The start-up revolution: how Australia and New Zealand are raising the stakes

Start-ups – innovators want to establish them and investors want to be part of them.


These companies have reached cult status in recent years thanks to their ability to drive innovation, meet market needs and deliver solid return on investment.


But what is it about the start-up sector that has the world scrambling to get a piece of the action?


What is a start-up?


The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a start-up as “a fledgling business enterprise”. This is amusing for those familiar with the start-up sector because fledgling insinuates that the person or organisation is immature, inexperienced or underdeveloped – an assumption that completely contradicts the inventive and visionary nature of start-ups.


A more accurate description of a start-up is a business that meets a global market need and is designed to experience rapid growth, regardless of geographical barriers or industry culture.


While thousands of businesses are created every year, not all are start-ups. To hold this prestigious title, your business must be scalable, have the ability to meet the needs of a large market segment and – most importantly – reach the market segment quickly.


The rise (and rise) of Australian and New Zealand start-ups


The start-up revolution is booming worldwide, and the Australian and New Zealand start-up sectors are no exception. In fact, Australian and New Zealand tech investment grew from $32 million to $96 million between 2011 and 2016, peaking at $279 million in 2014.[1]


As you might expect, Sydney is home to the majority of Australia’s start-ups (35 per cent), followed by Melbourne (15 per cent) and Brisbane (nine per cent).[2] In New Zealand, thriving start-up communities exist in Auckland, Wellington and Queenstown.


“Australia and New Zealand are unrivalled as places to start and grow a business,” says Richard Earl, founder of Talent International and the Talent Unleashed Awards.


“Sydney was recently voted the fourth best city for local connectedness and a region to watch for developing fintech and adtech companies by Start-up Genome. And New Zealand was ranked first for ease of doing business by World Bank in 2017 (the payoff of no capital gains tax).”


Government initiatives growing opportunity


In the last state budget, Western Australia pledged $16.7 million to support emerging tech start-ups. In 2017, the New South Wales government contributed $35 million towards Sydney Startup Hub. This unprecedented investment aims to drive innovation, create jobs and strengthen Australia’s start-up ecosystem.


And it’s working.


Tenants, including Microsoft and co-working provider, Tank Stream Labs, have cemented Sydney Startup Hub as an unofficial headquarters for local tech activity.


The Entrepreneurs’ Programme is another Australian Government initiative that promotes business competiveness and productivity. The programme accelerates commercialisation, strengthens start-up incubators and provides tailored business management support to start-ups.


In New Zealand, LookSee Wellington works to attract tech talent to the city. Successful candidates are supported to relocate by Immigration New Zealand, helping to boost the tech ecosystem and address the talent gap.


Investing in a bright future


As interest in the start-up sector grows, so too does investment. Venture capitalists and angel investors are increasingly seeing the value of supporting innovation.


In 2015, Temando (a Talent Unleashed alumnus) secured $50 million Series B investment from Neopost S.A. Temando is using the funds to further product development in APAC and leveraging Neopost’s global reach to continue its growth in the United States and United Kingdom.


On a smaller scale, investment opportunities like Shark Tank and crowd-funding enable start-ups to connect with interested parties, explore opportunities to work together and access funding.


Comparable to the increase of investment in start-ups is the impact of technological advancement. Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and robotics are creating more opportunities for automation and helping businesses establish economies of scale quickly and cheaply.


The social side of start-ups


The recent explosion of social media use has given start-ups a global audience. They can easily connect with target markets through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, conduct business internationally using Skype and recruit talent on LinkedIn.


Speaking of being social, what do you get when you put a group of entrepreneurs in a room together? The answer is collaboration, creativity and connectivity, making co-working spaces breeding grounds for innovation, especially in the technology industry.


Nurturing talent


Talent International is dedicated to growing the success of the start-up community – because it was once a start-up business.


“A major – and often overlooked – challenge for start-ups in Australia is a lack of skilled staff to drive development and deployment of disruptive new technologies,” says Earl.


“A unique blend of compensation structure, staff incentives and workplace culture is required to attract and retain top talent. We’re proud to provide this advice free of charge to some of Australia’s best and brightest through the Talent First Fund.”


In partnership with Tank Stream Labs in Sydney and Perth, Little Tokyo Two in Brisbane and BizDojo in New Zealand, Talent representatives offer free on-site HR support, resume screening, salary advice and recruitment strategies, and reduced price recruitment services and consulting. This $1 million pledge, and the establishment of the Talent Unleashed Awards, demonstrates Talent’s commitment to the start-up sector.


Recognising and supporting innovation and disruption, the Talent Unleashed Awards counts Andiamo, Domain, Fishburners, CancerAid and Lotto NZ among its alumni. Finalists have the opportunity to pitch their innovation to a judging panel – led by Sir Richard Branson and Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak – and receive expert feedback.


“This recognition of winning a Talent Unleashed Award has helped with validation and credibility when we engage with customers, investors, partners and even patients,” says Dr Nikhil Pooviah, co-founder and CEO of CancerAid, 2017 winner of Best Global Start-up and Best Start-up Creating Social Change.


This year, 2017 winners – including Pooviah – will embark on an all-expenses paid trip to Silicon Valley to tour leading tech companies and attend a VIP lunch with Steve Wozniak. In 2015, winners attended the Igniting Change Leadership Gathering on Sir Richard Branson’s, Necker Island.


Investment, connectivity and support are essential to the success of any start-up. Luckily, the velocity with which the Australian and New Zealand start-up communities are growing is equally matched with enthusiasm from governments, investors, accelerators and incubators.


Continued collaboration can only cement Australia and New Zealand as start-up ecosystems to rival New York, London or San Francisco.


Are you a disruptive entrepreneur, an innovative start-up or a bold and inspiring leader? Register your interest in the Talent Unleashed Awards 2018.


[1] Pollock, T. (2016, Apr 26). New Zealand’s tech scene is hotter than yours. Retrieved from


[2] Weisfeld, Z. (2017, Aug 10). The rising success of start-ups down under: inside Australia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Retrieved from