VIEW: Why 2021 will be the year for Australian tech

The below is a guest post from Sarah Neill, Founder of Mys Tyler, a fashion tech company solving the $1 trillion “fit” problem, by creating a more empowering and personalised shopping experience for all women.

We’ve always had a size disadvantage against the rest of the world with our meager 25 million population. Here in Australia, we’ve had to solve global problems, or mainstream local problems to turn a decent profit. However, in the US for example, with a population 13 times larger, even a niche solution can have a sizable and profitable market. And if you get traction there, growth can be FAST!

Having spent a decade in New York, I’ve seen first hand that bad ideas can have more success in the US than brilliant ideas born out of Australia. As the underdog, it’s tougher for us and we have to punch above our weight. As a result, a LOT of our top talent has migrated to places like Silicon Valley, to have more chance of success through tapping into the scale, but most importantly, tapping into the community. The US runs on referrals, and over there connecting people is a form of social currency.

But, a global pandemic later, and I think the tables are going to turn in 2021!

Top tech talent will return to Australia (if they haven’t already)

If you’re working remotely, and living in a big city in lockdown, there’s not much upside to paying expensive rents in the likes of New York or Silicon Valley. As US employers grapple with the idea of remote working until, at earliest, mid-next year, many employees have left the hubs, and returned to their hometowns, for family, and a lower cost of living (while picking up the same paycheck).

For Australians, this will also be true, and many have, and will choose to return to Australia (and work crazy hours to accommodate the time difference), or re-enter the Australian tech community!

Even those that continue working for the international companies will be back in the community, sharing thoughts, ideas and connections. I myself decided to return home to Sydney to start fashtech app Mys Tyler just as the pandemic was starting to hit.

Entrepreneurs will stop masquerading as Intrapreneurs

In the US, Australians have the good fortune of access to the E3 visa. This treaty visa makes it remarkably easy to work in the states and remain for years or even decades. We have more than we use, and employers aren’t required to prove that they could have hired an American (a huge hurdle for prospects from other nations). So, if you want to be amongst the heart of the Tech scene in Silicon Valley or New York, you can find a job, get a visa, and live happily on a great salary. Being an entrepreneur on the other hand is harder. The visa is more complicated, more expensive, and far riskier. Plus, living there is expensive. As a foreigner you don’t have family or friends you can mooch off, so the no/low salary of running your own business removes some of the allure of being there.

As a result, I know too many of the most brilliant entrepreneurs, picking up their paycheck, and gratefully renewing their E3 visa every two years. Not only will many move back given this new world. But I think many will see this as the chance to found their own companies, build their own dreams, without the shackles of a visa and high rent!

Zoom is leveling the playing field

Everywhere in the world has an element of “cliqueness”. It’s who you know, and who they know. People love referrals, and in the US in particular, connecting is a social currency.

But before, we couldn’t be in the same room to have a seat at the table, now, neither can they. We can attend the same events (virtually), meet investors/prospects/partners in the same way as the rest, and it’s going to level the playing field for us.

Exchange rate advantage

Compared to the EU and US, we’re discounted. And it’s a benefit. As our talent pool fills, I think we’ll see more investment coming in the form of higher headcount from global offices. In addition to this, there’s a lot of global uncertainty right now, leading investors to look at diversifying their investments outside of their home country.

With added thanks to Canva, AfterPay, Linktree who have shown the world that BIG ideas can come from Oz, along with the Aussie Expats who have been spreading the word on our work ethic, we’ll also see investment money flow in to the startup world.

Australia is still a great test market

Ideas that aren’t capitalising on the immediate demands created in response to the pandemic, can focus on building now, and selling later. They can test the waters locally, without waking any sleeping bears (potential competitors) and then go global with a bang in late 2021 when the world finds its new equilibrium.

I guess what I’m saying is that Australians are bred tough, and with an influx of returning talent (to add to the already amazing people here), a flow of foreign investment, and a leveling of the playing field, now is our time to pull up a chair to the tech table and start showing the world what we’re made of.


About the expert

Sarah Neill is a technology and startup powerhouse with more than 15 years driving marketing and innovation for major consumer technology brands across in-house and agency settings in the USA, UK and Australia. Over the course of her career, Sarah has held senior leadership roles at mobile disrupters Boost Mobile and Mint Mobile, led multi-million-dollar agency accounts for marquee companies Telstra, Vodafone and Samsung, and as a serial entrepreneur founded companies Doodad, A Relatively Unique Inc and Mys Tyler.

In 2013, Sarah launched DOODAD, a travel tech company which saw her raise more than $1 Million USD to disrupt the global roaming industry. She then joined the executive team of Ultra Mobile, the fastest growing private company in the US (ranked #1 on the Inc. 5000 in 2015). During this time, she led corporate development, launched the IoT department and ultimately held the post Chief of Staff.

Sarah left Ultra Mobile to return to Sydney and build Mys Tyler, a fashion tech company solving the $1 trillion “fit” problem, by creating a more empowering and personalised shopping experience for all women.


Image description: Sarah is sitting on a grey couch in front of some indoor plants with some office furniture blurred in the background. She has brown hair, is smiling and wears a beige top and black pants.