03/07/2015 - 16:11

Innovators keep economy ticking

03/07/2015 - 16:11


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The 2015 Rising Stars shine a light on the bright future for business in WA.

Business News hosted the 2015 Rising Stars awards night last week.

The 2015 Rising Stars shine a light on the bright future for business in WA.

It just isn’t meant to happen – Western Australia being home to an innovative software company that has global ambitions in the education market.

WA’s economy is typecast as an outdated monoculture, especially by others but also at home.

We dig stuff up and ship it in its rawest form to other countries where much smarter people value add through hard work, ingenuity and creativity before selling it back to us at much higher prices.

At least that is the fiction to which too many subscribe.

The 2015 Rising Stars awards prove that the state has a much more balanced economy than many would have us believe. The overall Rising Stars winner, Seqta, is a good example of what not only can happen in WA, but regularly does.

It is not the only one.

The list of top 10 winners and the more junior startup category suggests WA’s next generation of businesses are not just healthy, they are diverse.

Funky Monkey Bars and Performance on Hand, for instance, are incredible innovators that have found ways of challenging the status quo.

Performance on Hand is tackling the glove market in a disaggregation strategy, taking on giant commodity-driven manufacturers with a direct play for the top end of the market, where hand protection is fit for purpose.

Funky Monkey Bars has reinvented a playground stalwart into something that the average family can erect in their own backyard. It’s clever, functional and, in another reverse of everything that the doomsayers predict, they are bringing manufacturing back to WA because it is more reliable as they take their product beyond Australia.

International Maritime Services is another spoiler of settled markets. In some ways IMS exists because of another outrageous development harking back three decades. Back then the entrepreneurial founders of Austal took the initial steps to become the world leader in high-speed ferries. It is now an undisputed front-runner in one of the most technologically advanced transport sectors, building ships that not only move goods and people, but have major military applications.

IMS was born on the back of that development, delivering ships throughout the world. But more recently it has capitalised on local booming conditions in other shipping sectors to disrupt the global ship delivery market.

In some ways, others may have pioneered the way for the success Seqta is now enjoying.

While Seqta was founded by former teachers who understood the core issues of that important career, they have gained from the financial support of the Larsen family, whose wealth is derived from the entrepreneurial drive of Peter Larsen and his business partner Rod Jones, who created global education success story Navitas.

That such people could be pioneers in the business of education in resources-focused WA is early evidence that this state is more than just a quarry. But the fact that the wealth generated has assisted a second generation of innovation in this field is further proof that WA has not dug itself into a hole, as many of its detractors would wish.

Of course, some Rising Stars winners are outstanding companies in traditional fields; in every case they are innovators in other less obvious ways be it through management, culture or diversification strategies. Several have switched their attention from resources to other sectors, proving their skills are transferable.

We wish them all the best in the years ahead, tough as it may be at times. WA needs them and the people who drive them because we can’t afford to stand still.

Economies don’t work that way.


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