The annual Spark Festivalthe largest national event for Australia’s startup community, is the latest victim of reduced funding for the industry and will not take place this year
festival director Maxine Sherrien left the organization on Friday after nearly seven years, after successfully running the show on the road during Covid and online events lockdowns saw the festival expand dramatically from its base in Sydney.
Sherrie told Start up daily that while existing supporters had renewed their commitments to the 15-day festival, the organization had been unable to raise the level of funding needed to maintain Spark as an ongoing annual activity. As a result, the board has suspended operations.
As well as organizing and coordinating hundreds of events across Australia, the Spark boss also wrote a weekly email highlighting events and talks for the startup sector, and organized other events throughout the year.
Sherrin said the board is now looking at how best to support the evolving needs of startups and others in the ecosystem, pointing to the return of Startup Muster and Tech23 as positive signs.
“The board is currently assessing how best to work with the available funding, but I am afraid at this stage it is difficult to commit dates for Spark Festival in 2023,” she said.
“I am incredibly proud of the work we have all done to grow and connect the ecosystem since Spark first started in 2016. The change is quite eye-pleasing and it’s all thanks to people hosting events, participating in meetups, or sharing your learnings and connections so generously.
“And a huge thank you to all the organizations that have supported Spark financially and in kind over the years. Your contribution has built the ecosystem we see today.”
Sherrin said she’s going to take a few weeks off to figure out what’s next.
“It is sad to think that Spark is coming to an end in its current form. But it really makes me feel good when I think of the thousands upon thousands of little connections that have been made, all those lightbulb moments that have been sparked and what could be emerging now,” she said.
“When I first started in this role on almost the exact same day in 2016, I hardly knew anyone in the startup community, had vaguely heard of this cool place called Fishburners, and was soon googling terms like fintech and SaaS, so I wouldn’t look like a complete n00b.”
She chuckles at the similarities to startup life, feeling discouraged that she had to “deliver something with maximum impact, in a very short time frame and with minimal resources,” and thanks the NSW Government And City of Sydney for their foundation funding, in addition michael long, Victoria MoxeyAnd Jack Qi and his team at William Buck,
“It’s hard to put commercial value on things like ‘community.’ Your commitment to doing that is incredibly appreciated,” she said.
“What struck me from the start was how willing people were to get involved in the project that became Spark Festival. And that was because 2016 was definitely the right time to start something that put the dots together and created the networks and connections that build this thing that we call a startup ecosystem. And now is definitely the right time for something new.”