Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Silicon Canberra


Greetings from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where three former students, now working in the USA are speaking on "Silicon Valley Alumni Career Forum". In introducing the speakers, Professor Mick CARDEW-HALL,
  • Eoin McMillan BA, BComm (2009). Founder and CEO of software development consultancy SF Dev Labs. Eoin commented he took a course at ANU on Entrepreneurship and Innovation which was very useful (I see Anu now has other innovation related courses). Also he commented that Australian graduates could get an E1 visa for the USA. He also also commented on the value of the Entry 29 Co-working space as some the wished had been open when he was at ANU.
  • Tim Sears PhD (Computer Science and Machine Learning) (2008). Founder and CEO of Pingwell. Tim commented that setting up a company was now much easier, with $500 a month of online services would have cost thousands a few years ago. He also mentioned Hacker DoJo.Tim mentioned that the US now allows raising funds on the web (which I believe it is called "Equity crowdfunding". 
  • Peter Buckingham, BSc (Hons) (2000), Senior Director of Xyratex. Peter commented that Silicon Valley has a concentration of talent. He commented that obtaining venture capital in Australia was "challenging" and that Atlassian was initially funded by credit cards. Professor CARDEW-HALL responded that ANU has its own funds for ventures (Discovery Translation Fund, and Seed Investment Fund). 
ANU Pro Vice-Chancellor (Innovation & Advancement), commented that when people think of innovation, they think Silicon Valley. However, I suggest a better model for ANU and Canberra to emulate would be Silicon Fen (aka the Cambridge Phenomenon). 

Obvious areas for Canberra start-ups would be public administration, defence and education. All students could be offered a course in the skills needed to set up a business. Students could then be offered the chance to go through the process of taking an idea through to implementation in a business incubator. Students could take part in a start-up competition an d then submit their work for assessment via an e-portfolio.

However, we need to make it clear to students that only about one in one hundred thousand will be successful in this innovation role and they need to also equip themselves with the more traditional skills for a regular job. The innovations will need a team of people top provide services and to follow up with industrial scale implementation of their ideas. In a gold rush it is those who sell the shovels to the prospectors who make the real money. ;-)

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