For those who like constant change, tech disruption, and new ideas, the world of innovation and entrepreneurship never ceases to fascinate.
As a lover of innovation and the people who strive to do business a little differently, I attended the 10th anniversary of the well-known Tech23 conference that took place during the Spark Festival in Sydney.
After last year’s very successful edition, Slattery IT‘s pillar event showcased some of the most popular startups across the Aerospace, AgriTech, Environment, Health and Big Data sectors – and that was just the beginning!
As for the Enterprise category, two of the startups who pitched were in Fintech – which came of no surprise given Australia’s strength in this sector. The organisation Fintech Australia is a perfect example of this also.
The winners of the day were Morse Micro, Microba and AgriDigital, while Loop+ founder Kath Hamilton took home the award for ‘Best Technology Startup Founded by a Woman’.
To find out more about the 23 standout startups that made it onto Tech23’s stage, check them out here!
Out of This World
It was great to learn more about the local initiatives supporting the Space industry. Recently, there has been a whole flurry of developments in this space (pardon the pun!) – take, for example, Gilmour Space Technologies’ recent $19 million Series B round backed by Blackbird Venture and CSIRO’s innovation fund.
On top of this, the government has shown its willingness to put Australia on the space radar.
But what the early-stage startups at Tech23 highlighted was that there is still more to be done. They pointed out the country’s lack of a dedicated space accelerator program; despite Australia having more universities specialised in advanced space material per capita than Germany.
Towards Equality & Diversity
As we’re big supporters of gender equality, it was fantastic to see influential women representing Industry Leaders of the innovation ecosystem. Key figures (just to name a few) included Sue Keay from the Science and Engineering Faculty, Brigitte Smith from GBS Venture Partners, Petra Andren from Cicada Innovation, Colette Grgic from BlueChilli Group, Monica Bradley from Purposeful Capital or Rachel Neumann from StartupAUS.
I was truly impressed and inspired to see that several founders who presented on the day either had plans to go international (after just 2 to 5 years of existence!). Better still, some had already expanded overseas.
International expansion can present a big challenge for many startups. Fortunately, however, there are great initiatives like Austrade’s landing pads to help entrepreneurs expand and grow their business overseas.
The Hot Topics
Among the controversial topics was the National Talent Scheme. The scheme was announced in June 2018 to attract highly skilled talent in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths), but has yet to show any noteworthy results. As it stands, only one Founder visa has been granted so far, which was awarded to the startup SafetyCulture.
Another very relevant issue raised was that of global data protection and privacy. This is especially talked about in the context of connected spaces and with the recent implementation of GDPR in Europe, which should soon be adapted and regulated by the US and other countries. GDPR will likely affect most Australian businesses.
The State of Innovation
The state of innovation in Australia is hard to monitor, as all the data regarding developments and movements throughout the digital transition has never been collected and recorded in just one place.
As Startup Genome pointed out, it also doesn’t help that the criteria used to define a ‘great innovative ecosystem’ around the world are rather difficult to gauge.
Tracking the Stats & Trends
On the plus side, we now see more methods of compiling key information on innovation.
Some reports like the StartupAUS annual Crossroads reports or Techboard’s first annual funding report also offer a very comprehensive overview of what’s happening across Australia, giving valuable insights to key decision-makers to eventually make Australia a world-renowned innovation hub.
Startup Muster has also released their latest survey results, outlining the key needs of the ecosystem based on some surprising statistics. One of these is that we have actually seen a decrease in the number of total startups since 2017.
Another intriguing insight revealed by the survey was that the vast majority of Australian startup founders do not come from a technical background. In his analysis of the report, Eitan Bienstock explores this point by comparing Australian innovation strategy with more advanced ecosystems like Israel.
Finally, CSIRO’s Data61, Australia’s innovation catalyst and data science research advisory (and sponsor of Tech23), recently launched different innovative platforms to map all innovation centres across Australia. These platforms not only allow for clearer overviews but also encourage collaboration with corporates and high-growth SMEs to transform their products and services using data science.
KPMG’s Venture Pulse report showed that in Q3 2018 alone, Australia enjoyed a record-breaking $317 million in funding across 27 venture capital deals, exceeding every other quarter in the dataset (after Q2 2014).
Software as a Service (SaaS) companies attracted the most attention from investors, with five out of the top eight deals involving either business productivity or financial or educational software.
Even though private investors are the main source of funding for a large majority of startups, the Australian regulatory landscape allows alternative ways to get funding via Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs).
Companies like Havven, Power Ledger, or CanYa, for example, have raised millions of dollars through their blockchain technology, something to watch in the next six to 12 months.
It’s fair to say that Australia shows a promising amount of potential when it comes to innovation and forward-thinking. However, Australia’s vision for the startup ecosystem may not be as mature and up to speed as those of other global economies.
What do you think will be the next regulatory move from the Australian Government to advance innovation and development for the future?