38 Startup Founders Share Advice For Entrepreneurs Relocating To Australia

tips for working in Australia startups

38 Australian entrepreneurs share their insights into relocating to Australia. Stay tuned for part two of the Australian report next week, and the remaining 20 countries we will be rolling out over the coming weeks and months.

Last but not least, we would like to give a special thanks to our friends over at ECompanies for making the Australian guides possible. If you are need help with setting up a company in Australia, these are your guys.

This is what the amazing entrepreneurs in Australia had to say…

Australia has a few different startup hubs, namely Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne but also to a lesser extent the Gold Coast and Adelaide. I would suggest doing a bit of research before deciding where to reside as each locality has it’s benefits.

For me, it’s all about objectives and I recently made the move to Melbourne because the startup eco-system and corporate environment provided me the best opportunity to achieve my objectives.

Put simply, focus on your objectives, do your research and I’m confident you’ll get yourself to the city that works best for you.

@NathanKinch / Edgelab Ventures

Research on location, rent, cost of living, what you’re planning to do in Australia, and also it would be a good idea to reach out and connect with a few other entrepreneurs first and ask them any questions you may have.

@PeterMai / Moolah’d Look up people in the start up community. There are lots of ways: via co-working spaces like TheWorkBen , FishBurners ; incubators like Pollenizer or TheNewAgency ; and start up industry forums and get togethers like SydStart and the local chapter of Startup Grind ; and there’s press like DigitalSydney and FoundersGrid 🙂

That’ll point you in the right direction. There’s some supremely helpful and selfless people in the community and everyone is keen to give back as a result.

@JamesGoodridge / Waysact

I would encourage entrepreneurs thinking of moving to Australia to locate near the beach in order to surround themselves with some much needed positive energy while trying to grow a business and dealing with the challenges and pressures of the day to day.

Melbourne’s St Kilda or Sydney’s Bondi provide for a great backdrop to what are the two largest start-up ecosystems in the country and birthplace to recent success stories such as Atlassian, BigCommerce, OzForex, Freelancer.com and 99Designs.

Both cities have an established network of start-ups, collaborative coworking spaces, entrepreneurship conferences, meet ups, training programs, workshops, incubators, accelerators as well as angel and private equity investors. While funding is not as readily available as it seems in places like Silicon Valley and Singapore, it is available and accessible to the right teams with the right ideas.

Entrepreneurs thinking of moving to Australia should be conscious of the country’s policy on employee stock ownership (taxed on issue, not vesting, despite probable lack of worth during early stages) and relatively high tax rates in comparison to many of our peers. Despite that, there is a generous amount of small business tax concessions available to start-ups, including, amongst other things the ability to roll forward losses to subsequent profit making years and lower tax payable.

@SteveGlaveski / Hot Desk

The vast majority of businesses in Australia can be found on the east coast, with Sydney and Melbourne being the largest hubs. Starting in one of these cities will put you in close proximity to lots of potential customers, investors, developers and start-up incubators.

AndrewHill / OneConfig

Australia is not a great place to raise money, particularly past seed stage. If you’re looking to come here and find seed capital, it’s best to tap into the community via some of the co-working spaces like Fishburners.

However, don’t automatically assume you have to be in one of the major capital cities. Particularly Sydney is one of the most expensive cities in the world whereas if you go outside of the capital cities you can find beach-side paradise at a fraction of the cost, Australia has a fantastic 4G infrastructure as well, and if you do your home work you can even find beachside places that were hooked up the fibre-based National Broadband Network like Kiama.

Incorporate your company before you come over, particularly if you’re coming from the US. Australian start-ups have difficulty in areas like getting US banking facilities and employee share-options and many Australian start-ups incorporate elsewhere even if they are based here for those reasons.

PhilSim / MediaConnect

Although much smaller than in the US, Australia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is focused and supportive. Connecting with key people in interest areas will quickly allow you to grow your network.

@DjordjeDikic / SwatchMate

Australia has a thriving business culture. In fact, Sydney is considered by some to be one of the top 10 startup cities in the world. Even smaller cities like Adelaide and Perth are starting to do great things to help startups and entrepreneurs – co-working spaces, mentoring programmes and startup events.

There are plenty of resources entrepreneurs coming to Australia for the first time and should check out groups on meetup.com and get in touch with the major startup centres (for example Fishburners and Tankstream Labs in Sydney, York Butter Factory and Inspire9 in Melbourne and The Majoran Distillery in Adelaide).

@DanDraper / CodeHire

Get involved (or at least say hello) in the local start-up scene. It’s not silicon valley, but there are plenty of good people worth knowing, including potential co-founders, partners, and investors.

@AmirNissen / 7pm Anywhere

My first question would be why do you want to relocate to Australia to start your business? Are you sure Australia is the right place to be? Entrepreneurs have to do their homework before making the move.

