Startup Muster – Featuring Murray Hurps & Maria MacNamara

Jun 2, 2023

EPISODE PROMO_Startup Muster_01

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Post Published: 19.09.2019
Post Updated: 02.06.2023

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Episode Summary

Today you’ll hear the story of Startup Muster through its founder Murray Hurps. Startup Muster is a report that produces the most comprehensive data on the Australian startup ecosystem to measure and publish the progress, challenges, and opportunities within the startup ecosystem.

Startup Muster is important because the startup world here in Australia is, in no sense of the word booming. But it could be, and Startup Muster aims to make the data available for us to course-correct our ship. All hands on deck, let’s go back to day one, where this story begins…

Episode Overview

Startup Muster is back in 2023. Learn more here.

00:00: Murray Hurps discusses Australia’s potential to capitalize on the global digital marketplace. He suggests that the country should focus more on digital services instead of traditional exports.

00:40: Adam Spencer introduces the podcast, focusing on the stories of Australian startups and organizations that support them.

00:59: Hurps introduces himself as the director of entrepreneurship for UTS and the co-founder of Startup Muster, an organization that aims to provide comprehensive data on the Australian startup ecosystem.

01:53: Hurps recalls his early experiences as a teenager starting a tech company, acknowledging the current opportunities in the startup sector that weren’t present during his time.


02:25: Spencer shares the history of Startup Muster, detailing how it began in 2015 and highlighting Hurps’s dedication to its cause in his spare time.

03:39: Hurps details the beginnings of Startup Muster, explaining his process of building the survey and consulting with different startup-supporting organizations to gather data.

04:14: Hurps recalls the early stages of the startup industry in Australia five years ago, emphasizing the lack of data availability at the time.

05:47: Maria MacNamara underlines the importance of measurement in progress, endorsing the work of Startup Muster in reporting on the health of the innovation entrepreneurship ecosystem in Australia.

06:52: Spencer discusses the early stages of Startup Muster, revealing how Hurps funded the organization himself in its first two years.

07:33: Hurps appreciates Monica Wulff for volunteering to validate the statistical approaches used by Startup Muster. Wulff would later become the CEO of Startup Muster.

08:39: Hurps shares how Startup Muster attracted Google and the Department of Industry Innovation and Science as major supporters after the first two self-funded years.

09:53: MacNamara shares the funding struggles of Startup Muster, noting its need for government support to maintain objectivity and independence.

10:53: Despite funding challenges, Hurps asserts the continuance of Startup Muster, emphasizing the importance of proper representation of Australian startups.

11:48: Hurps explains the value of Startup Muster in data collection from busy startup founders, highlighting its unique position of trust established over five years.

14:04: MacNamara praises the role of Startup Muster in supporting female founders, emphasizing its comprehensive data collection approach.


Episode Transcript

Murray Hurps: Our export profile in Australia is things that we dig up or grow and ship overseas for the first time in human history, you can address every customer in the world, in service, every customer in the world from a laptop in Sydney as a 16 year old, and we’re not doing that. Uh, we’re still going into the same jobs and trying to dig things up or, or grow them and ship them overseas.

Murray Hurps: We have a wonderful export opportunity. That doesn’t care that we’re in Australia and provides much bigger opportunities than what we’re realizing through any other industry at the moment. Uh, and we’re not pursuing it and we need to.


Adam Spencer: Hi,  I’m Adam Spencer, and welcome to day one, the show that goes back to the very beginning to share the untold stories of incredible Australian startups and the organisations that support them.

Adam Spencer: Today you’re going to hear the story of Startup Muster through its founder Murray. 

Murray Hurps: I’m Murray Hurps. I’m the director of entrepreneurship for UTS. Uh, also co-founder of Startup Muster. 

Adam Spencer: Startup Muster is a report that produces the most comprehensive data on the Australian startup ecosystem with the goal of measuring and publishing the progress, challenges and opportunities within the startup ecosystem.

Adam Spencer: Startup Muster is important because the startup world here in Australia is in no sense of the word booming, but it could be. And Startup Muster aims to make the data available for us to course correct our ship. All hands on deck. And let’s go back to day one where this story begins.

Adam Spencer: We start this story off with Murray taking us back to when he was a teenager, starting his little startup. 

Murray Hurps: When I was 16, starting my little startup, uh, there was no incubators, accelerators, not as we know them today. All the investors that I spoke to were overseas. Uh, all the people we hired were overseas.

Murray Hurps: It was a very different time, and that company did okay, but I wonder. How it would’ve gone if I would’ve started it today, uh, with the wonderful opportunities that are all around us now, and I wonder how far we can push that, uh, and what kind of potential we can realize, uh, through the work that I’m doing.

Adam Spencer: Murray is an amazing champion for startups in Australia, and by listening to that little snippet, we can begin to understand what drives him to be that champion. But he’s too modest to ever admit what he is. Startup must have started in 2015, and by started, I mean the first report was released. Well before that though, Murray was doing a lot of groundwork all in his spare time.

