A Journalist Perspective: Innovation & Startups Landscape in Australia

Vishal Thursday, May 15, 2008 , , , , 0 comments

In our ongoing coverage of interviews, with CEO's, Media Personalities, Philanthropists, and VC’s, to gauge the innovation and startups landscape in Australia, today we showcase our interview with Freelance Journalist, Public Speaker, Mr. Brad Howarth, who writes on Australia’s startup industry, digital marketing, dangers of climate change and other relevant topics in this domain.

We did this interview to get a holistic view from a Journalism side on Innovation and Startups landscape in Australia. Let us explore what Brad has to say about the state of affairs in this domain in Australia. This is what he has to say:

• Please tell us about yourself, your background and interests?
I’ve been a journalist for 13 years now, having completed a degree at RMIT in Melbourne back in 1994. I’ve worked for a wide range of publications, starting with technology trade titles such as ComputerWorld and Australian Reseller News, then moving to spend two years on the technology section of The Australian at the height of the dotcom bubble, before moving to become the IT editor at BRW.I also spent a period editing a magazine for Fairfax called BusinessOnline, then returned to BRW as innovation writer and then as marketing editor. I also managed to write a book during that period, Innovation and Emerging Markets, which was a study on the process of commercialising and exporting Australian technology innovations. About four years ago I left and went freelance, and have been pursuing a wider agenda across a broad range of publications including BusinessWeek, The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, AFR Boss magazine, GQ Australia, Australian Anthill, Inside Film and others. In the last four years I’ve written on everything from Australia’s start-up industry and the changes being brought by digital marketing through to the impact of civil war in Northern Uganda and the dangers of climate change.

• Please tell us how you became a journalist?
I started as an engineering student, but I’d always had a fascination with the media and learning about new things, and journalism is a great way to keep absorbing new information. The course at RMIT gave me the necessary skills to break.

• What’s your thought on being a journalist? How tough it is to be journalist in Australia?
It is great fun, but can be bloody tough to get established. As a profession, it is like being back at university, but you change subjects every day, and get paid to hand in your essays.

• How did you become a specialist on writing on tech trends and innovation?
By accident. My background as an engineering student (initially) helped, but I wasn't pursuing technology as a specialisation. It just happened that my first job was in the tech trade press.

• How do you research and learn about on topic you have to write?
Lots and lots of reading, followed by as many conversations and interviews as possible.

• What do you think of digital revolution which is breaking the conventional business model for media houses?
Adapt or die. Either move to where the money is, or make yourself so compelling the money comes to you.

• As compared to US where Newyorktimes is now a free service and WSJ is also following that path, we don’t have that model in Australia yet for AFR and BRW. What do you thinks it’s inevitable that online business model will change here as well?
No. I don’t believe that it is inevitable. Publishers are realising that some content is still worth paying for, so there will always be items behind the pay-wall - possibly more so in future. But that doesn’t mean that sites such as AFR and BRW won’t evolve.

• Recently the Aussie iconic magazine Bulletin said they are closing down, what do you think what factors attributed to this?
Poor editorial decisions that saw it lose touch with its audience and advertisers. The death of the Bulletin does not mean the death of print, and certainly does not mean the death of magazines.

• Please tell us which is your favorite online newspaper and magazine in Australia?
Pure online (not a hybrid) – ZDNet Australia and SmartCompany. I otherwise read the Australian Financial Review, Australian Anthill, The Diplomat, The Monthly and a bunch of others off line.

• What do you think of Google and their ambition of being a media company?
Do they have ambitions to be a media company? They don’t create any content that I am aware of. Their model is based on organising and monetising other people’s content, not creating it.

• What your thoughts on Microsoft's bid on yahoo and if that succeeds what changes you see in Australia, especially in context to channel 7 ‘s tie up with yahoo and channel 9’s ties with MSN?
On the bid – seems a little desperate and problematic in terms of working with the various content platforms. It does show how quickly one-time growth industries can enter the consolidation phase.

