Top Tips for your Australian Expansion

Tech Nation, April 22, 2022 4 min read

Are you looking to expand your business to sunnier shores? The Australian tech scene is heating up faster than you can say “put another shrimp on the barbie”.

With federal and state governments across the country investing in attracting UK businesses as well as building homegrown tech, there is ample opportunity to expand and partner with local businesses in a flourishing and vibrant ecosystem.

What to know before you go:

  • Planning makes perfect.

UK tech scaleups can often make the mistake of assuming that Australia is so similar to the UK that expanding there will be as simple as setting up a domain and jumping on a plane. Although there are several similarities in how business is conducted, as well as relatively familiar legal and financial systems, there are a lot of local nuances to take into account.

Firstly, Australia is broken up into six states and two territories. Each of these states governs many things independently and this means you need to choose carefully when deciding which state to set up in. Many international companies think firstly and only of the well known city of Sydney (which is not actually the capital) – but depending on your industry, other states may work better for your business. The only way to know is to do your research. Tech Nation can support you on this. Most of the Australian states also have representation in London who can talk to you as well to help make your decision.

A few quick facts about some of the larger states:

The two most populated states are Victoria and New South Wales.  Between these two states you have over 50% of business and population.

Victoria: Home to the Aus HQ of international tech superstars such as Zendesk, Square, Stripe and Slack, Victoria’s capital city, Melbourne, is known for its more European vibe with an array of cafes and restaurants as well as top notch Tech Talent. Homegrown unicorns include Linktree and CultureAmp.

New South Wales: Homegrown tech giant Atlassian has its HQ in Sydney and it is the home to Canva and international giant’s Google and Facebook.  The NSW Government has recently invested in a Shoreditch style precinct development called Tech Central, hoping to make Sydney the home for Tech in Australia.

South Australia: Made famous by Elon Musk’s investment in a massive battery farm in the state. South Australia is making a name for itself specifically in Hi-Tech including the areas of AI, Machine Learning, Big Data and Cybersecurity.

Queensland: Actually called the Sunshine State, with arguably some of the best weather in the world, it is not just lifestyle that is moving businesses to Queensland and its capital city Brisbane. Queensland has a focus on Energy, Renewables, Bio Fuel and Bio tech as well as waste to energy.

  • Your first hire.

The first person you hire on the ground in Australia is crucial to the success of your business. Australia is a relationship based market and therefore the network that your first hire can bring to your business is a very important consideration.

Due to the massive time difference, for at least half the year – 9am GMT doesn’t occur until 8pm in the eastern states of Australia, this means that your first hire and team needs to be able to work autonomously and get through their days without needing to call HQ. The team on the ground will need a lot of support in the beginning of their journey, particularly to ensure you can infuse your company culture into the new geography.

Currently Australia is experiencing somewhat of a talent shortage. With the Australian border being closed for the last two years, competition for homegrown tech talent is incredibly fierce and thus wages are sometimes 20% more than you would expect to pay in the UK.

  • Go To Market Planning

Understanding your product market fit is really important. Australia is a relationship based business, it is important to undertake a process of making calls to potential clients, not to sell to them but to understand what their pain points are and if your solution would work for them.

As always there is more than one route to market when expanding internationally. From opening up an office to partnering with Australia businesses to entering via the channel. With this in mind the number one thing that you can do to give you the best chance of success and de-risk your entry is to explore each of these routes and ascertain which one is the best for your particular business.

  • Culture Transfer

Your landing team is also a crucial element of your success on the ground.  Once you have made the decision to establish a presence in Australia there will be an opportunity for you to post one or two people from HQ to support the set up of the new office.  This allows for the culture of the business to grow in Australia and for local hires to learn from existing team members and vice versa.

  • Visit the market

With Covid becoming something we all learn to live with, visiting the market to get a real sense of the differences between the locations, hearing from those who have done it before and having conversations with potential customers is invaluable.  You need at least a week to ten days for this to be worthwhile.  A common mistake is to send someone more junior in the organisation or the head of sales.  Having a co-founder or founder as part of this team, or head of international is an important signal to the market that you are serious.

  • Speak to your peers

Speaking to other British companies who have traversed the terrain before can help you smooth out any unforeseen challenges and save you time, money and energy. Tech Nation has helped more than 22 UK companies with their expansion plans into Australia and several of these businesses have “first on the ground” employees and teams in Australia that would be happy to share their advice.

All of these topics and more are explored as part of our Tech Nation International Growth Programmes and bespoke advisory services for Australia. We also help connect you with in-market mentors in your sector. If you are interested in expanding down under please register your interest here. 

Written by Tech Nation’s Head of Australia, Claire Bull, who is based in Sydney.