The Growth in Sydney Startup Activity: 2007-2012

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about the industries that Australian startups are targeting for disruption based on data from PushStart Mentor Connect.

This week I have some other data that you might find interesting – a timeline of the growth in startup activity in Sydney since 2007.

To get this data I’ve gone into the Sydney Tech Startup Meetup (STSM) member database. Some of you may remember this meetup as Open Coffee Sydney.  Most will know it by it’s new name. Either way it’s a group with over 2300 members, some of whom meet every second Thursday morning at Fishburners in Ultimo.

To give you some insight into why I think this group can help us understand the growth in startup activity in Sydney, I’ll share a little of its history.


STSM kicked off in early 2007 and was put up onto not long after (yes – almost 6 years ago!).

I believe it was really the first regular startup meetup of its generation not only in Sydney, but in Australia – but would love to hear if I’m wrong and there were other similar meetups going on at that time so I can acknowledge them too.

Over the years we’ve had many successful startup founders, investors and executives from Australia and around the world come through the meetup.

Most importantly though, STSM has been an entry point for many many early stage Australian founders into the local startup community – one of the things I’m most proud of about the group.

The trend of attendance for many members follows a similar path:

  • People sign up
  • They come to a meetup
  • They come to another meetup
  • They connect with other people from the community and hear about other great startup events  / organisations
  • They realize that Thursday morning at 8:30am (the time of the meetup) is kind of hard to keep coming to, and they’ve already made some good connections, so they stop coming regularly.
  • From time to time they come back to the meetup and share their experience with the new people who have just discovered the community

What that means is that while the meetup usually has around 50-70 attendees, the number of people that have come to it over the years has been very large. I’d argue that a good chunk of the 2300+ current members have been to at least one meetup over the years, and that doesn’t even include the people that have stopped coming or who have dropped off that aren’t included in our database anymore.

So, while I don’t claim that we capture anywhere near the totality of the startup activity in Sydney what we do capture is a good sample of it.

With that in mind, what does the growth in that activity look like?


Below is a graph showing the total number of STSM members per month from April 2007 until October 2012.

What do we see in this graph?

There was good, almost linear, growth in numbers for the first 4 ½ years then at the end of 2011 the rate of change in new members accelerated.

In 2012 this change accelerated further.

I can’t tell you exactly what drove this change. Perhaps it was the growing media coverage of Australian startup founders. Perhaps it was the grassroots activities of organisations like Fishburners and PushStart (NB: I’m a co-founder of PushStart so may be a little biased here) that started to engage many first time founders. Perhaps it was something else (if you have a theory I would love to hear it)

Either way, I suspect that in 5 or 10,or 20 years, when we have a thriving, globally significant tech startup industry in Sydney and more broadly in Australia, we may very well be able to look to 2012 and think of it as the year things really changed.



  1. Arribaa (@TweetBaa)

    Thanks for putting the numbers out there, it’s quite interesting to see the growth. As a fair newbie in Sydney I couldn’t say what’s different now from before, but your two assumptions would have been my suggestions.

  2. Pete (@pc0)

    Getting mentioned in front of 2,000 people at various Sydstart events and various Fishburners and GA forums might have helped. We are getting hyperconnected so the good guys rise faster and the bad guys get found out faster too.

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