Innovation for Australia, its people and its companies is something that Advance lives and breathes every day. There is no denying that Australia is a hotbed of startup and innovation activity - but WHY is it so important?

Wayne Gerad, a 2015 elevate61 advisor, shares his compelling insights on why innovation and startups are important to every day Australians.

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Australia is a hotbed of startup and innovation activity.

Every ASX 200 company, every major city, state and Federal government understands the economic imperative to build relevant, new world companies that design, develop, sell and support products and services that are valuable in our globally connected economy.

But why?

IT’S ABOUT JOBS

It’s about investing to create the next generation of large Australian businesses like Woolworths, Westpac, AMP, ANZ and BHP Billiton that generate export revenue, attract investment into Australia and create local jobs.

It’s also about ensuring Australia has the businesses and economic stability to sustain our high standard of living, security, healthcare, education and superannuation well into the future.

IT’S ABOUT PROTECTING OUR LIFESTYLE

To be clear, our lifestyle is at risk. The global economy is changing rapidly and this will impact every Australian. This year over $110 billion dollars is being invested in Silicon Valley alone to develop products and services that will disrupt traditional businesses and industries everywhere.

Every market is changing. Markets are being disrupted, directly and indirectly, by technology, global competition and changing consumer sentiment.

Imagine a time when there are no new insurance jobs, banking jobs, legal jobs or accounting jobs in Australia. We’re likely to see a 80-90% reduction in jobs in these sectors in Australia over the next 5-10 years.

This shocking statistic raises some important questions. How many young Australians are currently studying degrees in these areas now? What will they do? What should they be studying instead? What should our schools and universities be teaching instead?

Imagine how many jobs will be lost when autonomous vehicles replace taxi and Uber drivers, train drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers, couriers, port operators, construction equipment operators and airline pilots.

Imagine how advances in solar and wind power, power storage, electric vehicles and off-grid residential communities will impact the power industry, jobs and the value of power assets on government and corporate balance sheets.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Governments and companies are only just coming to grips with the many direct and indirect effects that will rapidly change our economic, corporate, government and social landscape.

We can’t stick our heads in the sand, or legislate (out of fear) against progress. That would be foolish and would spoil any chance we have of building a competitive and sustainable economy. We need to embrace these changes, adopt early, and get the economic benefits.

THE FUTURE OF WORK WILL BE VERY DIFFERENT, SOONER THAN WE THINK

There’s no immediate answer to the macro economic concerns, because these changes are happening so quickly.

The first step is to create new companies and new jobs. The challenges and opportunities are vastly different today. In a globally connected economy the successful companies, and therefore countries and economies, build product and services that are relevant everywhere.

For example, Google is used almost everywhere, by almost everyone and it’s now the most valuable company in the world.

That’s why startups are so important. It’s why businesses, cities, state governments and our Prime Minister are all talking about innovation. They know we need more startups in Australia to help generate our next generation of jobs.

We need to help every Australian understand why this is important.

WHAT’S A STARTUP?

Startups start off as small businesses, but there is a difference.

Most startups use technology to design, build and sell new products and services. Most startup products and services are relevant to a large number of consumers or businesses in many countries.

Startups often sell products and services online in Australia and internationally immediately. This is a good thing for every Australian, because startups tend to grow quickly, create jobs in Australia and bring revenue and investment into Australia.

There are other things that make startups standout and create high impact, quickly. These include:

  • The goals we set for our startups right from the start; most startups plan to become global businesses from day one (we talk about being born global)
  • Most startups want to make a product or service that solves big and highly valuable problems. Startups are taught that to be successful on a global stage and to get user adoption and grow quickly (scale), you need to build a product or service that is 10 times better than what’s available now
  • Because most startups strive to build a product or service that’s 10 times better, we often have to completely reimagine how to solve the problem. Therefore the solution we come up with is often unique. It’s because of this that people refer to startups disrupting traditional businesses and industries
  • The way we operate, the business model we use, the way we fund growth and the network or community we operate in (often called an ecosystem), is all designed to encourage, support and accelerate our growth. Startups are created in a community and the community provides diverse support and services so that startups can rapidly grow, learn, improve (often called iterate or pivot). The proactive companies, cities, states and our federal government all understand the importance of creating these startup communities, ecosystems and clusters. That’s why governments are funding innovation and startup programs like the Federal Government’s Ideas Boom and the QLD Government’s Advance QLD Program. These programs are designed for broad community participation and are worth checking out.

What’s great about startups is that we can, and should be, established in any town, community, city or home in Australia.

This is particularly important for regional Australia. The next generation of global companies truly can be founded anywhere.

Establishing regional startup ecosystems and providing the fast internet infrastructure will help regional Australia’s economic development and prosperity as well.

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