There is a very distinct buzz permeating throughout the innovation and startup ecosystems of Australia. Ever since PM Malcolm Turnbull took centre stage and called for a more “innovative, creative and agile” Australia, innovation has become a hot topic and the amount of activity surrounding our ability, as a nation, to deliver has ramped up significantly.
First, a number of new funds have been established:
- Super funds Hostplus and First State have pumped A$200m into Blackbird Ventures’ technology startup VC fund, in what is a first of its kind in Australia
- Seek co-founder Paul Bassat just announced a A$200m fund backed by James Packer, amongst others; and
- Australia Post have announced a A$20m fund to accelerate emerging e-commerce businesses
This is in addition to announcements made earlier this year by Brandon Capital for a A$200m HealthTech fund, National Australia Bank’s A$50m venture fund and a push by billionaire Melbourne investor Alex Waislitz to establish a new A$100m for tech companies in Australia and Israel. Clearly, one of the Australian entrepreneurs long heralded sore points, lack of funding, is being addressed with renewed vigour and enthusiasm in our local technology and innovation scenes.
Government Taking a Hands-On Approach
Far from taking a hands off approach to innovation like their predecessors, the Government have also been paying more than just lip service to our need to become more innovative in order to offset the slowdown of yesteryear’s industries, which for so long have secured our quality of life.
Within four weeks of taking Government, the new Assistant Minister for Innovation, Wyatt Roy, teamed up with startup accelerator Blue Chilli to host Policy Hack. The collaboration brought together 300 public servants, entrepreneurs, investors, scientists and educators in Sydney.
The purpose of the hack was to identify solutions to the challenge facing Australia in becoming a more innovative country to rival the likes of Israel, Singapore, London and the US.
One of the four key recommendations that came out of the initiative was an education initiative proposed by DICE Kids founder, Erin Watson-Lynn, aiming to instill a culture of entrepreneurship in young Australians, particularly at a primary and secondary school level.
The Need to Develop Entrepreneurship amongst Today's Youth
It is anticipated that 40% of Australian jobs will be replaced by technology by just 2025. In addition, about 75% of new jobs will require scientific and/or entrepreneurial skills. Today’s youth can look forward to having between 7 and 10 careers and more than 15 jobs during their lifetime.
Traditional industries such as mining, manufacturing, accounting and legal are either slowing down, becoming saturated, being offshored or are becoming increasingly automated. Safety, security and longevity in any given industry is no longer assured.
As such, the ability to reinvent oneself will be key to success in an increasingly fast moving and uncertain technological and commercial landscape.
The primary and secondary school curriculums, while still playing an incredibly important role in the development of our youth, have not changed significantly with the times in order to keep up with changes in technology and business. We are still taught not just throughout primary and secondary school but also at a tertiary level and particularly within the corporate workplace that failure must be avoided at all costs. However when it comes to exploring potentially disruptive innovation and delivering new business models, failing fast is imperative to learning and finding product market fit for new business models.
Tesla, Space-X and PayPal founder Elon-Musk says "if you're not failing, you're not innovating".
We need to be teaching the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators the fundamentals of building new businesses from an early age, today, in order to prepare them for action tomorrow and to help capitalise on the new ecosystem that the nation is building.
We’ve been working on our own Lemonade Stand program at Collective Campus, which will be rolled out these summer holidays for children from Grades 5 & 6through to Years 7-10. The program aims to instill business fundamentals, the innovator’s mindset and innovation practices such as human centred design and lean startup into the psyche of today’s youth.
Adaptability is Key
We are however piloting and practicing what we preach. Lean startup philosophy for example, is all about building prototypes to learn from real customer interactions, validate and invalidate business models and make changes to support the achievement of a sustainable business model.
It is important that whatever initiatives the Government decides to embark on, that we don’t put a traditional certainty lens on things. For example, we’ll commit 3 years and A$20m to delivering said deliverables. However, when we’re delivering programs that have not been delivered before, there are so many unknowns and we cannot be certain of benefits realisation without the application of trial and error and real customer interactions.Adaptability is critical. Just like today’s entrepreneurs and innovators are adaptable in their approach to finding product market fit for new innovations, we need to be adaptable in order to deliver a strategy that truly support the development of our innovation ecosystem both at a youth and adult level.
Let’s not overcommit to building what doesn’t work in order to show that we’re doing something. Let’s not confuse movement with productivity.
In order to figure out what works, we need to take lots of small bets, be adaptive and continuously improve towards finding what works because there's no silver bullet when it comes to innovation.
Our future depends on it.