The reason I am asking these questions is I have been living in Australia for the last 10 years so I have had time to get used to the cost of living and culture.

Cost of living especially in a city like Sydney is huge. Be prepared to spend a fair amount of your budget on rent and food.

@PierrickGanon / Timeblend

There’s a vibrant startup community in all of the capital cities. There are many ways to plug into them through co-working spaces, accelerators and startup events.

It’s now possible to get seed rounds up from a bunch of angels who are getting more sophisticated. It’s still difficult to get a series A up from Australian sources, but there are now a small number of new venture funds playing in this space.

Rick Baker / Blackbird Ventures

I relocated to Melbourne in June 2013 from Singapore with my company Effective Measure. Part of my role was to launch our media planning dashboard to agencies across Australia and increase brand awareness across agencies and publishers which represents the core of our business. Not having worked here before posed a challenge initially in the fact that I didn’t have a strong network of contacts like I did in South East Asia and the Middle East.

Due to the competitiveness in Australia it can be more difficult to secure meetings with key contacts to get your message across. However I successfully developed a strong network and increased brand awareness in the 9 months I have been here. The tips I have to help achieve this are as follows:

– Know your proposition and specifically what benefit you provide customers that they can’t get anywhere else. This proposition will evolve after you have had a number of meetings so it is important to take on feedback and fine-tune your message. If you are a consumer brand, do your research, it’s such a critical piece.

– Establish efficient means to reach out to key contacts / consumers to get your message across. There are a load of events, some are good, some are not. Attend the events that have the delegates that best match your target audience (of course be sure you know who your target audience is). If possible obtain a delegate list after the conference so that you can follow up people you met and people you didn’t meet.

– Email is a great way to get to a lot of people at once. You may get a low response, however if 1 email blast leads you to 1 sale, it is more than worth it. If it doesn’t lead to anything, your message is wrong, finetune it.

– Know you’re elevator pitch and summarise the benefits you provide in 30 seconds.

– People are busy and have many meetings and phone calls a day so they forget. Following up is key. Each time you follow up, remind them about your proposition and keep them interested with relevant developments with your product.

– Develop case studies and relationships with editors of publications which reach your target audience. Help them to provide content to their audience by understanding what they need, or work out a contra that can help you market your brand cost effectively.

@DineshArasaratnam / Effective Measure

Find a good spot to work from. I believe that you’ll uncover many networks and potential hires purely where you work. Coworking spaces are great for this. Also go to meetup groups and immerse yourself in the space that you are working in. Networks are an easy to grow your business.

@AlistairMichener / Drawboard

Well, I wouldn’t come for the entrepreneurialism, but I’d stay for the healthy balance Australian’s have between life and work. Coming from the US I immediately realised things happen at a slower pace down here.

Most of the time it’s for the better. As long as you’re a self motivated individual I believe you can create a business from anywhere in the world, so why not live somewhere great like Melbourne while you do it?

When you get here hit the ground running by attending networking events and introducing yourself. Our startup scene is small but vibrant and is full of intelligent and kind people ready to lend a hand.

@RickLee / Castify

Australian business and consumers are becoming ever so dependent on technology. They still have lots of room for growth and improvement compared to nations like South Korea but they are making good progress due to high consumer demand.

There’s lots of opportunities in that space and as the sector becomes more and more specialized it will get harder for new entrants.

@ArminNehzat / Eronka

One of the most important tips that can be given to entrepreneurs planning on entering the Australian market is that they need to be made fully aware of the geographical location that Australia is in.

Essentially Australia is still an island – and that is not to be forgotten nor is it to be underestimated in the slightest.

Yes Australia is a strong economy but this is mainly due to the exports of the mining industry, not it’s entrepreneurial success stories. With that in mind entrepreneurs who are trying to break into the market should be made aware of the following:

– The Australian economies of scale are greatly lower than those of its European, American and Asian counterparts. Australia has an estimated population of roughly 22 million so effectively to ensure your entrepreneurial success – you will need to break into a larger portion of the market than you would in other locations. 6% in America could mean 35% in Australia. Setting realistic goals is imperative and by not mixing dreams and capabilities together you’re able to remain grounded.

– Be persistent – many metaphorical battles have won because Australians are relentless in their drive. The common saying is that there is more than one way to skin a cat well this translates accordingly into how to make money. Options are available, resources are plentiful – use them or your competitors will.

– The value of guidance is immeasurable. There are no books currently on earth that can all the fundamentals of how to interact with people. There are too many variables. Seek out advice and be sure to listen to cautionary tales.

@AdamMiller / Wahuna

Go to some meetups and meet some local entrepreneurs. It’s the quickest way to get started. Sign up to The Fetch to find out what’s going on and come to Silicon Beach drinks if you’re in Sydney. And sign up to the Silicon Beach Forums.

