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Australian startups struggling to find the Silicon Valley experience at home

Australian startups struggling to find the Silicon Valley experience at home

99Designs CEO says building locally, seeking international investment has made the company's success

Australian startups shouldn’t rule out setting up shop locally but could look to the US for investment opportunities, one successful entrepreneur has claimed.

Speaking to Computerworld Australia, CEO of crowdsourcing graphic design company 99Designs, Patrick Llewellyn, said the business has been able to excel thanks to its investment and presence in both the US and Australia.

“The thing for us was that Australia for us is a great place to build a business and we’re very committed to the engineering talent that we have there,” he said. “But the US is where the action is — the closer you are to Silicon Valley to more access you have.”

The business, which received $35 million in funding from US venture capital firm Accel Partners in April this year, used Australia as a launching pad for its business, with Llewellyn saying 99Designs is proud of its Australian heritage.

“We feel very strongly that Australia is a great place for us to build stuff, we just think the US is the easier place to source funding and continue to grow,” he said.

“One of the reasons we’re getting more attention today is that most Australians are forced to bootstrap their development and we just don’t have the vibrant angel network or venture capital community to fund startups.”

With a smaller pool of resources to tap into, Llewellyn said it has proved difficult trying to replicate the Silicon Valley experience in Australia.

“I think there’s 700 different venture capital [firms] that you can talk to within 50 miles of Silicon Valley, so it is just awash,” he said. “That’s what drives the economy and it’s just very difficult for Australia to replicate that at the moment.”

Despite the slow start, Llewellyn said the startup market in Australia is catching up to international companies thanks to developments in Web 2.0 technology.

“I think startups all over the world are doing well, and we’re seeing these Web 2.0 models that are being very successful,” he said. “It is a global trend and Australia is catching up.”

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