In a sunny, leafy renovated warehouse in Sydney’s Chinatown, a group of entrepreneurs are working on projects they hope will crack the lucrative middle class market in Asia.
Those working at the Haymarket HQ co-working space, which opened in October, are making progress on businesses involving travel, virtual reality, brokering services, IT and hardware.
They all have something in common: a connection to Asia or ambition to grow into Asia.
Analysts anticipate that China will become the next Silicon Valley, with the value of venture capital investment in internet businesses coming in at $20.3 billion in 2015, outpacing the United States, which invested $16.3 billion, according to PwC.
Jemma Xu is the chief executive and co-founder of Tripalocal, an online travel platform which links Chinese travellers with local experiences, and focuses on short-term education at Australian universities.
“Initially Tripalocal was a broad-based travel-themed experiential platform, and over time that we found the particular theme that was of interest was educational travel,” she told ABC News.
Ms Xu said, as China’s economy remains sluggish, Chinese parents will look for ways to help their children standout and education is one of them.
The company is still in its early stages but Ms Xu said they anticipated seeing thousands of students use the platform in the coming months.
“Universities do have programs and, for them, it makes sense,” she said.
“It could be a way to recruit more students but, more importantly, it helps them generate revenue, it’s a commercial arm of universities.”
Ms Xu also sits on the advisory board of Haymarket HQ, and said the co-working space is a “great nodal point to aggregate investors, mentors, people who have experiences in Asia”.
A growing number of Australian start-ups are eyeing the lucrative Asia market, aiming to make the most of a middle class hankering for high-quality food, healthcare and education.
“Often times Asian opportunities are left out, but now it’s becoming increasingly more important, more and more people are becoming aware of the potential they have in Asia,” said Duco van Breemen, general manager at Haymarket HQ.
“They’re growing incredibly quick. [Our] biggest trading partner is China, fastest growing partner is Vietnam.
“Asia is becoming increasingly important and it’s better to capitalise and to learn about this opportunity now than to wait and see what happens.”
Another co-working space, Fishburners earlier this year said it would launch its first overseas office in Shanghai as a landing pad for start-ups looking to crack the Chinese market.
The Australian Government has designated landing pads around the world in Berlin, San Francisco, Shanghai, Singapore and Tel Aviv to foster international growth in the sector.
It has two in Asia, following a trend that sees more and more start-ups eyeing China and the Asian region.
“There is a need for a space like [Haymarket HQ] here in Australia where start-ups can make the first step into Asia from home, which is usually a costly exercise and it costs a lot of time as well,” Mr van Breemen said.
Five Chinese companies have valuations of at least $10 billion and 37 are valued at $1 billion or more according to research firm CB insights, and the number of “unicorn companies” in China is expected to rapidly increase over the next few years.
Unicorn companies are those with a valuation of $US1 billion or higher.
Victoria Kung, director of partnerships and marketing at the China Australia Millennial Project, also works at Haymarket HQ and said one of their hopes is to be able to foster the next Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Ma, founder of billion dollar conglomerate Alibaba.
“When you have such a good mix of people together who are interested in the Australia-China space, great things can happen, anything can happen really,” she said.