Newcastle’s 6 point to-do list to create a tech-city ecosystem

jm_sf1One of the unanimous highlights of the 2014 DiG Festival was Jed White’s passionate keynote, The Boulder Experience: Creating a tech-city ecosystem.

Jed is a start-up veteran having launched a successful business in Sydney then moving his family to Boulder, Colorado to work on his next venture Tribe Vibe. During his time in the USA he has had the opportunity to observe start-up capitals like Silicon Valley / San Francisco, Austin and of course Boulder. It was through this lens that Jed came to Newcastle with observations about what makes a great tech-city and how to create a tech-city ecosystem.

Jed is a big fan of good cafes with a quality wifi connections as they are locations where ideas collide.

He noted that most start-up cities are very eclectic and embrace people from different backgrounds. It’s good to be a bit weird. He cited ground level concepts like Renew Newcastle as being important for fostering that culture.

He also stressed that we shouldn’t all aim to create another Silicon Valley, but rather to leverage our own natural assets.

Jed feels that with the Dig Festival, Newcastle has a hook to hang an ecosystem from.

Here is his To-Do List for Newcastle to Create a Tech-City Ecosystem:

1. Support the leaders, the entrepreneurs leading the charge.

2. Get some bandwidth. Our slow internet is a major problem. It is oxygen for business.

3. Build on DiG. It’s only the start, fill the other 51 weeks of the year with activities.

4. Round up the “Feeders” Ie. local, state and federal government and agencies. Lobby for tax breaks, grants etc

5. More caffeine and more wifi. Informal places to meet and work. Newcastle is well-caffeinated already, we just need to add the wifi.

6. Make stuff now!! Don’t await for others, start creating.

The good news is that some of these things are happening already in the region, but they probably need to be more coordinated to enable the full effect.

Apart from DiG Festival we also have regular activities and events like The Lunaticks Society, Newcastle Coffee Mornings, Bits N Pixels and the exciting Slingshot Accelerator Program.

There is also a growing list of co-work spaces and hubs emerging.

The recent announcement of the latest NBN FTTN roll-out (yes I know its not as good as FTTP but its something better than we have today) means that a large chunk of the region will have improved bandwidth in 2015 and that can only help.

I am also mildly encouraged that some of our local political and business leaders might be finally realising the potential for the region through fostering innovation and start-ups.

At the end of DiG Festival quite a few people approached me to say they would like to do more to foster innovation in the area via events and other initiatives. That’s great news. Now we just need to decide how to coordinate and share this enthusiasm. I don’t want to get involved in every activity, I’m busy enough with Sticky and doing DiG with Steph and Tracy, but I’m very happy to help start the conversation and help spread the word.

Who’s on board? Ping me on Twitter or Facebook and lets see how we can complete Jed’s 6 point to-do list.




The DiG Festival is coming and you’re invited

I’m very proud to announce the launch of the DiG Festival. Its an idea that has been several years in the planning but is now officially underway.

For over two years I have been proposing a festival for Newcastle along the lines of SXSW Interactive in Austin,Texas. We’ve had some really good discussions about it at The Lunaticks Society events and Newcastle Coffee Mornings, as well as a “toe-in-the-water” event last year with Hunter DiGiT.

Now The DiG Festival (Design + Interactive + Green-tech) is becoming a reality and you’re invited to be an important part of it.

DiG will be held in Newcastle in the historic City Hall from 2-5 October 2013.

DiG will feature a series of Keynote Presentations, Panels, Performances and Workshops lead by international, national and local industry leaders. There will be a strong emphasis on innovation, entrepreneurial spirit and ethical business.

DiG has also partnered with local tech accelerator Slingshot to conduct a Start-up Awards program during the event, with one company to receive up to $50,000 investment plus mentoring and professional advice by industry leaders.

We have already attracted several major speakers to anchor the event and ensure that it is seen as a truly national or international event and have many more on the way. Our aim is to create a vibrant social activity and fun with a Welcome Function, Awards Evening and Cocktail Evening as well as sponsor events that extend well beyond the conference venue.

How can you get involved?

A major event like DiG is only as good as the people and organisations involved. We’re looking for:

  • Attendees looking for inspiration ideas and great time
  • Start-ups to demo their ideas and compete for $50,000 in seed funding

The DiG Festival is designed to help the whole industry, not just in Newcastle, but around Australasia. Its success will require a major team effort. You’re invited to be part of that team. Get involved and lets create an amazing event.

Who’s behind the DiG Festival?

DiG will be run by Steph Hinds from Growthwise, Tracy McKelligott from Eclipse Media and Events and me and my team at Sticky. The event has the support of Newcastle City Council, Hunter DiGiT and Slingshot.


The wheels are turning in Newcastle. All aboard the DiGiTal express.

Hunter DiGiTAlmost 18 months ago I posted My Plan for Creating an Innovative City. In it I reasoned that we needed two major breakthroughs to help Newcastle reposition itself as a centre for technology and innovation; high-speed broadband and the hosting of a major event along the lines of SxSW.

