Welcome to your new role as Minister for Innovation. I am a big believer in your mission and hope you can keep it for longer than those that came before. You will need to convince your colleagues that innovation takes time. Explain to them it is a cliche that startups make things quickly and we need time for our programs to dig in their toes and pull us into a new world.
But we’re not going to talk about that here. I want to talk with you about regional Australia for a couple of minutes.
Are you familiar with Birdsnest? It is my wife’s favourite website, a great fashion site for women. I love that it is based in Cooma in regional NSW. We pay homage to it when we drive through on our way to skiing. It employs 100 people in a town of about 6,000 people. It is a great example of how where we live no longer throttles our ability to start a business.
When I think about businesses like Envato in Melbourne, there is no reason why this multi billion dollar company could not have started in Bathurst.
Late last year we at Pollenizer were worried about what was happening in Geelong with the closure of Ford. Not in itself that Ford was closing, to me that is reality. Industries don’t last forever. In fact, they are churning faster than we have ever seen. But you know that right? Our worry is around the track record of events like this creating changes to towns and people’s lives in a terminal way.
How does this happen? Those of us in startups find this hard to imagine. In our world, nothing is certain and yet the world is a bounty of opportunity. When something ends, start something new. Right? Not everyone thinks that way of course. It is scary.
We took action and we are proud and delighted to be supporting Runway Geelong to help the city re-invent itself. What a great initiative Runway is. Because I do what I do, I know something that a Ford worker doesn’t know yet. Those that encounter Runway will discover how wonderful it is to get up one morning and decide to start something new. Quickly, new entrepreneurs realise how good they are at this and, suddenly, they are making something new that they love and customers pay for.
This is how we will see new Envatos and Birdsnests appear across regional Australia. As more and more people realise they can just start. They don’t need to risk everything. They don’t need to quit their current jobs. They don’t need to throw their redundancy pay into a new venture. There is so much they can do to start sooner. Programs like Runway will show them that.
Not everyone wants to start a business, but I believe the mindset will become infectious for those around those that do, growing local economies at the same rapid rate of change.
I’d like to be part of a movement that makes this happen quicker.
One of my proudest moments was seeing an amazing new payments business emerge for Coca Cola with founders who were a truck driver, a call centre operator and a designer. Anyone can do this stuff. They just need to decide to start.
As coal fired power stations close in regions over the next couple of decades, how will the next generation of renewable entrepreneurs emerge? There are thousands of new companies that we will need that people haven’t invented yet. As car companies close, what new businesses will be required in a driverless, electric powered new industry that we have barely scratched the surface of? There are experienced, talented people who know this stuff and can make it happen. They just need to start.
Let’s do more to catalyse the regions.