- Tech & Gadgets
- BRW. lounge
Published 16 August 2012 16:53, Updated 17 August 2012 07:29
Twenty interviews later: the big issues for technology start-up founders as visualised by a word cloud Jessica Gardner via TagCrowd
About half an hour into a conversation with the chief executive of Aconex Leigh Jasper on a windy afternoon in Palo Alto in May this year, he made his position quite clear.
“I worry when people say they’ve got to come to Silicon Valley to build a company,” he said. “I don’t think you need to.”
I paused to thoughtfully sip my Arnold Palmer (It’s an iced tea and lemonade ... the waiter had baulked at my request for a lemon, lime and bitters). “But the money, the buzz, the excitement? Isn’t Silicon Valley where it all happens for tech companies?” I thought.
I was sceptical of Jasper’s summary. This was coming from the CEO of a software outfit, originally established in Melbourne, who was now based in the Valley had lured a major private equity firm Francisco Partners, to back his company in 2008 to the tune of $107.5 million.
There was a disclaimer.
“If you’re doing a consumer web play or selling into technology companies then this is the centre of the universe for all of that,” he said. “In our case, we were selling into construction, engineering, infrastructure and oil and gas projects. Australia is strong in those, so that’s why we started and stayed there, at first.”
And of course: “To access serious amounts of capital this is still the best place to come to look for that,” he said. “When we raised this round [with Francisco Partners] a few years ago over here, we did look at Australian funds at the time but they just weren’t competitive, with what we could raise here, in terms of valuation, but mostly in terms of the size of the investment.”
Jasper was answering my “should you stay or should you go?” question. On a trip to the centre of the universe – Silicon Valley – in May, I asked everyone I met: Can Australian technology start-up founders do it from home, or do they need to go to Silicon Valley? Since then I’ve asked more than 20 founders: everyone from the latest batch of start-up successes to their idols, entrepreneurs such as Jasper and Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes.
The answer to “stay or go” is not black and white. Actually, it’s very grey. And the grey that oozed out of all the conversations, like the one I had with Jasper, is due to be published as BRW’s cover story next week, out Thursday, August 23.
I hope it will help start-up founders decipher the pros and cons of what we’re calling the start-up dilemma. Can the next tech sensation come from Australia or is setting up camp in Silicon Valley a prerequisite?
Between now and next Thursday, when the article is published, I’ll be blogging daily with the ponderings of some of the tech scene’s most high-profile players. I hope you’ll enjoy the article and their thoughts.