One 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.
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.