Why Melbourne Tech Isn’t Reaching Its Full Potential Yet

I was introduced to the family business at a young age. Being Italo-Australian, the family business was unsurprisingly in construction, which meant I had the fortune to grow up around building sites.

Although my dad didn’t let me play with heavy machinery as I would have liked, being around the business meant I got to meet a lot of interesting people. The people that I met were part of a similar community; many were old-world Italians who had moved to Australia in search of a better life.

One could assume that the search for success might lead to ruthless competition amongst these groups. Yet in reality, these people were united by a common goal, not only to better themselves but also to support their communities.

This collaboration built wealth. Small buildings became big buildings. Small companies became big companies. Today, Melbourne’s Italian community has built significant wealth, and shaped the culture of the city; a city represented on postcards by Pellegrini’s diner and famous for its “coffee culture” and al-fresco dining.

Throughout Melbourne’s colourful history, its citizens’ ability to collaborate has remained constant. From the gold rush to the tech boom, the city has always been a place where people have come to work together, regardless of culture and creed, to build a better life for their communities.

Today, we’re seeing the explosion of Melbourne’s technology scene, with collaboration driving this growth.

At York Butter Factory’s inception, we wanted to create a space where people could collaborate to solve problems and grow their business, simultaneously growing the community as a whole. Along the way, companies like Inspire9 and Collective Campus embraced community building alongside us, and we all benefitted for it.

We need to look to the past to see what made our economy a relevant and functional place. We need to be wary of creating an environment where we killed the goose that laid the golden egg. If collaboration is what created the communities that we love, and drives the growth that we rely on, then we should do everything to protect it. The incessant pressure to treat our economy as a zero-sum game destroys the underlying architecture that made it an economy worth being a part of in the first place.

This doesn’t mean that businesses shouldn’t pursue profit. Rather, it means that businesses pursuing profit should look beyond increasing market share as the only way to increase revenue. Modern businesses should also look to increase market size.

This mentality, although significantly different from the brutality of traditional competition, is actually what makes start-ups unique.

Many issues encountered in the Australian technology scene go beyond the classic complaints of a capital and talent drought. The fundamental problem is born of the traditional competitive angst that weighs down industries, both incumbent and start-up.

It stops people from working together to solve big problems, leaving us at a disadvantage internationally. In fear of missing out, we are rushing to pick unripened fruit.

At YBF, we opened our doors to anyone trying to build in the same market as us, and by creating a community, we were able to see everyone profit. If we had competed for market share, even in the best-case scenario, we would not be as successful as we are today.

The collective next step for Melbourne should be making our technology community global as possible. This means increasing our scope beyond Collins Street, and into the world at large.

The people who have shared our mentality along the way have all become valuable contributors to the technology community. We need to protect and nourish the values that made the technology community great and similarly built wealth for other communities before us.

Collaboration is not only the foundation of our city but it’s also critical to building a global future for Melbourne.


Author: Alex Valente