• What do you think of Telstra with Sensis in its portfolio (dominant in local search and classified ads with trading post) and with 50 % holding in Foxtel? Do you think Telstar is similar to Google in Australia and could be positioning itself as a media company?
Telstra is positioning itself as a media company, and has not shied away from this, particularly in relation to BigPond. What will be interesting is whether they can also leverage the benefits of owning the access networks as well as having content, and hence make more money than pure-play competitors.

• Any thoughts on who is going to get the network coverage for the launch of iPhone in Australia?
I think that has been decided now.
(It's Vodaphone and Optus at this stage)

• Do you think Telstra is the major player for the future growth of Australia in a digital economy?
Yes. Its size and coverage makes that inevitable.

• What do you think what is government trying to do resolve the conflict between Telstar, ACCC and C9 consortium?
It’s a mess, and typical of what happens when politics is called into play. There is a market failure in terms of providing communication services to regional areas that the government needs to fund, but the previous government (and to a lesser extent the current one) have been more interested in making announcements and winning votes than in actually seeing a service delivered.

• Why do you think that we have not created many world-class companies in technology based business (except, medical science based) as compared to other OECD countries?

  • Firstly – Scale. Our companies grow to a certain size (less than $100 million) and prove themselves on the world market, and then are speedily acquired by larger foreign interests. In some ways other parts of the world (particularly the US) are outsourcing a small component of their R&D to us.
  • Secondly – Conservative Capital Markets. Despite the huge pools of money that are sloshing around superannuation funds, little is invested in start-ups. Australian investors are often risk-averse, and in many cases only give companies enough money to enable them to fail (rather than grow and succeed).
• What do you think of software industry in Australia? Not many companies building IP/Product in Australia? How can we change that?
There are hundreds out there. Most of them are small tho, so difficult to see, and unfortunately the failure rate is high. Greater funding for market development activity may help to alleviate some of this problem. The issue is not the generation of ideas – we have plenty of those. The issue is in creating an environment in which the companies can thrive.

• What do you think of ACS? Do you think its making any impact on the software industry in Australia?
I have very little to do with the ACS, although as a professional body I understand it is well regarded by its members.

• What do you think of new ventures and innovation coming out of Australia?
See my answer to the software question above. I would contend that we punch above our weight in terms of the quality of our innovation, but well below in terms of our ability to commercialise.

• Any new ventures you think are worth keeping an eye on?
Dozens :-)

Do you think we can create a new Google in Australia?
Which is a bit like asking, “Can you father a new Donald Bradman”? Google is something of a freak. That is not to say that we cannot develop large, global market leaders here. There is no reason that a company like Salesforce.com could not have been born here and retained its R&D here.

• Which city in Australia is more vibrant and can be regarded as Silicon Valley of Australia?
None of them deserve that title. No city in the world comes close.

• What do you think of our TAFE/Universities and their curriculum in terms of promoting and encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation?
I do not know enough about them to have a valid opinion.

What do you think government (federal and state) should do to improve the culture of innovation and software industry?
Yes – provide greater tax relief and foster an entrepreneurial spirit around solving problems, rather than creating interesting engineering projects.

• How do you see the opportunities in green tech/sustainability, esp; after Australia is a signatory on of Kyoto?
Kyoto is not really relevant – our climate is on the fritz anyway, so our need to develop green/clean is pressing regardless. We have a hot, dry climate, which increasingly will be called upon to provide food. Much of the world is in the same situation. By investing in technologies to help this aim, we could quickly be a world leader. Similarly, we have some of the best science in wind and solar energy (along with many other alternatives), and should fostering this also.

• The change of guard at Federal level has taken place, what do you think what can we expect from Rudd government for IT and Telecom industry?
So far, not much has changed. I am not sure that it will.

