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How Australia is luring back the ‘Silicon Valley mafia’

Friday, 18 December 2015 | By Denham Sadler


The recent enthusiasm in Australia for startups and entrepreneurs and the government’s $1 billion innovation statement may tempt some of the Silicon Valley ‘mafia’ to return home, Pixc founder Holly Cardew says.


A member of this ‘mafia’ herself, Cardew relocated her startup Pixc to San Francisco last year and spends half her time there, but will now be opening up an office back in her home town of Sydney.


Convincing Australian founders and entrepreneurs that have left the country to return has been a central theme of the government’s policies, as well as enticing locals to stay put. It’s estimated there are more than 20,000 Australians working in Silicon Valley at the moment.


With the “fantastic” innovation statement and impending increase in available capital, Cardew says she now sees great benefit in expanding back home.


“With the extra influx of money I don’t necessarily think the whole team needs to be in America anymore,” Cardew tells StartupSmart.

“With the funding it will help having an office in Australia.”


Stemming the brain drain


It could also convince founders in Australia considering making the move to stay within Australia, according to Cardew.


“The ones already over there won’t necessarily come back but the ones who are in-between like me may consider it,” Cardew says.

She says it will still take a lot of time and effort for the Australian ecosystem to compete with the likes of Silicon Valley and the government needs to follow through with its talk.


“At the moment it’s all talk, we’ll have to see what promises they keep. But the statement is really positive for the community,” she says.


“Now it’s about encouraging the whole community to get behind it. We need to educate everyone around it and we need to encourage the community to understand how startups work and get them to work with us.


“It’s going to take a bit of time to build a network here.”


Culture changes


It was the different entrepreneurial culture that exists in San Francisco that initially led Cardew to making the big leap.


“The biggest reason was that I could see straight away that people were accepting of us and willing to try our product and talk to us,” she says.


“They’re not so much worrying about what the outcome is and that was the biggest turning point in my head. They really talk about the bigger vision and where you want to be in five years, not how the site works today.


“They’re not asking ‘why are you doing image editing?’ and focusing on the smaller details.”


Changing the culture in Australia to be more entrepreneurial and embrace the risk of failure is a core pillar of the government’s strategy, and Cardew says improving education at all levels will help.


“It’s about education and opening up and encouraging people from other countries to get a visa here,” she says.


“We want to get experienced people to work with Australian companies and put that knowledge into the Australian ecosystem.


“We have a fantastic lifestyle in Australia and the people are great. But some things need to be tweaked and we need more education.”


Cardew says she hopes to have the Pixc Sydney office up and running by midway through next year, just in time for the innovation statement policies to come into effect.



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