24/08/2004 - 22:00

Delivery failure

24/08/2004 - 22:00


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WHAT is it about the company building skills that are missing from our entrepreneurial ranks in the field of technology?

Delivery failure

WHAT is it about the company building skills that are missing from our entrepreneurial ranks in the field of technology?

Some of our seemingly great business visionaries just can’t make a business prospect last from after the commercialisation of their good ideas. It’s a classic case of over-promising and under-delivering that has, unfortunately, survived across the generations better than any other breed of entrepreneurial behaviour.

The most famous example is Ralph Sarich and his Orbital Engine Corporation Ltd, which never made a commercial orbital engine, disappointing the market, although its founder did very well from the original enthusiasm and remains one of Perth’s major property investors.

Of course it was not a total failure. Orbital survives today on some of the spin-off products; it is just that many believe the hype that surrounded the stock created undeliverable expectations.

That was the 1980s.

Last decade came ERG, the Balcatta-based technologist that was going to revolutionise the world of smart cards.

One spin-off from that was the use of this technology in ticketing systems and, to ERG’s credit, it has become a world player in the field of public transport – somewhat amazing given its location in Perth where the car rules.

ERG’s recent performance is well known to anyone who watches local stocks (I am one, not least because I had a few shares) and is an indictment on the management of founder Peter Fogarty who, in the eyes of many, hung on to control far longer than perhaps he should have.

Again, ERG survives, but at a much diminished market capitalisation.

This week we see yet another example of this syndrome in the making – Chemeq. It is still too early to sit in judgement over Graham Melrose and the unfortunate problems at the Rockingham development company but there appears to be a common theme here.

On the ball

FORGIVE me if I sound a little self-congratulatory in this editorial but sometimes you have to blow your own trumpet, right?

Firstly, I’d like to credit a couple of our writers for being miles ahead of others on some significant stories.

The first is our State Scene political columnist Joe Poprzeczny, who has twice written about the subject of political party databases and their increasing sophistication in accumulating knowledge about the electorate, free of any nasty privacy provisions.

That subject was covered by Joe twice in the past year and contained a significant amount of detail following the research he had done.

So, it was with great interest that I saw The Australian Financial Review last week cover the same ground in depth, followed shortly by a major feature along similar lines in The Weekend Australian.

Also worthy of some praise is our property writer Marsha Jacobs, who has three times covered the issue of South West farmers who face resumption of coastal parts of their properties.

Marsha picked the idea up from signs adorning the highway while travelling down south and gave the matter some good coverage – three times in fact.

The issue has belatedly become a major furore and the cause of spat between Gallop Government Minister Alannah MacTiernan and The West Australian newspaper.

The final bit of back slapping for WA Business News is last week’s Success and Leadership breakfast with building magnate Len Buckeridge.

Len is a hard man to coax onto the stage and he had a few harsh things to say about the way business and government are conducted in this State.

The feedback we’ve had from the big crowd has been as good as anything we’ve got from this series, which has included such business luminaries as Joe Boros, Franklin Tate and Dick Lester in the past, as well as high-profile professionals such as Dr Fiona Wood.


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