• At the 2020 conference, PM Kevin Rudd is meeting with top 1000 people from different background to discuss and collaborate on the issues facing the nation. What issues would you like to raise if you are given a opportunity to attend?
Greater support for start-up tech and digital media companies with the view to fostering a world-recognised export industry.

• How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up? Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
Many and often, and not as often as I would like. CeBIT is coming up for tech, The Domain is a good is a good spot for digital media, along with the other AIMIA events. I was at the Consensus awards last week. Would be good to see Webjam restart.

• What is the most challenging thing you find?
Finding enough hours in the day, and managing communications.

• What is the most enjoyable and satisfactory thing you find?
Finding great new ideas

• Do you follow any games?
I’ve wasted a large amount of my life on Civilization III. I used to be a mad AFL supporter when I lived in Melbourne, until my team was slaughtered and sent to Brisbane.

• Do you have any advice for people who want to become a journalist?
Don’t - I have enough competition as it is. Seriously however it is a great job. In some ways it is like being at university, in that you are constantly learning. But you change subject every day or week, and get paid to hand in your essays.

Thanks Brad for sharing your thoughts with us. All the best for future.

For coverage on other Australian startups, innovation, tech trends check this out and our coverage on interviews can be found here

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Moodle - Opensource Learning Management System

Vishal Monday, May 12, 2008 , , , , , , , 0 comments

Today we showcase a story of another successful entrepreneur, Martin Dougiamas, Founder, Lead Developer and Managing Director of Moodle Pty Ltd

Moodle is an open source course management system (also called a learning management system). It's a completely Free web application that educators can install and use to manage all their online learning. The business model is based on services around the free software.
It has 2 portals/sites, the open source community is at Moodle.org the business sides is at Moodle.com

Let us explore what Martin has to say about his venture Moodle and his thoughts on IT, Education and Innovation coming out of Australia. This is what he has to say:

• Please tell us about yourself, your background and interests?
I'm 38, live in Perth with my young family. Until I was 12 I lived in central Australia, learning via School of the Air (in those days we used shortwave radio). This probably had some influence on what I do now.

• Who are the people behind this and how it started?
I started working on it alone in 2000 as a reaction to commercial alternatives that were available at the time.

• How long it took before it was up and running?
The first complete version of Moodle was August 2002. It's grown exponentially since then.

• What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
Provide free tools to help educators do the best job possible and thus support education around the globe.

• How many people are using your services?
Moodle is open source, so we only know about users when they choose to tell us. We know about at least 20 million users including nearly 2 million teachers world wide. See stats for details.

• What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
In the early days I did focus on some SEO to get the word out, but now promotion is almost entirely generated by the existing users through their links on the web, local Moodle conferences, user groups and other activities.

• How are you measuring the success of your venture? Are their any special mechanisms/tools in place to monitor the progress?
See stats for details. These numbers are generated automatically by our users registering their sites. All registered sites are checked by a human team to make sure they are real sites.

• What is the monetizing/revenue model? Is their any new model, which is being tried?
A certain proportion of our users need support services such as hosting, consulting, training, customisation and so on. These services are provided by about 40 Moodle Partner companies around the world (so far), who are part of a franchise-like scheme. They sign up to be allowed to use the Moodle trademarks in promoting their businesses and to get support from the central Moodle company. In return they are subject to certain quality checks and balances and must pay 10% royalties on their gross Moodle-related revenue.

• Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
Some of the ones we run into most are

  • Blackboard
  • WebCT
  • ANGEL
  • ATutor
  • Dokeos
  • Sakai
• What are the main technologies used behind this venture?
Moodle is a PHP web application, and can run on nearly any database or operating system.

• Are you using lot of open source tool sets for this?
Indeed, open source is our preference. Moodle can be run on a completely open source stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP). We also use development tools like Eclipse, vim, OpenSSH and so on.

• What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database you are using?
  • Linux, Mac OS X, Unix, Windows
  • MySQL, POstgreSQL, Oracle, MS-SQL
• How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up? Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
I don't really have time to communicate much with people outside the Moodle community. I already go to 5-10 Moodle conferences a year around the world.

