The Victorian government prides itself on its offerings to the tech scene, including infrastructure and generous R&D benefits. This translates to real-world benefits for companies wanting to push the bar that little bit further and do something truly unique.

Fargher explains that Agriwebb has benefited from the “many connections and hubs that give access to raising capital,” as well as “applying for grants and working with other AgTech bodies that are based in Melbourne.”

“In addition to AgriWebb receiving the Accelerating Commercialisation Grant under the Federal Government, we also qualify for various tax R&D Grants and rebates which are vital to our existence and survival, especially in our early days,” he says. “The majority of our costs are R&D through our IT development and research team, and getting some of this back is extremely beneficial.”

Melbourne offers tech companies more room to innovate and grow with confidence.

Barton agrees, explaining that the research and development benefits offered by the Victorian government have made a big difference to business growth at 99designs.

“I would agree that the government has been helpful, both directly and indirectly through organisations they contribute towards like Startup Victoria,” Barton says. “The R&D concessions are certainly a big help – it makes it a lot more comfortable on the bottom line to really push your product roadmap to more ambitious territory.”

With a pool of available talent, extra resources and infrastructure, and research and development benefits, Melbourne offers tech companies more room to innovate and grow with confidence. If it isn’t already, Melbourne is certainly on its way to being the tech capital of Australia.  

Aja Stuart

Aja is Sydney-based writer and serial entrepreneur. She regularly writes about small business, entrepreneurship, and health and wellbeing. Her latest entrepreneurial adventure is yeahmama.co.

Image: xiquinhosilva, Flickr Creative Commons License

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