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Naomi Simson BSchool mentor

At BSchool's BLab

I find it fascinating that every meeting I have had recently keeps coming back to one central discussion point: the state of entrepreneurship in Australia. What are the stopping points for success and where are the opportunities to excel? I am having so many conversations that dance around this landscape and these conversations have raised many interesting observations…even this morning on Fitzy & Wippa’s radio show we discussed all things innovation.  Not to mention all the innovations we are seeing during filming for Shark Tank Season 2…It really is fantastic.

A story map was recently shared with me showing the Top 12 Cities for Female Entrepreneurs. Unsurprisingly the exciting numbers are in the USA, with Chicago trailing only NYC as the #1 hub for fast growing companies on the Inc. 5000. In the windy city you will find that 30% of start-up founders are women – which is wonderful news. Boston, arguably the new “tech capital” of the world, is behind by only by 1%. With more than 5000 startups, interestingly we are seeing Israel as a hub of innovation – with 20% of startups founded by women. The Assistant Minister for Innovation a couple of weeks ago announced he was headed to Israel himself to “scour the hi-tech powerhouse for inspiration for the government’s innovation agenda.” We are learning as much as we can from countries like Israel, with a population of 8 million people…but when will the ‘Lucky Country’ make its debut on the list? What are our challenges in getting there?

Many of the conversations I am having at the moment surround the excitement we all share in the startup world and around innovation. Conversations recently at the BSchool B-LAB, along with a fascinating dialogue with Julio de Laffitte from The Unstoppables, through to Women in Tech discussions with Tanya Plibersek – but there are still many stopping points. Big banks are saying all the right things about investing in startups and there have been some great things happening in this space…but how can we give entrepreneurs permission to shine if the processes and stopping points are simply too hard to overcome? Growth can be ad hoc and challenging if the founder is constantly worried about cash and working capital – i.e. money to be able to deliver on customer demand.

Change and progress no doubt involves investment from both the private and the public sector. But if you take a look at the Innovation Australia website, the creativity and energy usually attributed to this space is simply not where it needs to be. It looks like any other government page, and the most recent papers produced for the Government do not speak volumes of their attention to the topic of ‘inspiring entrepreneurship’. Though I (and other) entrepreneurs are keenly awaiting the impact of the new Federal leadership. The Innovation Australia Board seems to provide an ‘innovative’ suggestion on a range of topics, but doesn’t necessarily look at examples of entrepreneurial innovation that I am seeing wherever I travel.

It would be unfair to say there has been no progress. The appointment of Wyatt Roy MP represents a great opportunity. Not only is he of the generation of the ‘up and coming’ he is the face of announcing government grants in the entrepreneurial space. Especially where 20 Aussie companies are the latest to benefit from $7.3M in commercialisation grants assistance under the Australian Government’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme.

Not a lot of women founders are on this list, but let’s not get too caught up in what we haven’t done…or why this is so?..but we do need to power ahead. And this will require a co-operative approach and clever investment from both the public and the private sectors.

You cannot change the world without the ‘means.’

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