Peak tech body develops strategic initatives

08/02/2017 - 13:15


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OPINION: The startup and innovation sector is well prepared for the challenge ahead.

Peak tech body develops strategic initatives
Sharon Grosser is well suited to the role of CEO at StartupWA. Photo: Attila Csaszar

OPINION: The startup and innovation sector is well prepared for the challenge ahead.

StartupWA is the peak body for the innovation community in the state and, as such, represents the collective ecosystem of startup founders, service providers, investors and educators to the outside world – specifically the government.

StartupWA was founded in 2015 by a collection of prominent startup community members. Those on the initial board had all been founders of startups at one point, and all had created or led a community initiative. The membership rotates over time, with each board position lasting a year (or 18 months, so as to not all rotate at once).

StartupWA also represents Western Australia to the larger StartupAus, which uses its advisory capacity to influence federal government policy, and represents the national startup community to other institutions. StartupAus has an interesting and checkered history; at one point there were three organisations with this name and brief, but it appears that has been resolved now.

StartupWA has produced a report on the Perth startup and innovation sector in 2016, as a sequel to the report commissioned in 2013 by the City of Perth. It makes interesting reading and provides some numbers and statistics on the size of the sector, concluding that the sector is small but growing (which is certainly true).

When the state government finally decided to get involved in the innovation sector last year, StartupWA was one of the key advisers in its engagement. The success, or otherwise, of the state government’s 2016 Innovation Strategy will deliver the verdict on StartupWA’s efforts.

The peak group has a number of initiatives it wants to push, including:

• providing more opportunities for startups to sell to government;

• scholarships for founder education;

• visa programs for entrepreneurs;

• a startup launch pad in Perth;

• payroll tax reform for startups and small businesses; and

• seed stage grants program for prototype development.

This was all detailed in the StartupWA report, and was presented to the community as part of an event featuring Innovation Minister Bill Marmion.

Along these lines, StartupWA held a ‘voice and vote’ session earlier this month to announce a new CEO and gather some opinions on what the startup sector should be doing with the government. The session was a little unruly, and collected a random assortment of opinions.

It is probably not the most effective method of gathering worthwhile opinions, as the people who can afford to take an evening to attend this sort of thing are probably not the people at the coalface. More likely they’re the people with a vested interest in changing government opinion. There were a few suits in the audience, always a bad sign at a startup event.

As reported online by Business News on January 31, Sharon Grosser has been announced as the new CEO of StartupWA. Mrs Grosser is eminently qualified for the task.

The growth of her business, SEQTA Software, which she founded with her husband, Grant, in 2006, is a classic startup story involving near failure, incredible highs and lows, and a dogged pursuit of creating the best product for their customers that they could.

She has been active in the startup community since the very early days, and has always been a voice of reason and sense.

Mrs Grosser’s priorities for the next few months are to get an understanding of what the key needs of the startup community are, and present these to the rest of the world (and particularly government) in a comprehensible way.

Being the figurehead of the Perth innovation community will not be an easy job, and she will need a lot of help and support to do this. Luckily, Mrs Grosser is someone the community can really get behind and support; she is likeable, well-qualified, doing it for the right reasons, and able to speak truth to power. And hopefully she has a thick skin, because she’ll need it (judging by the first event).

This year, there are several challenges and opportunities for the startup and innovation community. Federal and state legislation changes, the WWW2017 conference showcasing Perth to the world, and the state election among others. Having a peak body that can adequately represent the sector to the various institutions that deal with these challenges, with a CEO who really understands the problems, will be a positive force.


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