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Sayers Convenes Tech

By Maria Muir |10.20.2021

When compared to the rest of the world, Australia is relatively slow to adopt new and emerging technology, and often when it does, the full value is not realised. We need to change this if we are going to remain globally competitive. But, we can only do that together, as a community.

To kick-off the conversation and to start to shape this new quo, we brought together a group of 70 senior leaders across Australia hosted by Russel Howcroft.

What an incredible way to kick off our Sayers Convenes Tech event series, with experts Paul Bassat and Kate Cornick. Paul is co-founder of one of Australia’s largest venture capital funds in start-ups and previous co-founder/CEO of Seek. Kate is CEO of Launch Victoria which is the Victorian Government’s $60m initiative to accelerate start-ups, increase technology adoption and create jobs.

We discussed progress and innovation in this space, what is holding Australia back, and what actions we need to take to significantly increase our adoption of tech.

Here are our top 5 takeaways.

1. There is limited awareness and visibility of emerging technology and what start-ups are doing in this space.

We need to increase our fluency on what new tech can do, what it can enable, and what platforms are available that can be plugged in. For Amber Collins, the first step is to increase the visibility of start-ups and help connect them to the market.

2. There are big differences between the risk appetites and innovation cultures of corporates versus start-ups.

Globally Australians are perceived as being risk-takers, larrikins. But on the other hand, our corporate culture is incredibly risk-averse. Kate Cornick, CEO of Launch Victoria, added that “entrepreneurs are the larrikins of the tech world, they are taking big punts, big bets. However, it's hard for them to make an impact in their own backyard.” Culture Amp’s first big gig was Adobe in America, not in Australia. Listen to Kate Cornick as she discusses the big cultural differences and their impact.

There is a need to bridge the gap between these cultural differences. Many of the leaders at the event were trying to work out how to balance the dance between legacy structures, governance, and innovation. Brian Hartzer reflected on the need to change enterprise business models to make them more agile and innovative.

3. Procurement processes are where ‘start-ups go to die’.

Our biggest challenge to overcome right now is that enterprises will only buy from big, trusted tech brands. This is especially bad in government as it is impossible for start-ups to get in. There is a perception of safety with these larger incumbents, but it's the smaller players that can be nimble. There is a need to focus on enabling partnerships between corporate Australia and start-ups.

 4. More support is needed for start-ups.

Kate Cornick pointed out the 11% jobs growth during COVID created by start-ups in Victoria, with many of these in the tech space. There are heaps of opportunities to invest – especially in female entrepreneurs and founders. The awareness of where and how to invest needs to improve.

We need to wrap the right skills around founders. We need to support them with investment, the right team, guidance on the right product-market-fit, and a safety net to be successful.

5. There is a shortage of tech talent and skills.

Re-skilling is key. There is a need for existing employees to understand technology.

Jeanette Cheah, CEO of Melbourne-based Ed Tech HEX, called out the need to grow entrepreneurial whizz kids and help them embrace non-linear career pathways. We need to put up in bright lights the journey of the Atlassian’s/Canva’s as the role models.

Progressive changes need to be made to our education system including turbo charging STEM in primary schools and leaning on universities to take hold of their responsibility to produce ‘job-ready candidates’. We are going to continue to have this talent problem, so we need to face this fact, and take action now.

In summary, Paul Bassat reflected that there is nothing more exciting happening right now than what is happening in Australia. We need to capitalise on the desire for people to join high-growth companies enabled by new technology and propel it forward.

As a Sayers Convenes community, across corporate Australia, government, start-ups, venture capitalists, and advisors like Sayers, we will be taking on our accountability to help start-ups, as this will be the engine for technology in the country and growth in our economy. The benefits to the Australian economy are clear.

This is not just a community, we are convening change agents. This is not nice to have, this is a must. If you would like to get involved, reach out to Maria Muir at [email protected]