@BartJellema / ZeroMail

There are many networking events held across the entire business/entrepreneurial spectrum. Attend them, get to know the community and start building bridges. Also, drink plenty of coffee and get like minded people seated opposite you at the table.

@AlonTamir / Studio Proper

We started out in Melbourne, and had an office in San Francisco for some years, now we’re focussed on servicing the US out of Melbourne, and spend some time in Los Angeles.

Australia is a great place to do business, fantastic weather, great people with world-class ideas, progressive government and technology, and when you can tie that to some international markets, the rewards are there for the taking.

@BenPrendergast / Copper Project

1. Do your homework on which city you want to base yourself at. For startups, you’ve really only got two choices (Sydney and Melbourne) and the choice comes down to lifestyle preference. They’re only an hour apart by plane – expect to be doing that trip a lot as the communities are very different.

2. Visit the coworking spaces early and choose at least a couple to stay connected with. There is no one winner in either city. Scour meetup.com and get along to events to find your footing quickly.

3. It’s not cheap here, so make sure you find some work to keep your runway. Nowhere is close by (except NZ), so if you want to island hop, consider doing it before or after a main stint here. Make sure you find time early on to explore Australia – time runs away quickly, so make sure you plan time to stop and smell the roses.

@DougalEdwards / Bright Arena

Depending on where you’re coming from, expect a slightly different scene from what you’re used to. Aussie startup culture is attached to Aussie culture funnily enough. There’s a little bit of “tall poppy syndrome” mixed in with the relaxed Aussie lifestyle approach, a more reserved risk-taking culture and a friendly atmosphere – quite a blend makes it a fairly unique space to start a company.

My one tip for relocating would be “Talk to everyone first”. It’s a small scene (growing quickly, but still comparatively small) so it is actually possible to talk to everyone, and figure out which state/suburb/coworking space/accelerator/etc. is for you. Start talking to an Aussie founder and go from there!

One of our developers relocated from France to work with us. Visa-wise things take time as usual, but there’s certainly not the worst spread of visa options out there! There’s good info online, but for long-term relocation, it’s best to get formal advice locally.

@MarkHendrickson / Side Racket

1.We Australians have bias towards frank approaches and direct messages.

2.We are not averse to calling BS when we see it.

3.Paradoxically, most are a bit risk averse when doing business and stick to existing networks. Try and get to networking events and become part of existing networks. Alternatively consider starting your own networking event, help others as you grow your own network.

@ShabuThomas / Carrot Leads

Australia’s high cost of living can be an unpleasant surprise if you’re living on savings while finding work here. Take advantage of the relatively low cost of inner city rents to live as close as possible to the city centre to save transport cost and time. Sydney and Melbourne public transit is expensive and unreliable. Get a place where you can cook at home since eating out and entertainment is probably the biggest cost when you arrive.

Don’t get caught out by Australia’s Southern Hemisphere seasons – it’s coldest in July in Sydney and Melbourne. Bring all your clothes from Europe and the US as it’s more expensive in Australia and sometimes a year behind what is fashionable elsewhere. Australian homes are generally not as energy efficient as in other countries so expect to be colder in winter and to spend more on heating.

Australians are generally very familiar with people from other countries as many Australians are the children or grandchildren of immigrants and international tourism is a very big part of our economy.

But very few of us speak another language so if you need to practice English you will get lots of practice here.

@AlanJones / BlueChilli

Network as much as you can until you surround yourself with people who are knowledgeable and have experience in the market that you plan to operate within – You’ll be able to meet with almost anyone if you are determined, respectful and have a mutual interest at hand.

Australians are naturally risk takers and entrepreneurial so you are bound to find people who have succeeded (or failed) in the same market as you – learn from these people.

Australians are laid back and are often more forthcoming (than other nationalities) when sharing advice and experiences – just make sure you offer something in return.

If you can leverage knowledge, experience or contacts of your own, do so at every opportunity. We have the attitude that If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.

@JakeMcKeon / Moodswing

Having lived in Australia most of my life, I only answer from my personal context of moving from corporate to startup world for the first time.

In my view, Entrepreneurship is a mindset and some even call it a lifestyle choice and the best way to to embrace Australia’s growing ecosystem is to be part of it and immerse yourself into it.

Over the years, Australia has gone from an almost non-existing to a growing ecosystem that continues to get richer by the day. The growing number of events like Sydstart, almost weekly meetups, incubators and co-working spaces provide plenty of networking opportunities for new entrepreneurs to meet like minded individuals on arrival.

@KiranKumar / Pricify

For entrepreneurs relocating to Australia, as with any new location, it’s best to immerse yourself in the startup ecosystem.

There are a lot of passionate entrepreneurs in Australia working from co-working spaces, universities and at home and there are a lot of startup events as well. Get out there and meet people!

