New spin on Rotary

08/04/2010 - 00:00


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Conrad Crisafulli has devoted much of his recent time to developing a new-age rotary club on the side of his passion for bringing new technology to the world.

BRINGING new technology to world markets has been Conrad Crisafulli’s goal for most of his career, but after leaving his post as director of technology commercialisation at Curtin University 15 months ago, his portfolio has expanded.

Aside from focusing on his home-based commercialisation business, Mr Crisafulli has been spending his time helping to get Perth’s newest Rotary Club, at Crawley, off the ground.

A Rotarian for 21 years, Mr Crisafulli was initially a member of Balcatta, then Perth and Matilda Bay clubs, before he and six of his fellow Rotarians left the club in favour of starting their own, just a kilometre along the river at the University Club of Western Australia.

Primarily, it was Mr Crisafulli’s frustrations with the old Rotary ways that led him to follow his friend David Goldstein’s lead and leave Matilda Bay in order to form the new club.

He is now team leader for the club’s management team – a role he is hoping to let go of in order to make time for his business.

Mr Crisafulli is a veteran of Perth’s small venture capital industry, having worked for the Harold Clough-backed TechStart Ventures before joining Curtin University.

He is steering away from what he calls the heavy lifting of commercialisation with his new endeavour in favour of strategic advisory work, and is looking to offer his services to other companies through directorship roles.

“I tend to work more on the strategic level, negotiating deals. I am much more interested in trying to put together a licence deal,” he says of his passion for negotiating and implementing strategy.

“I have an aim and desire to move away from hands-on commercialisation and take on a greater number of directorial board positions.”

Mr Crisafulli currently sits on the board of two ASX-listed companies – West Perth-based ipernica and Sydney-based Entellect Solutions – and a number of private companies, but is looking to balance out his commitment to these.

“I want to add one or two public listed companies and divest myself of some of the smaller ones,” Mr Crisafulli says.

His experience in the technology industry has prepared him well for the director’s roles, and he says his part in developing Curtin’s technology commercialisation business helped to refine his business model.

“It was pretty successful and I left my successor a pretty good legacy,” Mr Crisafulli says of the business he developed out of Curtin over his five years in the role.

He says the commercialisation process most importantly involves careful scrutiny of opportunities.

“I can show you a list of all the rejections, it is the fish that John West rejects that makes John West the best; it is that principle, you have a system in place,” Mr Crisafulli says.

A large part of Mr Crisafulli’s role at Curtin involved capital raising – an area that he says requires two factors in order to be successful.

“Networks ... they are absolutely everything. Either directly or indirectly you have got to get access to the right people and you have got to have a credible reputation,” he says.

“It is the total package, the personal credibility and the process involved which gives the investment credibility.”

Capital raising has been an industry bugbear since the global financial crisis, but as a veteran in the industry Mr Crisafulli doesn’t link the economic downturn to difficulties in raising funds.

“Since I have been doing this there has always been some event that we keep saying ‘since such and such happened’ it’s been so difficult to get capital; but the reality is, to raise money for early stage technology companies in Australia is difficult, period.”

If you were premier for the day, what would you do?

There is very little that a premier can achieve in any amount of time, let alone just a day. But if I had the power to make just one enduring change I would ensure that food and shelter could always be provided, with dignity, to everyone who wants them.

If you could invite five people (past and present) to dinner, who would they be?

Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Leonardo da Vinci.

If you had to choose an alternative career, what would it be?

An actor – or more specifically an enormously successful actor.

What is your career highlight?

Establishing technology commercialisation at Curtin University.

What has been your biggest career challenge?

Creating a boutique venture capital business from scratch at a time when I actually didn’t really know what venture capital was.

Do you have any words that you live by?

Don’t be judgmental, give unstintingly of your time, respect the views of others, stick steadfastly to your principles.



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