Tech start-ups could add $109 billion to the Australian economy and create 540,000 new jobs by 2033, according to a new report commissioned by Google.
But that sort of growth – equivalent to a 4 per cent rise in GDP – will only be achieved if high schools start producing more computer science graduates with never-say-die entrepreneurial skills, experts have warned.
"A strong home grown tech sector is vital to future Australian jobs and wealth," Google Australia's engineering director Alan Noble said.
"It's never a better time to be a tech entrepreneur, but we need to act now so that we become a nation of creators and innovators."
There are currently about 1500 tech start-ups in Australia, with 64 per cent in Sydney, 24 per cent in Melbourne and the remainder in Brisbane, Perth, Canberra and Adelaide.
Those companies, mostly in the telco and media sectors, contribute 0.1 per cent of GDP and about 9500 jobs.
But consultants PwC said those totals could rise dramatically within 20 years if more children learned computer sciences from an early age, along with dogged entrepreneurial skills.
PwC's report, The Startup Economy, found the number of Australians graduating with computer science degrees had fallen by two thirds over the past decade, despite huge growth in the global tech sector and its often well-paid employment opportunities.
"This is not a higher education issue, it's about getting people immersed in that skill-set from an earlier age – this is a high school policy issue," said economist and PwC partner Jeremy Thorpe.
PwC's report also found Australian entrepreneurs had a considerably higher "fear of failure" than those in the US and Canada.
Thorpe admitted the failure rate among tech start-ups was high, but said 40 per cent of failed tech entrepreneurs rebounded and tried again, often very successfully.
That willingness to take another punt was crucial to building a strong Australian tech start-up sector, Thorpe said.
"What we need to see is more people take risks," he added.
"This goes back to culture – the culture of not seeing having a go and failing as the end game, but having a go and failing as one step on the road."