Running a web design business on the Gold Coast

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Why the Gold Coast is the best place to run a digital agency

Queensland’s Southeast has recently ranked as Australia’s fastest growing region for the technology sector and the beautiful Gold Coast, amongst the top 10 fastest growing regions for technology in the country. No wonder businesses like Five by Five have chosen to headquarter here to run their web design here.

This, partnered with the aspect that many people, including business leaders, are moving to the Gold Coast for a sea-change, which you could argue has been accelerated by the pandemic, puts our backyard on the map as a growing business hub and place of innovation.

In this interview with our founder of Five by Five Web Design, Jon Hollenberg we asked why the Gold Coast is hands down the best place to run a digital business?

Jon Hollenberg

Jon Hollenberg – Founder of Five by Five

Q: So why did we choose the Gold Coast as the place to start Five by Five? 

A: This was purely a lifestyle decision. I moved to the Gold Coast 15 years ago from Melbourne. My parents had lived here and I would holiday regularly during the year. Building websites during Melbourne Winters really suck! As I was working mainly online, I thought what the hell, I may as well be doing this in the sunshine near some great surf! On one of my holidays up North, I was amazed when I saw people surfing in board shorts mid Winter and wanted in on this action.

So at the ripe old age of 25, I packed my life into my small hatchback car, drove 2000km’s North and operated my small digital agency from my parents spare bedroom in Miami.

Jon Hollenberg Home Office Gold Coast

Five by Five’s first home office at Miami, Gold Coast in 2007

I didn’t tell my clients I left town but continued to answer the calls & emails and would fly down once a month and show my face and say hello.

Coming from Melbourne which was recognised as the foodie & coffee capital of the world it was hard to get a good coffee in James St, Burleigh Heads and culturally felt like a bit of a step backwards.  As the years progressed, this has changed a lot with lots of Mexicans (people South of the border) have come up and started coffee shops & restaurants. Fast forward 15 years and we are now spoilt for choice for coffee & food.

Five By Five Office Miami

Five by Five’s next office in Miami, Gold Coast 2011

The pandemic has accelerated remote working with clients are much more open to working with remote suppliers (non-issue anymore).

I have since married, had kids and couldn’t think of a better place to raise a family. Other amazing things that the Gold Coast has going for it:

  • Access to a major airport which means you can jump on a plane to most places in Australia in a hop, skip & jump (great for when we can all travel again)
  • Close proximity to Brisbane
  • Still affordable housing & office space (although this is quickly changing!)
Five By Five Team Burleigh Heads

Five by Five team in 2021 which is now a team of almost 30

Q: What has your experience been like to date as a tech operator on the Coast, from start-up phase to established business? How have you seen the area develop?

A: Similar to my experience above, there is so much talent flocking to the Gold Coast. Designers, programmers, project managers & sales professionals are moving here purely for lifestyle. To hire any of these roles 15 years ago was difficult with not a lot to select from in terms of candidates.

The sophistication of our clientelle has also changed. 15 years ago there were lots of very small “sole trader” style businesses. Finding work was really hard! We are now servicing big clients that moved here choosing to headquarter themselves at the Gold Coast.

Co-working spaces have exploded are full or creatives, programmers and consultants spending lots of time on laptops. 

The Gold Coast still has a “small town” community feel about it. Most people in business knows everyone. Your reputation is very important. Screw someone over and it will come back to bite you at some point. This is how we have scaled our business by doing a good job and getting referred over and over again.

Gold Coast Web Design Community

Five by Five regularly hosts meet ups and networking events

Q: The Gold Coast has been ranked amongst the top 10 fastest growing regions for technology in the country. What are some of the key opportunities you think this growth and the wider nation’s tech boom could bring to conducting business on the Gold Coast?

A: There are so many reasons for this including:

  • There has been significant investment in infrastructure such as the light rail (accessibility within the Coast), M1 extension (access to Brisbane) and Coolangatta International Airport investment (when travel resumes)
  • Internet speeds are good (although could always be better!)
  • Affordability of commercial space to setup an office
  • Super strong supportive community. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed. Plenty of opportunities to rub shoulders with super smart people doing cool things!
  • QLD government has been very pro-business through grants & incentives during COVID
  • Gold Coast City Council are great and have a range of incentives in place (cash rebates for investment in infrastructure / job creation rebates etc.)
  • Massive investment will be made in South East Queensland in the lead up to the 2032 Olympic Games.
Q) What are some of the factors that make the Gold Coast an ideal spot to establish and operate a tech business, and conduct business in general? What sets it apart from cities like Sydney and Melbourne?

A: I couldn’t imagine living back in a big city. My day to day existence is largely a stress free one because:

  • My commute to the office is no more than 10 minutes (assuming you avoid the school traffic)
  • I can ride my bike or even walk in
  • Our dress code is smart casual (no power suits required at the Gold Coast). Infact, most of the time, I am lucky to have shoes on
  • The sun shines on average 300 days per year (massive from a positivity & mental health factor)
  • 75% of my time I don’t actually work from the office instead opting for a coffee shop or even a park bench down on Burleigh Headland, going for a dip, working on my tan and watching the waves in between emails and calls
  • People are very health focused and tend to look after themselves better from a physical perspective
Jon Hollenberg Working Burleigh Heads

Jon Hollenberg working down at the beach in Burleigh Heads

Q) The new Tech Council of Australia was recently formed to boost the growth of Australia’s tech sector, support talent, and develop effective regulatory settings. How important do you think this alliance will be for the future of tech here?

A: Just look at the success of businesses such as Canva, Safety Culture and Campaign Monitor who now have billion dollar valuations. These businesses were started in garages & spare bedrooms. It would be amazing to see more tech unicorns come out of the Gold Coast & Australia. As Australia’s position in the world continues to evolve to more knowledge based work, harbouring talent ensuring businesses & people stay in Australia is critical

Q) Finally, what advice would you give anyone, anywhere in the world, considering a career and lifestyle change to the Gold Coast?

A: Take the plunge! You won’t regret it. This is hands down one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. I met my wife here, my kids are flourishing, I have a rapidly expanding business and amazing lifestyle where I can surf all year round! 

About the author
Jon Hollenberg
With over 20 years experience within the web industry, Jon is an expert in online marketing and online growth strategies. Over the last ten years he has worked with iconic brands such as Qantas, Jeep and the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary plus hundreds of other businesses Australia wide. Jon is a published author of "Love at first site - How to build the website of your dreams".
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