In the ensuing year and a half the wheels of progress have been turning and a passionate community of “agitators” has emerged to run with the theme. Things are starting to happen and it’s time for you to get involved.

Firstly, Gordon Whitehead launched Digital Newcastle, under the banner of The Lunaticks Society of Newcastle, in order to lobby and educate anyone who will listen. His energy and enthusiasm has been infectious.

Secondly, a taskforce called Hunter DiGiT was formed with a vision to establish the Hunter Region as a leading digital economy with a global reputation, by 2020. Their objectives are:

  • Online Participation: Encourage adoption of internet based technologies.
  •  Broadband Infrastructure: Attract commercial or government funded projects to provide world-class broadband infrastructure.
  • Digital Literacy and Skills: Encourage investment in technology education to equip the region’s transition to a digital economy.
  •  Social Inclusion: Increase digital literacy & broadband access for low income & disadvantaged groups.
  • Digital Industry: Support the growth of creative, digital and cultural sectors.
  • Reputation: Promote the regions digital and creative industry sectors and position the region as a place where talented people and start-ups want to live.
  •  Investment: Develop support networks to enable start-ups to access funds for growth.

This Friday 30 November, 2012 the vision starts to become reality as we mark the official launch of Hunter DiGiT with a special breakfast and day-long Expo.

Topics to be discussed include:

  • Technology Use in the Hunter 2012
  • Why embracing digital is important to our region
  • Telehealth
  • Gov 2.0 Looking to the Future
  • Legal matters in a digital age
  • Today’s New Business Model
  • How to market to the World

Speakers and panelists include:

Brendan Brooks President of Hunter DiGiT, Tim Owen, AM, MSS MP, Isabel Boniface – Microsoft, Anthea Bill – Hunter Valley Research Foundation, Gareth Berry – Unleashed, Craig Wilson – Sticky, Matt Crozier – Bang the Table, Anthony Scully – ABC, Jason Rumianek – Hunter Medicare Local, Roger Pryor, Roderick Smith – Evescourt Legal, Nick Bowditch – Facebook, Stephen Bourne - Business & Commercial Lawyer at Mananua Inc, Tim Holloway – Deputy, Marcus Westbury – Renew Australia, Damien Mahoney – Stackla, Gareth Berry – Unleashed, Nick Bartlett – GeoOP, Wayne Schmidt – Xero, Roger Gregg – Invitbox, Tim Holloway – Deputy HR

There will also be a range of businesses showcasing their innovative products and services. you’ll be surprised to learn how much talent and how many great little innovative companies are now in Newcastle. It’s going to be an exciting day.

The team behind Hunter DiGiT have worked tirelessly to put this together and kick-start the digital economy here in Newcastle. Their doing it not for profit but because they love this town and want to see innovation and technology prosper here.

Now its your turn to get on board. What do you have to do? Just turn up. The Expo is free to attend. Meet great local businesses, hear some informative presentations and discussions. Get involved.

The wheels are now turning. “All aboard!!!”

2012 Internet trends and the re-imagination of everything

Want more evidence that no industry is immune from the current pace of change? Then this post is chock full of examples.

Last time I was in San Francisco I attended the Web 2.0 Summit featuring many of the web-tech industry’s biggest names. One of the best presentations was by Mary Meeker, at the time an analyst for Morgan Stanley. Mary is so good at reading the trends and industry directions that she was then poached by leading Silicon Valley VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers. In short, when Mary speaks the industry listens.

Mary has just published her 2012 Internet Trends Report and it makes for interesting reading.

But what I’d really like to share are the slides from 29-86 which cover the way technology has re-imagined so many industries in recent times. As Mary says, these are still early days, we’re still in Spring training.

The presentation also covers:

  • Global Internet usage
  • Mobile usage
  • Mobile device evolution
  • Mobile monetization transition
  • Platform firehoses
  • The trend of “re-imagination” of almost everything (no industry is immune)
  • The economy
  • US consumer sentiment
  • The tech “bubble”

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The Evolution of SXSW [Infographic]

by [me]

Recently I have been championing a move to hold a large innovation and tech festival in Newcastle, Australia. We’re calling it DiG. So far it has a group of people working on the concept, a website and Twitter handle. We’ve still got a long way to go.

The encouraging thing is that “from little things big things grow”. Look at this infographic from the team at Rock Sauce Studios on the rise and rise of SXSW in Austin, Texas. They only expected 150 to show up to the first year, they got 700. This year the Interactive Festival at SXSW drew over 19,000 visitors.

SXSW has been amazing for the Austin economy and a fantastic event for launching new products and services. Maybe one day DiG could have a similar effect here in Australia.

Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from my media & music presentation at Public Sphere

Characteristics of new digital media and music environment:

Agile – able to move quickly to develop, produce & release

Independent – no longer controlled by traditional owners

Interruptive – whole industries being radically reinvented or fragmented. Rather than be protectionist we must embrace this otherwise we will be left behind.

Collaborative – clusters, crowd sourcing, geographically diverse

Fresh content – amazing amount of new, fresh content every day which can be organized and curated.

