The Age

The growing allure of start-ups

Author: Larissa Nicholson
Date: 02/08/2014
Words: 543
Source: AGE
          Publication: The Age
Section: News
Page: 20
Colourful cartoon animals helped Kym Huynh buy a house.

In the late 1990s the 15-year-old Melburnian was besotted with the popular online game Neopets and from his bedroom he built a fan website, Pink Poogle Toy, on which to share articles and tips. Advertisers approached him and soon the site was earning the shocked teenager between $US3000 ($3200) and $4000 a month.

He went on to study law and commerce and was working in a corporate job when a car accident prompted him to re-evaluate his life and pursue his passion - creating things from scratch.

WeTeachMe, an online education marketplace that he founded with best friend Demi Markogiannaki and two colleagues, has been running successfully for three years.

"I think it's an innate quality someone has, wanting to go out and start a company," said Mr Huynh, now 30. "It's a bit of insanity, wanting to make the world as you see it."

Melbourne is in the midst of a mini technology start-up boom, years after the scene took off in the US.

But founders of technology start-ups in Melbourne do not typically fit the cliche of teenage IT geniuses, a leader in the industry says. Rather, they are often people in their late 20s, 30s or older who wanted to change their lives.

Matt Allen runs the Melbourne branch of Founder Institute, an organisation that coaches and fosters people developing fledgling technology start-ups, and he said the average age of his participants was 38.

Most were not even working in the IT industry, he said, but were bored with their jobs and looking for a change.

Alex Haggerty, 28, had wanted a job in biotechnology, but after finishing a master's degree found it impossible to get work in the field. His first start-up, an online marketplace for fashion graduates to sell one-off pieces, stalled because of a lack of funding.

But he is excited about the progress of Taggd, his online sales tool that uses customers' photos to sell fashion, and is already well into the development of his next venture, Echo Health, making bracelets that people with epilepsy can wear to alert loved ones when they are having a fit. He also has a notebook full of new start-up ideas.

Lack of investment is a major hurdle facing Australian start-ups, according to RMIT entrepreneurship expert Kosmas Smyrnios.

But it is not one that faced Maia Bryant, 25, who has already secured the support of a number of investors for her first start-up, which will sell pre-loved, designer clothes from the wardrobes of some of Australia's most fashionable and successful women, taking an editorial, stylised approach to online retail.

Ms Bryant describes herself as typical of Generation Y, having pursued several careers during just a short time in the workforce.

The highs and lows of starting your own business have proved addictive for Andrew Julian, 30, who dropped out of university after one semester to build a business with his brother Scott.

By the time he was 23 they sold the site, an online shopping cart, for $1 million. The brothers then launched Effective Measure, an audience measurement company, which now employs more than 50 people. They are now working on, a site that will help consumers search for movies and TV shows in different content providers.

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