Can Aus­tralia be a tech suc­cess?

INSIDE THE MIND OF AUS­TRALIA’S LEAD­ING BUSI­NESS­MAN – YOU CAN THANK US LATER.

GQ (Australia) - - INSIDE -

For all the talk of a na­tional ideas boom – what’s the ac­tual re­al­ity of Aus­tralia be­com­ing a truly in­no­va­tive coun­try and recog­nised global tech hub? A glance at the ASX shows that we re­main stuck with a wealth of big busi­nesses ex­ist­ing in his­tor­i­cally suc­cess­ful in­dus­tries – think min­ing, pri­mary ex­port and fnance. But the min­er­als boom is bust, fnance and food is volatile and it’s time for fore­sight. We need in­vest­ment to fos­ter and grow the tech sec­tor – and we need greater recog­ni­tion for it to four­ish. But is it all just a pipedream? Or will we soon see lo­cal suc­cess sto­ries that can match the US giants that are Ap­ple, Google and Face­book? Im­por­tantly, will we see such even­tu­al­i­ties in our life­time, or have we boarded the tech train too late?

It’s pos­si­ble for Aus­tralia to de­velop those kinds of in­no­va­tive busi­nesses, but re­mem­ber that for a long time we haven’t had the in­fra­struc­ture to make that hap­pen. But, fi­nally, that’s chang­ing. In the case of com­pa­nies like Ap­ple, you’re look­ing at soft­ware de­vel­oped decades ago – things that took a while to be the mas­sive suc­cesses they are today. So, though things do gen­er­ally move a lot quicker these days – from ideas to ex­e­cu­tion – you also have to ex­pect there to be some lead time. While we’re un­doubt­edly in an era of in­no­va­tion – there’s great de­sire in the world for ideas – we shouldn’t ex­pect our tech start-ups and in­no­va­tors to de­liver that global level of suc­cess so sud­denly. That’s not to say it won’t hap­pen in the next decade – be­cause we have peo­ple with the abil­ity to come up with some­thing like an Ap­ple or a Google. I per­son­ally see these types all the time – I have them on my pod­cast ev­ery week, lin­ing up to pitch ideas. And I’m not just talk­ing 10 or so peo­ple, I’m talk­ing hun­dreds. And I re­cently did this thing called ‘UBERPITCH’ – where we had 5,000 peo­ple in 24 hours pitch­ing ideas to me. And that was just in dney. Think about that for a sec­ond – five thou­sand ideas in one day, in one city. That’s in­cred­i­ble. But it’s not just about ideas, it’s about the ex­e­cu­tion – and you need to have the right en­vi­ron­ment for that; you need to have a gov­ern­ment that will sup­port you in the early stages. I feel we’re get­ting there now. The Turn­bull Gov­ern­ment is talk­ing about in­no­va­tion and an ideas boom, but it’s also do­ing some­thing about it – it’s of­fer­ing in­cen­tives and tax breaks and pro­vid­ing the in­fra­struc­ture. And there’s even a Min­istry of In­no­va­tion for the first time. So that in it­self is a bloody good start, though, there’s a lot more still to be done. Look at the likes of San Fran­cisco, Tel Aviv and Sin­ga­pore, places where in­no­va­tion has boomed – each has had mas­sive gov­ern­ment sup­port. Tel Aviv doesn’t have min­er­als – it was never go­ing to have a min­ing boom like we’ve had – so they had to in­vest in ideas. And the same ap­plies here – we can no longer be re­liant on min­er­als, or beef, wheat, or sheep, as they are volatile, price-driven mar­kets and don’t last for­ever. How­ever, with start-ups, you’re look­ing at a busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment that’s much less volatile. And the good thing is we now have a Prime Min­is­ter who’s ex­tremely pas­sion­ate about in­no­va­tion and start-ups, and who’s put his own hard-earned money into them. Let’s re­mem­ber that the PM was be­hind one of the coun­try’s first email providers, Oze­mail, so he knows how it works, he knows what’s re­quired, and he knows the risks and the re­wards. Turn­bull likes to say there’s never been a bet­ter time to be an Aus­tralian. Well, I’d add to that and say there’s never been a bet­ter time to be an in­no­va­tive Aus­tralian, with a gov­ern­ment say­ing, ‘I’m go­ing to look af­ter you and en­hance your op­por­tu­ni­ties to suc­ceed.’ Right now, we’re see­ing the steady es­tab­lish­ment of busi­ness in­cu­ba­tors and ac­cel­er­a­tors – places where peo­ple with ideas can go, places they can op­er­ate from for a min­i­mal cost and with ac­cess to the nec­es­sary ser­vices – be it ac­cess to so­cial-mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tives or to var­i­ous men­tors. These in­cu­ba­tors are ex­tremely im­por­tant and it’s why you’re see­ing com­pa­nies such as Tel­stra set­ting up their own – they’re in­cu­bat­ing new ideas in Aus­tralia and spon­sor­ing peo­ple. Of course, the fi­nal in­gre­di­ent you need for suc­cess­ful in­no­va­tion is in­vestors who’ll put the cap­i­tal in to turn ideas into re­al­i­ties. And those in­vestors are in­creas­ingly be­ing at­tracted to said ‘nests’ and in­cu­ba­tors. Ul­ti­mately, I think we’re right on the cusp of some­thing spe­cial – for me, it’s an ex­cit­ing time.

“THE TURN­BULL GOVERNMENTIS TALK­ING ABOUT IN­NO­VA­TION AND AN IDEAS BOOM, BUT IT’S ALSO DO­ING SOME­THING ABOUT IT.”

Gain more no-non­sense busi­ness and fi­nan­cial in­sights with Bouris’ weekly pod­casts at mark­bouris.com.au

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