25/10/2005 - 22:00

Panel beats drum on 40under40

25/10/2005 - 22:00


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I had the pleasure of chairing a panel session for our recent Success & Leadership event, The Modern Entrepreneur in WA. The event kicked off the 2006 WA Business News 40under40 Awards by bringing together four previous winners from the program to discuss

Panel beats drum on 40under40

I had the pleasure of chairing a panel session for our recent Success & Leadership event, The Modern Entrepreneur in WA.

The event kicked off the 2006 WA Business News 40under40 Awards by bringing together four previous winners from the program to discuss entrepreneurship.

It was a lively discussion that proved, to me, that the demons of the 1980s have truly been exorcised from Western Australia’s corporate leadership.

Of course, the white-shoe brigade exists, but its members no longer have credibility in the markets, the ear of government or the ability to completely drive the state in the wrong direction.

When today’s breed of entrepreneurs say they want to leave a legacy for their descendents they are not talking about personal wealth to buy a bigger boat or a village in England.

They are talking about leaving the state in better shape than they found it.

With Matt Birney on the podium, it was an opportunity to ask the leader of the Opposition in WA what he would do if he came to power.

Mr Birney revisited some key policy ideas he had unveiled, such as speeding up the approvals process and better engaging with our region.

Of course, the real fun was asking the other three what they would ask Mr Birney to do if he was in power.

Both Mark Barnaba and Lyle Palmer believe that WA has to move beyond being a commodity-based economy. This is a point that has been made for decades but it was certainly worth being raised again.

Mr Barnaba quite rightly pointed out that governments, unfortunately, are not good at long-term vision.

Professor Palmer pointed out that there needed to be an environment that kept and attracted talent in knowledge-based industries.

He said Queensland had created this, though he believed that WA had some advantages it had failed to grasp – so far.

Peter Harold got the best reaction, though, with his cheeky and definitely entrepreneurial suggestion that each project needed a person within government who was its advocate.

Mr Harold raised a laugh by suggesting that person could receive a bonus for getting a project through all the regulatory hurdles of government.

Laugh we may – it might just work.

What value a good local contact?

Speaking of making the state a better place – one key issue for Western Australia has been the brain drain.

There are so many fields where Perth and the state as a whole simply can’t offer enough for those who want to reach the peak of their chosen career. So we lose them.

While always an advocate of the benefits of work overseas, I have also been very concerned that Perth might not have enough to lure back those who one day wish to return, often with the objective of raising a family.

Part of that fear is WA’s over-regulation when compared with capitals of the world; but it’s mainly the lack of job opportunities here for the truly successful.

So it was with some horror that I was chatting with a recent returnee who found out the hard way just how much we do to keep the talented away from our shores.

I will be brief with the facts to protect the identities of those involved but the essence of the story was that this high-achiever, who’d worked in several continents and, most recently, run a key division of a global company, had sought the advice of a head hunter with regard to finding work in WA.

I was staggered to hear the advice this person received was that it was unlikely they’d get a job here because, after such a long period out of the state, they lacked the contacts to do business here.

Forget about global experience in both product and management. Don’t worry about all that cultural knowledge that might be used to counter insular thinking. If you don’t have the contacts here, you can’t do business.

Thankfully, this person bypassed this ridiculous advice and got a great job … in Perth.

Building on a strong Foundation

THE recent corporate drama at Foundation Capital has raised a few eyebrows in Perth’s venture capital community.

The biggest discussion point has been concern about the vacuum created by Foundation’s restructuring and decision to withdraw from some key areas of finance.

From my point of view, it is disappointing that, whatever the cause, Foundation has lost the momentum it had gained a few years ago on the back of some strong success stories and its ability to attract investment funds from the east.

Having a local, experienced operator here helped reduce the isolation many entrepreneurs feel when raising capital.

Fortunately, Foundation has not completely disappeared, as was feared by many. It remains in slimmed down form but it has retained some key experience, notably Rob Newman.

Also, as we write on page 14, there has been a noticeable increase in activity from newer players on the scene.

While the downsizing of Foundation is a blow, capitalism is never as raw as it is at the venture end of things.

And as one player withdraws, so the others move to fill those gaps.


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