Hiller Sperry is an American student-athlete (lacrosse) about to finish a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Business and Management from Wheaton College, Massachusetts. Hiller currently is spending this semester taking classes at Boston University- Sydney and internship at North Sydney Innovation Network.(Twitter: @HillerNSIN / Facebook: Hiller Sperry)
On October 19th, a diverse crowd of innovators, startup founders, government officials, venture capitalists, networkers, and volunteers gathered at the State Library of New South Wales to kick off Spark Festival Australia 2018. Attendees and startup ecosystem players listened to a series of several speakers promote this years Spark Festival and recognize those who make the festival possible every year. With the intention and almost pep-talk from the speakers of how this year’s two week festival was going to be the best one yet, it was obvious that everyone was keen and eager to partake in what Spark Festival 2018 had to offer.
The rooms of the State Library lit up with bright pink from this years choice of Spark Festival main colors. From banners to T-Shirts to digital ads, the rooms of the library screamed Spark Festival 2018 and dragged the participants of the launch party in to find out what this year was all about. The night began with a handful of volunteers greeting the attendees and passing out name cards. Networking amongst everyone immediately followed with the catering service offering a delicious variety of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. As more and more people began filling into the main speaker room of the library, it was evident that it was going to be a crowded event, but very well worth the shoulder bumping.
The first speaker to get the crowd excited was Maria Macnamara, Non-Executive Director on the board of Spark Festival, the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce and the International Women’s Forum (Australia). Maria spoke about how this years Spark Festival was going to surpass the ones in previous years based on the increase in the number of events and numbers that were going to be present over the two week festival. Maria extended her appreciation towards all those contributing to the success of Spark Festival and to those who make this amazing event happen. It was clear that Maria, who is highly regarded amongst the Spark Festival and NSW Startup ecosystem was nothing shy of enthusiastic about this years Spark Festival, and neither was the crowd when she finished her speech.
The next person to speak was Murray Hurps, Director of Entrepreneurship at University of Technology. Former CEO of Fishburners, and CO-Founder/ Director of Startup Muster. Hurps gave a review of how the NSW startup ecosystem has grown so much in the past years and gave insight on how it was not going to stop growing. He have a presentation of the 2017 Startup Muster Report and explained how each category affected the ecosystem, as well as how those categories were only subject increase in percentages and numbers in the upcoming years.
Nicole Cook, the CEO of Jobs for NSW was the next to speak, and did the room light up. Nicole began sharing her story of her time in the United States and the crazy journey of jobs that she has taken over the past years. Nicole was clearly an inspiration for a lot of the players in the ecosystem based on her role in Jobs for NSW and all that she has done. Based on what I learned from everything that Jobs for NSW for people in New South Wales, it was evident that she is one of the biggest key players in the startup and innovation ecosystem.
The last, but not least speaker of the night was the Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Matt Kean. What almost seemed like a pre game locker room talk , Kean dove into the growth of the startup and innovation ecosystem and recognized all of the people and organizations that were able to make that possible. Matt outlined several ways in how this years Spark Festival was going to dominate those in years past, but also how the startup and innovation ecosystem in NSW was about to take off. He compared NSW to Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, and other regions that are known for their startup presence and stated with confidence, that NSW is going to become as big as those regions in the immediate future.