Web 2.0 in Australia: The birth of Silicon Harbour?

A few initial reflections on the Web 2.0 in Australia event held yesterday… Overall it was a great success, with 100 over invited guests filling the KPMG conference facility, and all requests for invitations having been turned away over the last couple of weeks since we reached capacity. Everything ran smoothly on the day, and some great insights emerged.

For many attendees the highlight was the showcase of five leading Australian Web 2.0 companies (full details here), which amply demonstrated the calibre of local companies and talent, as well as BEA’s demonstration of their new enterprise 2.0 suite. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the Top 60 Web 2.0 applications in Australia we’ve identified (I will be posting shortly about some of the applications I missed in my first go at the list).

We jammed a stack of rich content into the event’s 2½ hours, and while the primary theme of attendee feedback was that they wanted a longer event, I think we did justice to the topic, with some great panel discussions in addition to the showcases. Video coverage of the event done by our event partners Viocorp and One Minute World will be released shortly and will be posted on this blog and elsewhere. In the meantime, a few quick thoughts on what was covered:

An overriding theme of the panel discussions was whether Australia has the potential to build the critical mass of the talent, relationships, networks, and capital required to be a global hub for technology development. In the discussions I dubbed it “Silicon Harbour” (though there are two problems with this term: silicon has very little to do with it these days, and the reality is that tech talent in Australia is widely distributed around the country rather than being focused on Sydney. So we’ll have to find a better term.).

Certainly this year has seen a surge of new web companies, applications, alongside some real commercial success. Much discussion centered on whether and how Australian companies needed to make the leap to the US (or indeed burgeoning Asian) markets. Web companies in Australia – or indeed any economy outside the global giants – have the choice of seeking a global market, or tapping participation within their own country. Over the last two years the growth in Australian web traffic to international destinations has grown far faster than domestic traffic, driven by the rise of YouTube, Flickr, and other social media sites (we’ll be releasing research on this shortly). There is real potential to build local social networks, as demonstrated for example by Gnoos.

Another key theme was the application of Web 2.0 in the enterprise. David Backley, Chief Technology Officer of Australian banking giant Westpac, said that risk aversion in corporations means both that they are less likely to try new technologies, and to by them from smaller vendors rather than the software giants. Australian company Atlassian provides a counterpoint to that in their global success as an enterprise wiki, though arguably they are now out of the small player category. Panellists referred to Australian corporate conservatism, which has slowed adoption of innovative technologies, however we seem to be now reaching a phase of experimentation and adoption.

More reflections and commentary later. For now, here are some especially interesting comments from attendees at the Web 2.0 in Australia event (in no particular order):

Richard MacManus

Mark Bradley

James Dellow

Nick Hodge

Ben Barren

Randal Leeb-du Toit

Trevor Cook

[UPDATE:]

Michael Kordahi

Ben Barren’s photos of Web 2.0 in Australia event and dinner

  • Ross, Congrats on pulling off what sounds like an great event.
    I agree with the corporate conservatism and critical mass concerns faced in the local market – at this rate the US will have all our innovators.
    Hope I can make it next time!

  • It was a great forum to generate discussion about web 2.0 – we desperately need to build networks in Australia that enable practitioners to share knowledge and information. Showcasing the local talent was also great. The application of web 2.0 in an enterprise is really an interesting challenge & I was glad to hear it being discussed. It is really topical for us folks working in large corporations at the moment.