Ultimo marked as fertile ground for digital creative startups

In summary: 
  • Piivot is Sydney’s new digital creative knowledge hub - a  collaboration between UTS, the NSW Government, the Commonwealth Bank, Microsoft, ARUP, and Fishburners
  • Working with local industries, Piivot will grow and support startups in Sydney, with Ultimo in particular becoming a globally competitive hub of digital creativity

Sydney's leaders in creative digital industries converged on UTS this week to share their insights into the city's key centres of emerging business activity and startup opportunity.

Hosted by Piivot, Sydney’s new digital creative knowledge hub - a  collaboration between UTS, the NSW Government, the Commonwealth Bank, Microsoft, ARUP, and Fishburners - guests marked out a map of Sydney with the places they most favour for work and play.

The mapping exercise was part of a workshop organised by Piivot which will grow and support a robust business startup ecosystem in Sydney, becoming a globally competitive hub of digital creative industries.

Most locations identified by workshop participants centred on Ultimo which has evolved to be a digital creative hub, with the highest density of tech startups in Australia. Ultimo boasts 51.9 startups per square kilometre according to StartUp Muster, the largest survey of the Australian startup community run by Murray Hurps.

UTS Deputy Vice Chancellor (Resources) Patrick Woods said although Ultimo and the surrounding inner city and CBD precinct was thriving by Australian standards, industry had recognised a need to increase competitiveness on a global scale and in this area Piivot would add value by working with the tech startup community to strengthen activity.

“We are not trying to replicate or stifle what is already taking place here or what has already happened organically,” Mr Woods said. “We want to facilitate something that gets the best out of it.”

Piivot invited a cross-section of representatives of the digital creative industries to the workshop to share their insights into how the industry had evolved so far and new opportunities for growth in coming years. The information collected from the workshop will be used to form a working master plan for Piivot that will be further discussed at a workshop on 7 July 2015.

According to observers of digital creative industries, eyes are turning to startups because of their ability to both disrupt the status quo and grow rapidly to become influential players in the market. In a report titled The StartUp Economy, PwC stated that Australian tech startups alone have the potential to contribute up to 4 per cent to the national GDP by 2033.

Murray Hurps, General Manager of the Fishburners co-working space for early stage startups in Ultimo, has highlighted the need for collaboration across the startup ecosystem in Sydney.

“We need to collaborate to compete,” Mr Hurps said. Fishburners was named after a First Fleet ship, ‘Fishburn’, which brought supplies to sustain the early colony in Australia. The more ships we have entering Sydney the better all round for the entire economy,. “Similarly with startups, the more institutions we have to support startups in Sydney, the better for everyone.”

Sydney faces many challenges for early-stage tech startups including increasing real estate costs, global competition for funding and a rapid decline in student uptake of ICT and computer technologies courses - vital skills for tech startups.

These concerns were raised by a number of workshop attendees. Piivot is collating this information to be included in its master plan, with a vision of centralising efforts to remove identified obstacles.

Arup Urban Planner Hugh Gardner said successful overseas creative hubs such as Amsterdam and Barcelona were examples of the need for the creation of a geographical ‘hub’ for startups.

“There is a definite economic imperative of fostering a vibrant startup ecosystem in Australia,” Mr Gardner said. "If our ambition is for this hub [in Ultimo] to dramatically influence Sydney’s digital ecosystem, how do we capture and understand the ecosystem currently? It’s about what Sydney needs as much as what Ultimo needs."

The Piivot website will house an interactive map of Sydney that will feature key locations through the activities of its first workshop and hot spots for innovation.

The Piivot online portal will be launched later this month as a central point of information.
To obtain information about forthcoming Piivot workshops, contact kym.kraljevic@uts.edu.au 

Photo by Kym Kraljevic