Recently Ionata Digital Managing Director, Martin Anderson was featured in the IT industry magazine ARN about the challenges and opportunities of being an IT business in Tasmania.
Tasmania – challenges, growth
Tasmanian-based IT service providers and tech innovators experience similar challenges to other states in terms of attracting IT skills and retaining talent. But securing useful, experienced and current advice for their tech investments, is another issue they face. JULIA TALEVSKI speaks to partners about some of the opportunities and challenges they’re facing this year.
Tasmania is experiencing an IT renaissance of creativity and expansion at the moment. The industry is growing, helped by the cabling underneath Bass Strait and the state receiving the nbn roll-out before all other states. This is providing opportunities for remote areas to sustain start-ups, which encourages companies to enjoy regional lifestyles while staying connected to the rest of the world.
Whether it is a Launceston IT business surpassing the $100 million sales mark or a Hobart company, whose software has just been purchased by the largest bank in the US, many success stories show Tasmania punching above its weight.
However, the challenges for Tasmania include the lack of properly educated and trained staff coming out of our university and TAFE to fulfil the expansion needs of some companies and the lack of VC companies, and in part the government, properly investing in the growth of our industry.
I HATE MY PC FOUNDER
As a mobile computer support business servicing homes and SMBs, the main challenges I see in the Tasmanian market is the ongoing struggle to obtain decent Internet connectivity.
While parts of Tasmania have been early to wonderful speeds, most of the people I deal with are struggling with ADSL (and not even ADSL2+), old satellite, or patchy Next G services.
Those who have been lucky enough to get onto nbn services are often treated to poor customer service. I often get called out to a new nbn installation only to find that
it isn’t actually working; then it becomes a battle to get an nbn technician back.
The attractiveness of Tasmania’s low population density is also its Achilles heel. It can be difficult and uneconomical to get decent service and product delivery to people in more remote locations. It’s kind of sad to say, but simply by being punctual, honest, following up and showing empathy, I’ve been able to build a good customer base in a rural area.
ELAN PROJECTS LEADING DIRECTOR
This year has been all about growing our PopUp Wi-Fi product. We work right around Australia, bringing Wi-Fi for events like Stereosonic, Dark MOFO, Gympie Music Muster and Ad:Tech. Companies like Sony, Boost Mobile, Nissan and Vodka O sponsor the Wi-Fi that we customise for them. We also bring fast Internet for crowds anywhere.
While our company is Tasmanian-based, 12 months ago one of our co-founders, Linden Kurth, moved to Sydney to service the mainland.
Our clients are production companies, festival, event and conference organisers.
We face two key challenges in running our business from Tasmania. The first is securing investment to scale PopUp Wi-Fi. This is to meet an already surging demand for our services nationally. The other, is particular to our business model and relates to a lack of Tasmanian population density – there are simply fewer events with sufficient budget to engage with us. We are constantly staggered by the enormous disparity between the affluence on the mainland and in Tasmania.
Basing an office in Sydney has definitely been the difference between sinking or swimming.
They are wealthier and always hungry for the next innovation that will give their event a further point of difference and profitability. People in Tasmania still ask us “does it work?”. 200 events under our belts, yet we frequently get emails from people we’ve never met simply booking the service in Sydney.
As Tasmanian ICT companies enter a period of maturity, the development and implementation of a coherent industry wide strategy is of critical importance to inform strategic pathways for growth and development.
On a different note, we have noticed an interesting trend taking place. Our mainland clients are generally enthusiastic and supportive that we are a Tasmanian Startup. “Brand Tasmania” seems to extend as far. It has been particularly noticeable in the really positive attitude that mainland and even overseas clients demonstrate towards PopUp Wi-Fi being founded and based in Hobart.
I think a key issue toaddress, in order for the tech and innovation landscape in Tasmania to flourish, is for Tasmanians to identify with the attitude that others are increasingly gravitating towards us. The Hobart waterfront area is growing some of Tasmania’s most exciting ICT companies and provides the opportunity to grow the Tasmanian Tech brand through trade missions and through local awareness of what it all means to us.
Doing business is great in Tassie, and getting better if you’re clever and lucky enough to have a revenue-based start-up. If I was hunting for investment for an idea, I’d head elsewhere.
IONATA DIGITAL MANAGING DIRECTOR
As a Web and app development agency, the main challenge we face is continuing to find suitably experienced staff as we grow our team.
Tasmania is a fantastic place to live and work but there is a reduced pool of experienced candidates for positions as they become available. As an agency, we are looking to address this by engaging with local education institutions to meet the next crop of developers and also recruiting team members from interstate. We have recently added team members who were keen to move to Tasmania from Melbourne and Adelaide.
The great thing about working on the Internet is that it allows us to service customers all around Australia and as far away as New Zealand and Malaysia. We help people sell skin care products online in Newcastle and manage public transport ticketing systems in Christchurch.
Although our customers are spread far and wide we have made the decision not to off-shore development work and to focus on building a dynamic team of developers and creative problem solvers in our Hobart office. We value the creative spark that comes from collaborating to solve problems which is why we continue to seek out best available talent to join our team. ?