Each week, PYMNTS will cast a global spotlight on one of the many tech hubs sprouting up across the world. This Weekly Tech Center Roundup will highlight the innovations, key initiatives and recent news from players and innovators within a particular nation.
This week’s edition takes us to the land down under, where Sydney is bringing a new level of recognition to the tech players and innovations coming out of Australia. We’ll not only showcase some of the top tech news and trends coming out of Sydney this week but also take a look at how the city’s tech community is keeping pace with other tech centers around the world.
'Australia’s Silicon Valley' Takes Shape
Entrepreneurs and investors across Australia’s largest city are on a mission to revamp the tech community. Through the creation of a new industry group called TechSydney, players within the city’s startup and tech scene are looking to cultivate promising companies through mentorship and growth opportunities. More than 40 companies have banned together to launch the not-for-profit initiative this week, with the intention of transforming Sydney into Australia’s own Silicon Valley.
"Recent moves from all levels of government to support our startup and technology sector have been heartening, but we can't rely on them to carry it forward," TechSydney CEO Dean McEvoy told ZDNet. "By working together, we will drive the initiatives that will turn Sydney into a world-class, top 10 hub for technology companies."
Sydney recently saw its global startup ecosystem ranking drop to 16 in 2015 from 12 in 2012, despite the efforts that have been put forth by both the federal government and major tech companies. The group said it hopes to bring together the best in the industry to fuel knowledge-sharing among tech players and address common issues and threats facing the tech community as a whole. TechSydney will also serve as an organizing body and main point of contact for initiatives across Sydney’s technology landscape.
One of Sydney’s biggest startup success stories, BigCommerce, recently locked down an additional $30 million in fresh funding. The eCommerce platform, which providers SaaS solutions for fast-growing brands running an online business, said it has processed more than $9 billion in sales on its platform since launching in 2009. The BigCommerce Marketplace adds thousands of shops monthly and allows more than 1,000 partners to showcase their software and services across the platform.
"The companies who are getting funded are the ones demonstrating traction and success," Brent Bellm, BigCommerce CEO, said in a recent interview. "Our ability to raise money from a top-tier firm is a big reflection on our market opportunity,” with Gartner reporting that the cloud eCommerce enablement software and services market is expected to reach $10 billion in 2018.
Despite its growth, it looks like an IPO won’t be in the plans for BigCommerce anytime soon.
"We never had any intention of IPOing this year. It is still the sort of thing that could happen next year. We will be of sufficient size and in a good financial situation to think about it," Bellm told The Australian Financial Review. "But, most importantly, this round will enable us to get to a point where we don't have to. We won't actually need the money in order to be a viable independent company."
Keeping Pace With Payments
When it comes to FinTech in Australia — the budget, startups and general future of the Fintech scene — some believe “more can be done.”
According to David Ball, secretary of the national association for the FinTech industry, called Fintech Australia, innovation has been a main focus in helping the country’s tech scene catch up with its global counterparts, but there still may be a long road ahead.
"I see a lot of FinTechs that are fighting the same fight,” he told finder.com.au. “All disconnected but needing connecting. And they will benefit from being connected."
The recent 2016 budget announcement included many commitments that are intended to help the cultivation of Australia’s FinTech community, such as a review of the utilization of blockchain technologies, the possible double taxing on cryptocurrencies and the creation of a regulatory sandbox, which are designed to reinforce the Fintech Innovation Statement and its initiatives.
But Ball said that, even though reforms and regulation are welcome, there is still room for progression to take place.
“With the budget itself, I don't know if it really did enough or if more could be done," Ball explained.
"Pick one or two areas in startup land or tech that you want to focus on and throw everything at them, because we're never going to be world leaders in biotech, healthtech, medtech, fintech, all the techs, right? It's not going to happen. Pick one or two that you know we've got enough of a base for, that you know we've got enough enablers to enable us to succeed, and bet on them."
It looks like things may soon begin to gear up in the country’s mobile payment space.
Since Apple Pay’s first Australian bank partner, ANZ, announced its support of the mobile wallet, the bank said that exclusivity has driven a 20 percent surge in its online credit card and deposit account applications.
According to AppleInsider, the results may eventually persuade some of the Apple Pay holdouts — Commonwealth Bank, National Australia Bank and Westpac — to go ahead and hop on the mobile wallet’s bandwagon. Shortly after ANZ’s Apple Pay adoption in April, CEO Shayne Elliott noted that its Apple Pay mini site garnered 61,000 unique visitors over four days, another testament to the heightened interest.
While Android Pay’s latest and biggest news centered around its recent launch in the U.K., Google also made it clear that plans to bring the payment method to Australia are also in the works. A blog post noted that users can expect the mobile wallet to reach Australia “soon."