Wollongong: a perfect blend of mountains, sea and city. I’m a Wollongong local and I founded Devika right on the sands of North Wollongong beach. It’s a large regional centre just 70km south of Sydney, with a lot of amazing attributes, but whenever I talk business I’m always being asked, “so, when are you going to move your company to the Sydney CBD?”
I visited Silicon Valley a few years ago and realised that no matter where your business is, you’ve still got the same four walls. What’s more important is how you grow your business, how you lead your team, the standard you hold everyone to and how to provide an environment that people cherish and want to stay a part of.
After graduating from the University of Wollongong with a degree in IT (and a major in e-business), I ran my family business, now known as Speedmaster. In the first three years I transformed the family-run car parts wholesaler into a Top 100 Retailer, eventually positioning Speedmaster as the leading automotive retailer in Australia (overtaking Supercheap Auto).
How I started my journey as an entrepreneur
It was during my time at Speedmaster that I visited Silicon Valley, and saw ordinary people building extraordinary businesses. Figuring that I would rather participate in the emergence of new technology rather than just watch, I decided to launch my own company.
My Wollongong-based tech startup Devika currently employs 14 people full-time and specialises in using emerging technology – think virtual reality, artificial intelligence and mobile applications – to build meaningful experiences and solve problems across different industries.
With blue chip clients, including Westpac, Dell, Microsoft and Intel, Devika now services more than 100 clients both in Australia and overseas. Just this month, we announced that we’re an official partner and approved software vendor (ISV) for Virtual Reality content creator, HP Australia.
Wollongong has provided Devika with a solid foundation to build upon through its strong community of developers. As an IT graduate from the University of Wollongong, I’ve experienced the community first-hand and seen other software developers emerge from the vibrant seaside city over the years.
When I founded Devika, I decided wanted to fill the company with passionate people and Wollongong’s software development community is a great place to find them. I’ve always wanted to actively engage with the Wollongong community and it’s been deeply moving to see how Devika has been welcomed by the region’s developers.
What makes Wollongong so great for business
Besides the relaxed lifestyle and passionate development community, there are also key operational advantages to being located in Wollongong. Operational costs are much lower than major cities and because we don’t have as many local sales opportunities means we’re forced to think global. From day one we’ve been pushed towards international clients which have grown us exponentially. This strategy is common for technology companies from small populations (such as New Zealand) where they need to think globally from day one.
It’s entirely possible to build a successful company outside of capital cities: you shouldn’t have to leave your city of origin just because you’ve grown or because you want to grow. As long as your company thrives and your team is happy, why does it matter where you’re located? Just keep doing the things meaningful to you and your business and it won’t matter where you are.
The community support in Wollongong is a strong advantage for startups; we’re supported by organisations like Invest Wollongong which is a partnership between Wollongong City Council, the NSW Government and the University of Wollongong that provides practical programs that tangibly support startups and scaleups.
Put simply, Devika is a prime example of a startup/scaleup that proves it’s entirely possible to build a successful company outside of capital cities, and to love where we live at the same time.
Ken Kencesvki is the Managing Director of Devika.