Can Australia be a tech success?
INSIDE THE MIND OF AUSTRALIA’S LEADING BUSINESSMAN – YOU CAN THANK US LATER.
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