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We Shouldn't Bury Innovation Under A Pile Of Coal

03/11/2015 12:54 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST
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'The Lucky Country', rich in agriculture, minerals and other natural resources -- Australia's economic history has always shown fortune to its ability to trade with the rest of the world.

Agriculture, textiles and resources paint our history, but what about our future? Yes, there has been a global downturn in commodities and the underperformance of the sector is certainly in part cyclical. But even before our resources boom ended we were seeing competitive tension from West African and South American mining operations.

I don't mean to insult anyone that works in the space, but in a relative sense the work is becoming unskilled, meaning economies with low education are becoming more competitive with Australian incumbents, due to lower labour costs.

And so our economy has reached yet another inflection point, but I think the title of The Lucky Country still holds -- we are lucky because we possess an incredibly smart and educated workforce, in fact according to the United Nation's Human Development Index, Australia was ranked third by mean number of years of education.

Hence the motive becomes clear, I have to help the public and commercial sectors realise what's already here, our very intelligent population.

I am convinced the next stage of our economies growth will rely on our ability to export new technologies and business concepts to the rest of the world.

Australia doesn't have many best-in-breed companies, one that does come to mind however is BHP Billiton -- the largest mining company in the world (by market capitalisation). BHP employs more than 120,000 people globally with a large portion employed right here in Australia.

Now I've already lamented the mining industry, but if we were able to create best in breed in other industries we could create more jobs, reduce current account deficits, increase government revenues and compete more effectively on the global stage.

Like anything in life, it starts small. Facebook started in a university student's dorm room, Apple in a young man's garage -- both are now global behemoths, employing thousands and creating billions in value for the US economy. So why can't we?

UberPITCH Sydney confirmed we definitely can. There is so much talent sitting right here in our own backyard, we just need to better identify and create environments for it to grow.

That could mean more government funding and tax concessions, not just for the start-ups but for investment in start-ups (reducing CGT for qualifying investments). We also need to further promote the space at a state and federal level, we need to change investor attitudes towards start-ups and early stage businesses to be inclusive of alternative investments -- not just ASX 50 equities, property and fixed income vehicles.

On October 29 2015, the inaugural UberPITCH Australia campaign kicked off in Sydney. The event was my absolute pleasure, over 5,000 PITCH requests in just four hours -- so much energy and passion and a lot of fun I might add.

But people want to know, why am I doing this? And for that matter, why do I rock up to the X Studios week in and week out to do my podcast? It's because this country deserves more, more from its business leaders and more from its government.

I can only do so much. I am thankful to my fellow Business Leaders on PITCH day; AirTree Ventures Co-Founder Daniel Petre, co-creator of successful global fashion label Sass & Bide, Sarah Jane-Clarke, appliance king John Winning of Appliances Online, PR guru Roxy Jacenko of Sweaty Betty PR, Entrepreneur Creel Price and Freelancer Founder Matt Barrie plus others over the last 25 weeks that have given their valuable time freely to promote start-ups and small businesses -- but it's not enough, we need the government to step up and make changes at the macro level like only a government can.

Hopefully I can get the ear of relevant officials over the coming weeks to put forward recommendations and get Australia on the right track. With the many regulatory shortcomings this country has towards start-ups I was genuinely shocked to see how much progress and innovation was being shown to me on PITCH day -- imagine what this country could achieve with the government on side working with start-ups, not forcing them to expatriate to Silicon Valley or Tel Aviv.

Hopefully the new Turnbull government recognises the gravity of our situation and can affect and expedite change.

The minister for innovation, Wyatt Roy, being a young man himself probably understands the plight of the start-up better than most MPs -- I would love to connect him with some of the guys and girls I spoke with on PITCH day so he can hear firsthand the impediments they face and how the government can help.

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