The Advocate - Hepburn

Could Victoria be the next Silicon Valley?

Could Victoria be the next Silicon Valley?
Could Victoria be the next Silicon Valley?

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Over the past few years, many Victoria-based tech companies have been making a splash at a global scale, garnering themselves international recognition in their respective industries.

The foremost achievement for many has been Melbourne fintech company AfterPay attracting the eyes of former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's Square (now called 'Block, Inc.').

AfterPay's multi-billion dollar acquisition paved the way for other Aussie fintech start-ups to aim higher, alongside naming Australian fintech as the world leader in BNPL (buy now, pay later) services.

But AfterPay's whirlwind success isn't the only win that the Australian tech sector has seen over recent years.

Digital marketplaces like Redbubble and Envato, alongside other digital resources like Melanie Perkins' Canva, have been revolutionising how creative professionals and corporations alike use the internet on a daily basis.

Similarly, Melbourne app developers like DreamWalk continue to produce groundbreaking mobile apps that enhance the lives of everyday Australians, providing services and resources spanning from the education sector to personal finance.

Across the board, Melbourne tech companies have set a precedent for excellence and intuitive, ethical tech design that is now expected of tech start-ups from all corners of the globe.

The widespread success of these homegrown tech companies has led industry analysts to consider the question: could Victoria be the setting of Australia's own Silicon Valley? In short, the answer to this is yes, actually. But why? That's precisely what we'll be exploring below.

Why Melbourne is the place to be for Aussie developers

There is a lot to be said about the power of peer-to-peer learning in the tech sector.

After all, digital development is a phenomenon that occurs far too rapidly for university courses to ensure that their materials are always up-to-date, so the best way to learn in this industry is simply by engaging and experimenting with your fellow innovators.

As a result, industry analysts assert that the most innovative tech creations to come out of Australia are far more likely to emerge from Melbourne over any other city specifically because Melbourne is already the technology capital of Australia.

Melbourne has the highest population of tech professionals in Australia, and this number will only continue to grow as the tech sector places its roots down across the face of the Melbourne CBD.

Experts assert that we will likely see tertiary technological institutes and resources developing all over Melbourne alongside a growing number of tech companies, as developers, programmers, and other industry professionals use the resources around them to move from ideation to creation.

Although many Melbourne-based tech companies are currently headquartered in and around the CBD, another major selling point of Victoria over any other Australian state is the city of Melbourne's unique urban sprawl.

The city is growing both vertically and horizontally at an alarming rate, and as such, there are suburbs in the greater Melbourne region that are primed for economic development as their residential populations continue to grow disproportionately to their local economies.

These opportunities for economic development effectively allow investors and business owners alike with a readymade setting for their company HQ or other industry resources.

This level of highly focused development has already been observed in suburbs like Cremorne, which is now also referred to as 'Silicon Yarra' by tech professionals and property developers alike, specifically because of the number of Melbourne tech companies that have come to call the suburb home in recent years.

The combination of both Melbourne's abundance of commercial real estate options as well as the city's ability to provide tech professionals with a substantial industry network has already been enough to solidify Victoria's position as the home of Australian tech and innovation.

Innovations in the financial technology sector

Although Melbourne's position as the centre of the Australian tech industry was already beginning to come together prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, repeat lockdowns did pressure Australian tech innovators to roll out their digital offerings at a far more rapid and urgent pace, with one industry in particular growing more vital to everyday life than ever before.

Financial technologies were heavily utilised by both businesses and consumers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as digital payment alternatives like Zip and AfterPay allowed Aussie consumers to shop online in lieu of visiting brick and mortar stores, alongside allowing Aussie retailers to continue trading even in the face of the industry seemingly grinding to a halt in a physical sense.

Even post-COVID, financial technology companies still provide Aussie consumers and business owners with a plethora of personal finance options that ensure Australia's economy can keep thriving as many continue to take COVID-safe measures in their day-to-day lives.

It is fintech's ability to keep the world turning - and demonstrably so through times where the global economy could easily grind to a halt - that allowed AfterPay's founders to propel their fintech company to unexpectedly greater heights, eventually allowing Block, Inc. to trade on the Australian stock market.

In turn, the addition of Block, Inc. to the ASX went on to provide Aussie innovators and investors alike with further opportunities to make their mark on this burgeoning global industry that can now be found in so many of our daily processes.

The strong foundations that the fintech sector has in Melbourne are also supported by the establishment of industry regulatory bodies like Fintech Australia, as well as other NGOs and governmental agencies designed to provide resources and networking opportunities for industry professionals.

Fintech is laying strong roots down in Melbourne, and it's highly likely that these roots will continue to support the monumental contributions of Aussie innovators in what has become one of the decade's defining global industries.

Opportunities for both domestic and international companies

Finally, the value of Victoria as the home of Australian tech and innovation isn't just recognised by Australian industry analysts alone.

There are growing investment opportunities in Melbourne for international tech companies as well, and there's a high likelihood that international investments will continue to solidify Melbourne's position as the hub of technological innovation in Australia, and perhaps also for the wider Oceania region.

In recent news, Indonesian tech giant Bukalapak has set its sights on Melbourne as the prospective location for its first ever international base.

Bukalapak will likely pave the way for future investment and development opportunities that will allow Australia to develop and maintain trade relationships and professional partnerships with other industry leaders, including the agencies and companies of California's own Silicon Valley.

In truth, even industry analysts don't entirely know what to expect from Melbourne's ongoing development as the centre of technological innovation in Australia.

With globalisation trends, however, it's likely that Melbourne will continue to become a highly international city which will boast plenty of professional opportunities for tech professionals occupying niches across the industry, including but not limited to fintech and education, as well as healthcare, and even the entertainment industry.