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Strong commitment needed to run tech events in Australia revealed at GEC23

24 September, 2023
Strong commitment needed to run tech events in Australia revealed at GEC23 | News | Pause Awards
Desmon John
Desmond John
24 September, 2023
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Australia’s top ecosystem builders share their experiences, challenges, and opportunities in organising large-scale tech events at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC23) conference in Melbourne.

When it comes to orchestrating transformative tech events, who better to turn to than Australia’s creme-de-la-creme of ecosystem builders? Having crafted impactful festivals and conferences, Craig Swann of _SOUTHSTART, Maxine Sherrin of Spark Festival, Kate Montgomery from Tropical Innovation Festival, Danelle Cross from West Tech Fest and moderated by George Hedon from Pause Fest, are the maestros to glean insights from. Their collective wisdom offers a blueprint on the power, potential, and pain points of managing large-scale tech events. So, let’s dive into the goldmine of insights shared during the GEC23 panel discussion.

Craig Swann, the lively founder of _SOUTHSTART, didn’t mince words when he declared, “Events generate idea sex.” Behind the chuckles and raised eyebrows, his underlying message was crystal clear: events are powerhouses of innovation. As people converge, they don’t just exchange business cards, but ideas, challenges, and solutions. His witty remark resonates with George Hedon’s sentiment: hosting an event is merely the beginning – it’s how the modern world communicates and does business! What truly matters is the ripple effect it creates, fostering collaborations, connections, and of course, the birth of groundbreaking concepts.

Ecosystem events for impact graph
Ecosystem events for impact graph

Addressing the elephant in the room – the dreaded funding gap – Maxine Sherrin of Spark Festival lamented the uphill battle many face. While Sydney and Melbourne are the darlings of Australia’s tech scene, they often grapple with securing governmental support. And, hey, let’s spill the beans: sponsoring an event doesn’t mean you get the reins. It’s a delicate dance between gaining funding and maintaining independence. The desire for multi-year (3-5) support isn’t just a wish, it’s a lifeline for continued community engagement.

Danelle Cross, orchestrator of West Tech Fest, conveyed the lasting impact of hosting events, stating, “When you host an event, everyone gets behind it, building a sense of community. It’s about finding partners to collaborate with, and gratifyingly, seeing people return to your ecosystem post-event, showcasing a lasting, positive impact that goes beyond the event itself.” Her insights underscore the ripple effect well-orchestrated events have in nurturing a thriving tech ecosystem.

But events aren’t just about glitz and glamour. They’re adapting to be more immersive and experiential. Kate Montgomery, from Tropical Innovation Festival, hinted at the trend of hosting events in unique venues. No more snoozy conference rooms! Imagine discussing tech trends on a beach, a boat, or exploring AI in an art gallery. It’s about blending business with a pinch of pzazz.

Ecosystem leaders

Burnout, that dreaded term, is becoming all too familiar. As Craig Swann candidly put it, “We are just like startups, only we do events.” The tireless efforts of small teams, often one or two people, is commendable. But with limited resources, the candle burns at both ends. And without adequate funding? It’s a ticking time bomb.

Lastly, George Hedon threw down the gauntlet on Australia’s market maturity. The verdict? We’re playing catch-up. There’s a need for deeper market education, not just about the instant value conversion, but how to convince the big players – sponsors and governments alike – to understand the social impact of tech events takes 5 years to flourish and 10 years to build successful event ecosystem, which could be seen in startup terms as an ‘exit’.

The silver lining, however, is the diverse, city-centric ecosystems Australia boasts. The potential is there, waiting to be harnessed. All we need? A unified approach, collaboration, and a sprinkle of Aussie tenacity.

Session Takeaways: Come for the Festival, stay for the Ecosystem

The panel discussion offered invaluable insights into building and sustaining ecosystems through events. Here are some key takeaways:

Be Community-Led: Tech events should be community-led to showcase long-term support for startups and innovation.

Secure Long-Term Partners: Always aim to lock in partners with multi-year funding commitments to ensure sustainable growth.

Demonstrate Impact: Reporting the impact of these events is crucial. Showcasing the positive outcomes they generate helps attract more support.

Investor’s Patience is Key: Building a social impact story through events takes time. Expect results to manifest over approximately five years.

Protect your Brand: While offering free or low-cost tickets to Founders may seem empathetic, it’s essential to balance this with maintaining the event’s brand reputation. Perhaps offset tickets in partnerships and Scholarship programs.

Australia’s tech event landscape is teeming with potential, brimming with ideas, yet fraught with challenges. However, with the insights and dedication of its leading ecosystem builders, the future seems not only promising but electrifying. Speakers hope to continue the conversations on their events around Australia, and you can get involved. The ball’s in our court, Australia. Let’s rally and rise!


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