Entrepreneurial Aussies return to their hometown of Melbourne as the city's thriving business scene means being overseas is no longer necessary to get ahead.

When Melbourne local, Brett Adam, thought about returning to Australia in 2015 after nearly two decades in Silicon Valley, he realised that it was the right time; he relocated to his hometown to take a job with IT giant, Zendesk, heading up their Melbourne office.

"When I left, nobody knew what a start-up was," says Brett, now the Managing Director and VP of Engineering at Zendesk Australia & New Zealand. "That's entirely changed:  Melbourne is now an extremely active early-stage business scene. These aren't just technology start-ups; there's also a lot of emerging businesses and new business ideas. It was evident to me, and Zendesk, that Melbourne was now the place to be."

Solid ground

Global players like Zendesk not only bring jobs to Victoria, they also add to the growing culture of innovation that is now an essential part of the state's entrepreneurial ecosystem.

In return, Melbourne has its own rewards.

Adam says Zendesk has grown since opening their Melbourne office, and he knows why: "We've found solid ground in Melbourne" he says, pointing to the city's deep pool of talent and its vibrant, dynamic business culture.  

The liveability asset

Melbourne was ranked as the world's most liveable city for the fifth year running in the Economist Intelligence Unit's 2016 Global Liveability Index. Adam says it's a big part of why Melbourne is such an ideal place to invest and do business.  

"It's not just the talent pool, culture, and attitude; it's the diversity as well," he says. "There are lots of people from different walks of life, and a better work-life balance.

"There is an awareness amongst companies like Zendesk that what you really want is sustainable activity; you want sustainable innovation. That means you've got to pay attention to good work-life balance: It's about working and living in a way that encourages the right sort of culture and the right sort of values within the company."

Innovation Expert Panel

Doing that often involves stepping outside the company. In February this year, Brett joined the Victorian Government's Innovation Expert Panel, an independent board made up of industry leaders to help advance the innovation agenda in Victoria.

"My foreign technology experience is useful for the panel," Adam says. "I'm an example of the many people that are now returning to Melbourne; involvement on panels or forums enables us to aggregate that experience and see what else can evolve from it."

Innovation as an Adjective

The need to innovate in a constantly changing world is a given. What Adam would like to see, though, is the evolution of a mindset that understands innovation as embodying the values of collaboration and diversity.

"It takes all sorts of participants for a really healthy, innovative economy: it takes government; it takes small, medium and large business; it takes local, home-grown, as well as foreign participation," he says.

"It's not just science and tech. It really takes people who come together collaboratively and ask how they can work together to embrace positive, constructive change that helps drive an innovative economy."