Thursday, May 18, 2006

Start up your nerds at 10,000rpm

I eat up the pronouncements of Paul Graham like candy these days, since his wisdom cuts so deeply into what I'm trying to do every day. A transcript of his speech on how to clone Silicon Valley at XTech 2006 has popped up on Corante, setting off a minor storm of comments and blog rebuttals from Europeans who feel like Paul is too dismissive of Europe's advantages. The cross-Atlantic sniping bores me sitting here 10,000 miles away in Australia, but Paul's points about how to recreate what he says is a clonable culture of 10,000 "rich people and nerds" are interesting when applied to the Australian environment - specifically Melbourne, which I believe is the most likely candidate for being the hub of the next Australian Internet boom.

Paul talks a lot about the need for a world class university. Having been a student of both the University of Melbourne and RMIT University, I don't think either would qualify at the moment in the ways Paul is talking about. My opinion is that RMIT would have more potential to be a start-up hub, if only because it is more focused on IT. I don't think the impetus would come from inside RMIT's CompSci department, underfunded and undermanned as they are; there would have to be some outside influence. The way that would normally be done in Australia is through government assistance, but Paul rightly points out (supported by several Spanish commenters on Corante) that governments can do more harm than good in this area, and the only way to avoid disaster is to attract those rich people.

What I would love is to be one of those rich people like, say, the boys and girls at Netus. I have heard on the grapevine that Netus has a large sum of money (eight figures in Australian dollars) which it is apparently going to invest in five companies, with the expectation that each and every one of those five companies will succeed. Say what you will about the hubris of banking on a 100% success rate, but my beef is that VCs are so conservative in Australia that they won't, or can't, do the leg work to develop talent at the coalface.

If I was a Netus person I'd be hitting the CS (and some other) departments of every university in Australia, getting the idea out there that there is another way to succeed than taking a $50k/pa job at some boring construction company for decades at a time. I'd be holding competitions, funding scholarships, and tearing shit up. I'd be going all Steve Ballmer, running around lecture theatres throwing chairs and screaming, "Founders, founders, founders!"

Maybe, one day, I'll be able to do that.


Anonymous jen said...

having lived in melbourne only 3 years and not knowing sydney that well.... i still have to say i agree with you. i read paul's article before seeing your post and i was also thinking melbourne pretty much fits the bill. why isn't it happening here? is it really the money? i tend to think it's also a lack of encouragement. which might just circle us back to the money. ;)

maybe we all need to toss some money in a hat.

8:01 pm, May 26, 2006  

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