News State QLD News ‘Silicone Beach’: Queensland the capital of work-from-home tech gurus

‘Silicone Beach’: Queensland the capital of work-from-home tech gurus

Former Silicon Valley tech wiz Chris Boden is one of many digital entrepreneurs heading to the Queensland coast. Photo: Kathleen Donaghey
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From Silicon Valley to relaxed Noosa, tech guru Chris Boden is part of a growing trend of digital entrepreneurs ditching busy cities in favour of coastal lifestyle locations.

Once favoured by Sydney and Melbourne retirees, beachside places like Queensland’s Sunshine and Gold Coasts are now attracting a younger crowd who are bringing their tech skills and start-up ideas with them.

A lack of high-paying and professional work in these tourism-based economies means new arrivals are often forced to create their own jobs, with many opting for the relative affordability of starting an online home enterprise.

The 2016 Census data shows Noosa on the Sunshine Coast has the nation’s highest percentage of people working from home, with many new businesses believed to be in the tech or internet-based sphere.

Sunshine Beach – an upmarket surfside enclave of multi-million dollar mansions – and the Caloundra Hinterland, which includes the popular retirement village of Maleny, complete Queensland’s showing in the top 10.

The creative lifestyle communities around Byron Bay and Mullumbimby, just over the border from Queensland in northern NSW, form another cluster of home-based workers located by the sea.

The census data also lists Victoria’s quaint seaside village of Flinders and Sydney’s northern beachside suburb of Avalon Beach as popular communities for home-based work.

The so-called “IT change” rather than the traditional “sea change” of younger people moving coastal has earned some tech hotspots such as Peregian Beach on the Sunshine Coast the tag “Silicon Beach”.

Success stories include Sunshine Coast-based publishing platform Typefi, which exports to 20 countries and won a federal government Australian Export Award, and Gold Coast business software company Opmantek, which is used in more than 130 countries.

Mr Boden, who led Lonely Planet’s digital transformation as head of its mobile division and was at the forefront of the mobile App boom, opted to leave California’s Silicon Valley to raise his family in Noosa, a favourite holiday destination.

Mr Boden said places like Noosa were coming of age and now provided the supporting infrastructure and services to make living and working in lifestyle communities more feasible.

“I think for many people it would be a no-brainer to move to a place like Noosa if there were jobs on offer,” said Mr Boden, who was recently appointed director of Noosa Shire Council’s $3 million Digital Hub.

The people who do it are either brave and make it work or take the risk to set up their own start up. Necessity is the mother of invention and it forces you to be innovative about how you can make a living.”

Demographer Bernard Salt, managing director of The Demographics Group, has described the pilgrimage of non-retirees to coastal communities as the second “big movement” of Australians seeking lifestyle.

The first great trend created Aussie suburbia, but Mr Salt said the next cultural push would be people choosing where they want to live and creating their own businesses to suit the lifestyle.

“Australians are driven by lifestyle, and what is the ultimate lifestyle? Living by the beach.”

Mr Salt said the first step for many was convincing their employers to let them work from home before making the bold decision to become their own boss.

Gold Coast Innovation Hub CEO Sharon Hunneybell said most start-up businesses on the Gold Coast were home based.

“People move here from Sydney and Melbourne and find there are not the same opportunities here for well-paying jobs, so they make their own living,” she said.

“The rise of the internet has meant the location of online businesses has become less and less relevant.

“We think in the next two years the Gold Coast will emerge as a leading innovation hotspot in Australia.”

Sunshine Coast mum of four Kym Hunter runs an education tech-based business, Champion Life, full-time from home.

The family moved from Canberra to Sunshine Beach purely for lifestyle reasons and Ms Hunter makes the most of the lifestyle by taking refresher breaks from work during the day to swim or walk the dogs.

“Sometimes I sit at the bench at Noosa Main Beach and do my work there,” Ms Hunter said.

“I’m lucky I can live somewhere I can do this.”

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