Murray Hurps: Uh, I’ve got a, a. Terrible habit of coding things myself, uh, because I like coding. Uh, it’s why I started doing what I was doing when I was seven years old. I started coding, was kind of consulting out doing reverse engineering work when I was 14, uh, launched at Munch when I was 16. And never kind of figured out that I should stop coding.

Murray Hurps: So the first version of Startup Muster was, uh, this myself developing the survey. I, I knew this was a transient audience, uh, and we needed a lot of data points collected. So to develop a custom survey that showed you how you fit into the ecosystem as you progressed through it, tried some interesting kind of sharing mechanisms to help virality of the survey and help it spread within the community as well.

Murray Hurps: And just, Pursuing that while also doing a lot of consultation with different organisations who support startups to, to ask what do you need to understand to better support startups? And incorporating all of those data points into what was being collected. 

Adam Spencer: Murray’s steadfast in his conviction that Australia needs a Startup Muster or an equivalent organisation for the purpose of that, which I alluded to in the introduction.

Adam Spencer: Things aren’t going as well as they could be, and we need data to help us get a clear picture of where we are now to help us move forward into the future. 

Murray Hurps: Five years ago, imagine nacent startup industry in Australia. A couple of small spaces opening up. Fishburners had been open for a couple of years at the time.

Murray Hurps: Uh, I was a member at Fishburners, uh, but wasn’t involved in running it and was doing a little bit around, uh, startup Oz and different organisations that were trying to support in the creation of more startups in Australia. And was becoming a little bit frustrated that there wasn’t good data available.

Murray Hurps: Uh, there’d been a few reports out around the time, uh, from respectable organisations but if you look at the underlying data, uh, there’s definitely big question marks over the data sources that were in use at the time, and I thought, If this industry has any hope of succeeding, uh, it needs to be able to communicate what it’s doing, what impact it’s having, what problems it’s having, uh, and communicate it freely and broadly so people that want to support it or even people that don’t understand it, know why it’s important and how it can be supported.

Murray Hurps: Like we’re flying blind in so many ways that a lot of money is spent in different programs and, and different policies are designed with good intentions, but without that kind of data that I think people expect them to be, uh, incorporating into those 

Adam Spencer: decisions. The bottom line is the potential of the startups in Australia to positively impact our whole country cannot be overstated.

Adam Spencer: And the future could be very bright. However, in order to get to that future or indeed reach any meaningful goal, we need to measure our progress. 

Maria MacNamara: It’s really important to manage what you measure, and if you don’t measure, you’re not progressing. Uh, and start up muster measures the, uh, performance of the innovation entrepreneurship ecosystem, and reports on its health and nothing else is comparable in the country.

Adam Spencer: That’s Maria. She’s on the Board of Startup Muster. 

Maria MacNamara: My name is Maria McNamara and I am a non-executive director on three boards, the Spark Festival, the Australia Israel Chamber of Commerce, and the International Women’s Forum. Uh, I also have my own company Portal Ideas and I’m chief cheerleader for a number of other organisations The first, the newest one is New economy.media, uh, which is, uh, a new news site that we are creating. And then I’m also on the advisory board for the China Australian Millennial Project. Uh, I’m a chief cheerleader for Fathom, uh, fathom ai, which is the world’s starter source on the future of work. Uh, and of course, I’m on the advisory board of, uh Startup Muster.

Adam Spencer: As we’ve heard Murray started Startup Muster mostly in his spare time in the beginning, doing all of the work himself. But having worked in the startup world for quite some time before starting Startup Muster. Murray had connections and people he could turn to for help. Maria being one of those people.

Adam Spencer: But another one was Startup Musters two B c e O, Monica Wolf. 

Murray Hurps: I was putting, uh, uh, by far the most time in at the time. Uh, there was a couple of people involved, uh, as advisors that were incredibly helpful. Monica Wolfe, uh, managed to, uh, get the ear of at the time when she was at the abs. Uh, and she’s an incredible person.

Murray Hurps: Uh, uh, much more incredible than. I can explain in, in, uh, in a podcast of this length. But she was happy to volunteer some time to making sure that, uh, some of the statistical approaches we were using were relatively 

Adam Spencer: valid. And Monica would go on to be the c e o of Startup Muster. And although Murray and Monica were the two main people involved in the operations of Startup Muster, there were many other people behind the scenes making sure a report as comprehensive as Startup Muster was beyond reproach.

Adam Spencer: Running an operation that relies so much on trust and accuracy is a time-consuming endeavor. Startup Muster has put out reports for the past four years, studying in 2015, and funding has been integral to being able to do that. But the early days of Startup Muster were the two minute noodle days. Murray and Startup Muster were self-funded for 

Murray Hurps: the first two years, and then managed to, uh, recruit Google and the Department of Industry Innovation and Science as major sub supporters for the following three years.

Adam Spencer: Finding partners that truly want to support and support Australian startups. Have been absolutely crucial to the survival of Startup Muster and allowing it to make the contribution it has made often and unappreciated and. Unnoticed 

Murray Hurps: contribution. We managed to get Google first and bless Alan Noble, the lead of engineering in in Sydney.