Fluid transactions – push button downloads for apps, music, books, TV shows & movies. New commerce models ie Facebook credits for content.

Issues and Needs for Australia

- Hi speed broadband required to keep pace with rest of world

- Better fostering of innovation – funding, tech VC market (tax incentives?)

- Digital Education – both business and students. Greater emphasis on modern digital practices. (NLYZR study). Strongly question whether current tertiary education is preparing people for the digital economy.

- Celebration of success – plenty of talent and up & coming media & music stories that need to be told. We’ve been proposing a leading event…like sxsw. But needs support and funding.

- Intellectual Property laws and processes are archaic and barely viable for current fast moving digital environment. We require a very different approach to licensing, IP, property “rights” and other elements of the underlying framework.

- Retaining talent in Australia – Oz mafia in Silicon Valley, moving where things happen.

- Overall need to decrease friction and roadblocks to enable rapid delivery of content and transactions.

Rather than laws to protect old establishment industries, new laws to enable creation of new business & industries.

See Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan, Dan Schawbel & now Tim Ferriss for free

Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki

UPDATE 23 SEPTEMBER 2011: Tim Ferriss has just been added to the lineup for The Business Growth Summit. Sign up now to watch Tim and other great speakers online.


There are so many inspiring bloggers, marketers and business leaders out there that it’s nearly impossible to see them all. You could fly to Texas for SXSW Interactive or San Francisco for one of the better web conferences like Web 2.0, but even then you won’t catch all the presentations.

That’s where The Business Growth Summit comes in. Here’s an innovative way to catch some of the worlds best marketers, business leaders and speakers all under one roof……yours.

Chris Brogan

Chris Brogan

The Business Growth Summit is an online conference that allows you to watch what you want when you want, and its happening right now until 30 September.

Already there’s been some excellent presentations by Guy Kawasaki, Peter Kim, Rick Liebling and there are plenty more to come.

Entry is FREE. All you need to do is register and you’ll be sent the links to view each of the presentations.

Dan Schawbel

Dan Schawbel

By the way, I believe I am the only Australian presenting at The Business Growth Summit so please check out my short video: 5 ways to turn your website into a marketing machine and help me fly the flag. I have included a special NLYZR offer on the site beneath my bio if you decide you’re inspired enough to tackle your online marketing.

Finally, an international business & marketing conference we can all attend

Every year there are a range of conferences I’d love to attend. There’s nothing like hearing from some of the best in the business to fuel your creative fires or pick up some excellent ideas that could take your work to the next level.

I try to get to at least one major international conference each year; SXSW in Austin, the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, iStrategy in Sydney are just a few on my radar. The problem with many though is the time and cost involved, especially when you’re based in Australia.

But now we have the opportunity to attend a world class business conference without leaving the office or couch. Best of all, it includes many of the people I’ve flown across the world to listen to. These people are all leaders in their field with some valuable insights into modern business practices.

The Business Growth Summit is a  free online event featuring over 30 leading experts sharing strategies on how to grow a business, leverage opportunities, and increase profits.

Speakers include Guy Kawasaki (international bestselling author), Chris Brogan (top 5 ranked blogger), Amy Cosper (editor at Entrepreneur Magazine), Jon Gordon (bestselling author), Ryan Blair (multimillionaire serial entrepreneur), Tim Sanders (former executive at Yahoo!), Michael Hyatt (chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers), and more.

I’m very proud to have been invited to join these leading identities to be one of the presenters at The Business Growth Summit. I’ll be discussing The 5 Ways to Turn Your Website into a Marketing Machine.

See for details and to REGISTER today!

Could you DiG a SXSW in Newcastle?

Recently I have been proposing a festival for Newcastle along the lines of SXSW in Austin,Texas. We’ve had some really good discussions about it at The Lunaticks Society events and Newcastle Coffee Mornings.

I am proposing that we call it The DiG Festival (Design, Interactive and Green-tech).

I have told anyone who will listen that Austin during SXSW is one of the most exciting places on the planet, and it’ be great to create some of that excitement here too.

I just came across this excellent little video that really illustrates how exciting SXSW really is. The Interactive section runs fro about 1.45 to 4mins but the whole lot is worth a look and could be inspiration for a larger event in the future.

Could you DiG a SXSW in Newcastle? I know I could.

Conferences & events on my radar

Some of the action at Web 2.0 Expo in SFO

Its important to get out of the office (and country) sometimes to stimulate ideas, meet some more interesting people and expand horizons. Here are some of the conference and events on my radar at the moment:

Newcastle Digital Showcase hosted by The Lunaticks Society of Newcastle – looking forward to hearing from local innovators.

TEDx Newy – still being planned but should stir up some stimulating talk later this year.

Web 2.0 Expo in New York City – I attended the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco in 2008 and the Web 2.0 Summit there last year. Both great events where I learnt a lot. The NYC event promises to be just as good.

SXSW Interactive – This is an amazing event. Mad, stimulating, hectic and informative. Anyone working in tech and new media should visit SXSW at least once. I attended in 2008 but missed the last two. Aiming to get amongst it again in 2012.