Sydney start-ups take off

Sydney start-ups take off

Helping start-ups soar

Australia has an impressive innovative track record of developing innovative and creative technology – think of the Cochlear bionic ear or wifi technology. Sydney is the undisputed leader when it comes to tech start-ups, particularly companies that are harnessing online and digital technologies in innovative ways to reach a global market.

In 2012, Sydney’s favourable ecosystem for start-ups was ranked 12th in the world, ahead of Moscow and Berlin, according to research covering more than 50,000 start-ups worldwide. Sydney also leads the world in adopting new technologies and business models, has one of the world’s highest per capita outputs of start-ups, and has an abundance of talented business founders. 

A 2013 report showed that 950 (64%) of approximately 1,500 tech start-ups across Australia were in Sydney. Moreover, nearly 25,000 people are employed in information and communications technoloy (ICT) businesses, making it the third-largest industry in the local area. The latest Census data (2012) indicates it is the city’s fastest-growing employment sector, increasing by 23% since 2006. According to StartupAUS, a not-for-profit organisation that supports start-ups in Australia, they could contribute $109 billion to the local economy, creating 540,000 jobs, by 2033.

As part of our creative spaces program, we provide affordable rental at 66 Oxford Street for co-working space EngineRoom, which is home to many of Sydney’s start-up companies. We also support Springboard Enterprises, a program which fosters high-growth, women-led companies. Melanie Perkins, CEO and co-founder of tech start-up Canva was a graduate of the 2013 Springboard Program.  


Canva is an outstanding example of what Sydney tech start-ups can achieve. The online design platform brings together a simple design tool and a vast library of photographs, graphics and fonts for designing almost anything for print or online.

Launched in August-2013, Canva now has 500,000 registered users, more than 2.5 million designs have been created so far and 200,000 designs using Canva are worked on every day. 

Its roots date back to 2007 when Canva CEO Melanie Perkins was teaching at the University of Western Australia. After successfully producing Fusion Books, an online tool to create school yearbooks, Melanie and Canva co-founder Cliff Obrecht decided the technology had wider potential. They partnered with Cameron Adams to launch Canva. “We took the original idea and created Canva to make design online, collaborative and accessible to everyone.” 

Canva's vision and technology have been backed by prominent global tech leaders, including Yahoo! CFO Ken Goldman, and Twitter investor Bill Tai. Early in 2013, Canva closed a $3 million seed funding round. 

“The start-up scene in Australia is growing at a phenomenal rate,” says Melanie. “The number of start-ups and incubators, and the strong media interest are very encouraging signs. However, it only took one trip to San Francisco to open my eyes to new possibilities on a global scale. With Canva, we have been able to leverage both Australia and Silicon Valley. 

“I can’t overstate the importance of networking,” she said. “My advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs is to network, not just locally, but on the global playing field. Technology gives us so many advantages to stay connected and meet new people. Australia’s borders don’t limit the possibilities or opportunities available.” 

The City regularly holds free business seminars for budding tech entrepreneurs. Watch a video of a previous business seminar and register now to attend on 22 September.  

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Last updated: Wednesday, 16 July 2014