Australia’s startup community is growing but education, continued government support and increased capital investment are critical to supporting the community, according to General Assembly director, Riley Batchelor.
General Assembly offers courses in Sydney to help startups and digital industry workers build technology, design and business skills.
Batchelor told Techworld Australia he’s seen “some fantastic growth” in the number and variety of Sydney’s startups in the year since General Assembly opened inside the Fishburners co-working space in Ultimo.
Batchelor attributed the growth to a more welcoming startup community and greater government support compared to the past. A larger number of accelerators, co-working spaces and groups devoted to coaching and mentoring startups have promoted growth, he said.
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Batchelor said the Startup Australia group recently announced by Google is good news for the community. General Assembly plans to be involved in the group, he said. “What we need is a coherent leadership group to really drive [the startup community] forward.”
It’s too early to gauge how successful the new wave of startups will be, Batchelor said. In another three to five years, “we’ll hopefully start to see some real success stories.”
However, while the number of startups in Australia has grown, not all of them stay in the country, Batchelor said.
“I’d like to see more startups stay in Australia, but it really depends on your product,” Batchelor said.
“If you need to head over to the States [to raise capital] then I understand that people need to do that, but I think we need to put as much as work as we can into the local community.
“The more activity, the more teams we have locally [and] the more people hiring people in Australia, the better it’s going to be for our community and the local economy as well.”
Batchelor challenged the idea that companies must move overseas to scale their business.
“We are growing,” he said. “The population is there. It’s never going to be as much as the [US] ... But there’s still a lot of potential revenue and users within Australia.”
More Australian capital investment is essential, he said.
“Everyone in the industry believes that we need to get a little more capital investment into the [Australian startup] community to help it grow,” Batchelor said.
To help encourage that, General Assembly is trying to push courses on raising capital, he said. The courses teach startups how to fund their business and corporate and angel investors how to invest, he said.
Teaching Sydney’s startups
General Assembly launched two years ago in New York City with the idea of providing “pragmatic skills that [people] need to get jobs” in the digital economy.
Today, the group has 10 locations around the world, including a Sydney campus opened last year in the Fishburners co-working space in Ultimo. General Assembly added three new classrooms to the Sydney location last month.
General Assembly offers four to five 90-minute classes per night, as well as half- and full-day workshops and eight to 12-week long-form courses. Class subjects include programming, Web design and development, user experience design, financial modeling, social media and search engine optimization.
General Assembly sees the most demand from startups for its technology courses like coding, Batchelor said. Many startups are run by business and marketing professionals “who realise they need to know a little more about the product side of their business.”
A four-part course called “Programming fundamentals for non-programmers” is especially popular, he said.
However, the educator is constantly modifying its course lineup, said Batchelor.
“We can create [a course for] any sort of topic we feel there’s demand for, and we’re constantly curating ... the classes we come up with.”
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