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What Aussie startups can learn from those in Silicon Valley

I’ve had the honour of working with fast-paced brands and high-growth startups in some of the world’s greatest technology hubs. But, from my early days in Silicon Valley, one thing that stood out to me is how Australia’s approach to marketing differs from how it is tackled in the United States. Aussie businesses can be conservative when it comes to laying out an initial strategy and are less likely to take risks. This is something that holds brands back from being globally competitive.

When thinking long term, Australian companies need to shift gears in their operations by taking a higher risk approach — crafting strategies that grow quarter on quarter rather than being so year to year focused. From working with many early-stage startups and scale-ups, I know how homegrown talent, prowess, and gumption can really make or break a startup’s success trajectory.  

Take the initial leap of faith

According to StartupBlink 2021, San Francisco, home to the famous tech hub, Silicon Valley, is the “colossal superstar” of startup ecosystems. However, Australia is still in the hunt, currently sitting at ninth on the leader board. With Australia’s innovative startups like Canva, Atlassian, and Deputy, paving the wave in these markets – now is the time for other local startups to dive in headfirst. Over the past year, Australia saw a continued rise in venture capital funding, to a record US$2.5 billion, up from US$1.95 billion in the previous year, showing a strong commitment to the growth of the Australian startup ecosystem. 

Between 97.4 per cent and 98.4 per cent of all businesses in Australia are small businesses contributing around $418 billion to Gross Domestic Product, equivalent to over 32 per cent of Australia’s total economy. There is a tremendous opportunity for growth, but Aussie entrepreneurial activity and attitudes lag slightly behind the United States.  Businesses and startups in the states tend to work at a quicker pace, take more risks and are less conservative than Aussie businesses. Australians are about half as likely as Americans to start a new business and are less likely to identify business opportunities. So, when a profitable opportunity is spotted, Australians are less inclined to act on it than Americans. For a country of leading innovators, this is where a lot of startups get stuck. So, Aussies, take a risk and become an entrepreneur, be ambitious, take a leap of faith, and don’t be afraid of failure. 

Competition is good  

Australian business culture tends to be more conservative in nature. The United States’ version of free-market capitalism provides startups with opportunities, funding, and support from private and public sector entities. This competitive approach to startup development has created some of the most successful startups in the world—enticing investors who have an eye for profit and high-risk tolerance. The country’s flexible bankruptcy laws are one example of why it has adopted an “it’s better to fail and start again than never start at all” attitude. The gap Silicon Valley has created is not entirely based on its technology but also its overall mindset.

Australia is a hive of innovation and, more recently, funding opportunities. However, encouraging competitiveness profoundly affects a startup ecosystem’s ability to grow and snare global investment opportunities. 

Sharpen your short-term goals 

So, how do Aussie startups get to the Silicon Valley level? It all starts with setting up short-term goals to ensure long-term success. Most businesses have long-term goals at the forefront of their business strategy. The problem with long-term goals is that they’re often so far away that it’s hard to know where to start. This is why you need to check on the health of your business’s performance every quarter, not at the end of the financial year.  Quarter over quarter analysis allows companies to monitor shorter-term changes and progress toward long-term goals set for the year. By working in these shorter-term ‘sprints’, startups can be more agile and change processes swiftly if and when required. 

One of the most important things I’ve learned from my time working with startups in Silicon Valley is that risk-taking can be rewarding. Failure is always an option, but it needs to be embraced. By remaining agile and focussing on short-term goals to achieve long-term success, Aussie startups will be able to manage whatever comes their way. If you are conservative in the way you operate, you will have conservative business results. Risks pay off — and remember, we’re all part of the same startup ecosystem and can help one another achieve this high growth. 


Read more: Are all unicorns born in Silicon Valley?


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