@RohanWorkman / RosterCloud

Set up what you can before you leave for Australia. Its much easier to set up back account etc using your banks in your own country. Extremely difficult when you get here. Impossible to get basic things like a mobile phone without a bank account etc.

Also start making networks before you arrive. The more connections you have when you arrive the better. It is always hard starting out in a new country to create a name and opportunities for yourself. Having a Australia network will help you create a name and opportunities by opening up doors for you.

@CarolynHarrington / Moco Insight

For me the most important part about being an entrepreneur anywhere is having a network of people going through the similar emotional rollercoaster. Having mentors and peers make this process more understandable and less lonely.

In Australia finding people to work with on the weekends can be a challenge so if you find them, hold on to them.

@BillieWhitehouse / Wearable Experiments

The first thing to focus on would be to build a network even before you arrive. Set up Skype sessions with people that you might have even a distant connection to, just to see if you can gather insights and start building your own network even before your feet hit the ground. If this is a challenge then see if you can join a network such as The Executive Connection (TEC) or Young President’s Organisation (YPO).

Ideally you would secure your funding before coming. Certainly for a start up in Australia (particularly in tech), seed funding remains a challenge with very few funds set up to support businesses at this stage. As such, it is probably best to come at a slightly later stage in the business’ cycle.

It would be best to locate yourself in Sydney, particularly if you need connections in to various forms of media and blue chip corporates. However (and I am biased!), live in Melbourne if you still want to live in a city but also love your food/coffee!!

@JaneMartino / Shout For Good

Although Australia is large in space, it is very small in population. Make sure you relocate to one of the major state capital cities, for example Melbourne or Sydney.

Broadband Internet is not available everywhere in Australia. For this reason, stick to the major cities for IT startups. For staffing requirements, it may also be best to stick to the larger capital cities.

@GregFurlong / ChannelPace

It depends where you’re re-locating from and your primary reasons of course! If it’s for the great weather, the beaches and the life style – just take the plunge.

Even though Australia has a reasonably mature startup scene, it’s still fair bit behind and lacks the dynamism (and the funds) compared to the Valley or the Silicon Wadi. So, make sure you have good contacts in down-under and you have potential backers from where you’re re-locating from.

@DamithHerath / Robological

It doesn’t matter if you are relocating from overseas or interstate, the best thing you can do as an entrepreneurs is to get involved in the local startup community.

This can be anything from attending meetups or hackathons, applying to incubators or accelerators, or just working in a startup focussed co-working space. Being a successful entrepreneur is part science, part luck and a whole lot of “who you know”.

@JoshStuart / Zoop Commerce

Be prepared to spend more money than you are used to – everything is EXPENSIVE here!

@MichaelMehmet / eLEDGER

The very first thing is to realise that Australia is a vast land, so it is important to target the geographical area the most relevant for your business. Typically, Sydney is THE hub for entrepreneurship in Australia. It’s the most vibrant and dynamic startup scene, that concentrates lots of events and investor groups. Melbourne comes second and is also very vibrant.

If you are a strong tech company or your idea can more or less be connected to the mining industry and its investors, then you should target Perth. Definitely opt for Brisbane if your idea is related to manufacturing, although the startup scene is still very new there.

Secondly, discover the eco-system you want to be a part of. There are lots of networking events, groups, trainings, informative sessions – everyday, everywhere. It’s really important to establish the broader possible network. So start looking around for these entrepreneurs meetups. Your best shot is to look at incubators and workspaces, like Fishburners, TheHub, General Assembly, BlueChili. They are good starting points to discover the startup community, establish connections and start developing your network.

Thirdly, understand the big players of the market, in accordance with your objectives, needs and idea. There are lots of Angel Investors in Australia, and you will certainly cross path with them, through various entrepreneur groups, such as TiE for instance. If you’re looking for VC types, you will hear the name Blackbird rapidly. You have to establish the map of key players and plan how to reach them.

Lastly, but I guess this is not specific to Australia, spend lots of time networking. The best connections are formed by referral. So – you will need lots of patience, motivation and time – but most events are actually quite fun and worth attending.

From a purely legal point of view, just check that you hold a Visa that allows you to legally stay and work in Australia. The immigration website is a rich source of information.

@StephaneIbos / Maestrano

The majority of the population lives in Melbourne or Sydney. Pick one as your headquarters, and don’t try to have two physical offices – it’s too hard and expensive at an early stage. You can easily service the other office with inexpensive, one hour flights.

@TessaCourt / IntelligenceBank

Securing funding can be difficult in Australia and investors are very risk averse. Warm referrals and networks are essential.

@MichaelLawler / Selera Labs

If you are going to come all this way to Australia, you might as well ensure you make the most of the beautiful beaches and get a space in a co-working office like Manly Emporium .

Michael Correa / AdSounder

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