Murray Hurps: He’s an incredible person and, and I think Google has a wonderful track record at supporting, uh, startup support organisations uh, around Australia. And with good reason. I think they realize that if there’s a vibrant tech scene in Australia that makes it easier to operate a company like Google makes it easier to attract talent to the country, makes it easier to find talent within the country.

Murray Hurps: Getting 

Adam Spencer: Google on board proved to be an important step because it allowed startup must start to land Other vitally important partnerships. 

Murray Hurps: I think there’s an altruistic approach from Google that I haven’t seen from many other companies. But as soon as they were supportive, uh, the department I think was more willing to match funding and support once they were on board.

Adam Spencer: The department Murray was referring to is the Department of Industry Innovation and Science 

Maria MacNamara: Startup Muster is, was funded by the Department of Industry Innovation and Science for a number of years. Yeah. Uh, and it also received some funding from, um, Google and UTS and others. We don’t have sufficient funding for it to continue, and we’re in the market now and have been for.

Maria MacNamara: Almost two years looking for ongoing funding.

Adam Spencer: When I spoke with Murray, he was really hoping to have the support to make the Startup Muster 2019 report happen. The thing about the 

Maria MacNamara: Startup Muster is that it’s, it’s not something that can be commercialized in a way, in like any other business. Uh, it’s a service.

Maria MacNamara: And in order to retain its integrity, we have to be really careful who we take money from. Uh, the most logical place for it to come is from government. Uh, and I appreciate that everyone knocks on government stall. Uh, but in this instance, it, um, in order to guarantee the objectivity and the independence, it absolutely has to be from government.

Adam Spencer: Today Murray is the Director of Startup Muster and is determined to see Startup Muster survive. 

Murray Hurps: I don’t think it’s a question of whether Startup Muster will continue. I think it’s a question of when it will continue. Uh, we’ve got some partners on board, uh, in terms of data preparation and report preparation, and some of the expensive parts of what we do.

Murray Hurps: We still need funding, uh, and we need funding to a point where I’m confident we can do it well, that we’re not doing a half-assed job. That doesn’t properly represent the wonderful things that are happening in Australia. 

Adam Spencer: The future of Startup Muster is unclear. One thing is crystal clear though.

Adam Spencer: Australia needs Startup 

Murray Hurps: Master. If we can’t get the funding in time for this year, we will take this year to think about what we’re doing to better prepare for next year. But we’ll come back and we’ll come back better. 

Adam Spencer: And here’s why Startup Muster is so valuable and what it does well. What Startup 

Murray Hurps: Muster does well is collect data from busy people, so the technology and the completion rate of the survey.

Murray Hurps: Is for the length of survey we have as well is quite remarkable our ability to get in front of a lot of startup founders and supporters across Australia. Uh, we do better than anyone else has so far, I think. And the third thing we do well is generate trust in people. So for five years all we’ve done is collect.

Murray Hurps: Data and publish it for the benefit of people in the industry. That’s a very hard thing to manufacture overnight. Uh, we’re asking very sensitive questions of people like their revenue, their investment, their plans, their concerns, and I think it’s very hard, uh, to get in that position and I think something that needs to continue or rather not be wasted once that trust has been established.

Murray Hurps: All of 

Adam Spencer: Murray’s professional life. Has been devoted to driving entrepreneurship and startups forward. Everything 

Murray Hurps: that I do is finding larger and larger levers to drive entrepreneurship in Australia, 

Adam Spencer: and he says it is a challenge to do so. That’s part of why Startup Muster as an organisation is so important.

Adam Spencer: It was mentioned earlier in this story that measuring where you are is really important because it allows you to see how far you have to go. And without knowing that, it’s really hard to make plans to get there. 

Murray Hurps: Startup Muster has taught me that we’ve got a lot of work to do in Australia. That what I thought was a booming industry is actually a little bit in trouble at the moment.

Murray Hurps: It’s not growing in the way that it could. And it’s nowhere near the size that it could be or the impact that it could be having. We need good data on what is happening here so that people can understand that problem, that there’s not enough happening here, and why there’s not more happening here. Uh, whether it’s startup must or someone else, or some government body or whatever it needs to be collected, needs to be freely available, needs to be transparent, and we need it soon.

Adam Spencer: Thank you for listening to the Story of Startup Muster. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you got something out of it. Everything that was mentioned in the episode today is on the show notes page on welcome, day one.com/startup hyphen muster. You can follow us on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook by searching Welcome to day one, or clicking the links on the show notes page for this episode@welcomedayone.com slash startup hyphen muster.

Adam Spencer: Thanks for listening to the Startup Muster story on welcome day one. This episode was created by me, Adam Spencer Interviews conducted by me, Adam Spencer. A big thank you to Murray Herbs from Startup Muster and Maria McNamara for taking the time to be involved. The script was written by me, Adam Spencer, music by Lee Roosevelt.

Adam Spencer: Full attribution on our website at welcome today, one.com. This episode was produced by me, Adam Spencer, and edited by Natalie Holland. Thank you and see you next time.


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