Apps, drones and RTOs.
We are delighted to present the final version of our 2015-16 report on the digital and internet technology sector in Western Australia (WA). This report (download here) builds on the 2013 Perth Startup Ecosystem Report and the 2015 Preliminary Report (just focussed on early stage startups), and now includes data on more established technology companies in WA.
The report was produced by Boundlss commissioned by StartupWA, and generously supported by the WA Department of Commerce and the City of Perth. Information was gathered through community workshops, interviews, data scraping and research.
Perth & Western Australia
And if you have never been to Perth or anywhere else in Western Australia, WA is Australia’s largest state occupying the entire western third of Australia. It has a population of 2.589 million across 2.5 million square kilometres and it’s main industries are energy and resources, exporting 58% of Australia’s energy and minerals.
High-Tech, Startups and Internet Companies
The focus of the report is companies born or bred in Western Australia that are developing digital and internet technologies, particularly those companies developing their own intellectual property in technologies such as computing, software, mobile applications, internet focused companies, electronics and hardware (such as wearables, sensors, drones, robotics and autonomous vehicles). The report looks at both mature companies and those born after 2010 (we call the later ‘startups’).
The report identified over 560 digital and internet technology startups operating throughout Western Australia since 1998, of which 335 are active Startups and 116 are active Established Technology companies. The report found approximately 8,400 people who are working in and building technology companies throughout the state, and we identified a total of $651M in funding. Compared to our initial report on 2013 on 'startup' alone, the startup numbers are substantially larger than the 100+ startups we identified in our 2013 report. There are several reasons for this, namely increased awareness & interest in the space, increasing opportunities in the space (such as accelerators and programs), leading to increased formation rates (with 103 companies alone formed in 2014).
Across these companies, a wide range of market focus was evident, with particular clusters emerging in eCommerce, Fin-tech, Health-tech, Resource-tech, Education-tech, GIS and more unexpectedly in areas such as Gaming and Human Resources. Product and technology types were diverse, ranging from mobile applications and machine learning to 3D printing.
Technologies did however seem inclined to less complex technologies rather than more complex emerging technologies such as drones, advanced robotics and machine learning. This is probably due to a combination of factors:
- the relatively small number of computer science graduates and electronic engineers completing university courses in Western Australia (355 in 2014),
- the scarcity of available capital to fund more resource intensive technology development such as drones, robots and AI, and
- the previous abundance of very well paid engineering jobs within the WA resources sector.
The report identifies over $651.3 million in total funding over the past 18 year period to 134 companies, 33 of which raised funding by listing on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX). The average fund pool allocated each year for startups was $16.96 million, and average per startup was $1.32 million. However the median funding per startup was $183,500. A very low number. The average is much higher due to a small number of startups (such as Spookfish, 1-Page, Tagroom, Virtual Gaming Worlds and Brainchip) which all raised between $9 to $15 million each. The average fund pool allocated each year for established tech companies was $73.71 million, and average per established company was $9.64 million. Median funding per was $3.93M. Total funding across WA results in an average per capita funding ratio of $6.61 (for startups) and $8.73 (for established tech), reasonable levels compared nationally, however still substantially lower than international ratios which go up to $183 in Israel and $4,341 in Silicon Valley.
Australian Stock Exchange (ASX)
A higher than expected number of WA technology companies are turning to the ASX to raise early stage funding, listing many years earlier than their international competitors would usually do. Given WA’s venture space is virtually non-existent startups and the lower barriers to listing or RTOs than the NASDAQ etc, local startups are turning to the ASX as an alternative avenue to raise money at a much earlier stage than what you would normally assume. We identified a range of local tech companies on the ASX, raising near $200 million in total from the ASX. These companies include: 1-Page, NorwoodSystems, ResappHealth, Spookfish, Brainchip, Activistic, Rewardle, MyFiziq, XTV Networks and iCollege.
Meetups, Groups, Accelerators & Universities
The report found that across Western Australia there was a substantive number of meetups, hackathons and community driven educational activity in the ecosystem. Over 12 co-working spaces have arisen in the past 6 years in the Perth CBD, Leederville, Joondalup, Fremantle, Geraldton in the Mid West, and as far south as Pollenators in Bunbury. There are also a number of maker and hacker spaces. Co-working spaces include: Bloom, F-Sapce, Spacecubed, Minespace, sixty27, Sync labs. And maker/hacker spaces include the Artifactory, SW Makers and the Vic Park MiniLab by Enkel. These places serve as a vibrant catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship and are increasingly moving up the innovation value chain from offering sharing office space to formal startup accelerators providing seed capital for early stage commercialisation. Spacecubed in Perth’s CBD now hosts 5 accelerators and seed accelerators (Amcom Upstart, RAC Seed Spark, Unearthed and Founder Institute) along with multiple hackathons throughout the year.
The technology industry in Western Australia is still in it’s early days with a few breakout successes that have managed to overcome the regions challenges. Nevertheless, WA has a promising level of engagement in the industry and given a substantive effort by all participants in the region — entrepreneurs, investors, educators and government — the state can certainly take advantage of its pioneering roots to ride the next great economic revolution.