• What’s your thought on being an entrepreneur? How tough it is to start a venture in Australia?
To be honest my head space was never in Australia even though I live here. As someone heavily involved in the Internet since the 80's I've always thought globally. It took a long time to get any recognition at all for Moodle in Australia but I was never worried.

The IT business is fortunate in that the main costs are simply time. Hardware is cheap and you can work from home (as I did for the first few years!). Now we have a decent office and a lot of people on the payroll, I have to say that my most challenging problem at the moment is finding and retaining good PHP developers in Australia. About half the people I'm paying to develop Moodle are located overseas and all the rest are immigrants!

• How do yo see the opportunity in e-learning in context to Australia, as PM Kevin Rudd has laid out plans for delivering Education revolution? Do you think Moodle has a place to play in this space?
Certainly. We are already doing it overseas (Moodle is used by 70% of further education in the UK, for example).

• What Government resources have you used to help your business? And have they made an impact? Have you sought any funding?
None, none and no.

• Do you have any thoughts on our TAFE/Universities and their curriculum in terms of promoting and encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation? T
hey should at least provide some case studies to make students aware of what is possible with their skills given enough persistence. I think with the internet these days students are able to work out the rest themselves.

• What do you think the government (federal and state) should do to improve the culture of innovation and the telecom industry?
Specify and use open source solutions for all their tenders (preferably local but anything open source is good). If open source solutions can not be found, put some money into helping their development. Too much of taxpayer money is going to pay very high license fees straight to overseas companies. Open source software really opens up the whole software development cycle and allows our local industries and individuals to get involved and innovate in all kinds of exciting ways. Open source is a great fit for an open, democratic culture.

• Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
Once you identify a problem, spend as much time as it takes to get a very deep understanding of it and then persevere, persevere, persevere with your solution. It'll pay off in the end!

Thanks Martin for sharing your thoughts. We look forward to hearing from you in future on the progress of Moodle. All the best for future.

For coverage on other Australian startups, innovation, tech trends check this out and our coverage on interviews can be found here

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Podmo - World's First Free Mobile Communication Network

Vishal Friday, May 02, 2008 , , , , , , 0 comments

Today we showcase a story of another successful entrepreneur, Che Metcalfe, founder of Podmo from Adelaide, Australia. Podmo Mobile is a free mobile network for end users.

Let us explore what Che has to say about his venture Podmo Mobile and his thoughts on Mobile Space and Innovation coming out of Australia. This is what he has to say in a candid interview with me :

• Please tell us about yourself, your background and interests?
I grew up in Townsville and left for Sydney when I was 17 to get Guitar lessons. After a year or so I returned to Townsville to form a band, which we took to Adelaide. We won battle of
the bands at our first gig and did a lot of big support gigs for bands like the Angels, Southern Sons and Johnny Diesel. After a tour to Sydney it dawned on me that I may work my but off in this industry for many years and get nowhere, so I left the band and decided to study. I enrolled in a Building Design and Drafting Diploma at TAFE where I first started using computers. I was quite poor so I bought myself an old 486 which continually broke down and I needed to rebuild it all of the time. This was a very quick way to learn about computers and spurred me on to start my own computing business at the end of my studies.

• Please tell us about your venture/company?
Podmo empowers our partners by allowing them to deliver their own mobile offering. For instance if I am a retailer I can set up a Podmo node in my store and use that node which is part of the whole Podmo network to promote my business directly to my customers for no ongoing cost. It also greatly improves the viability of mobile content producers by providing them with the tools to self publish. Podmo also provides a very healthy revenue share to our content partners. Because there are no data charges for the consumer we remove one of the biggest barriers to the uptake of mobile data services. Podmo uses Bluetooth and WiFi to achieve this at no cost to the end user. Podmo is NOT a Bluetooth spamming server that many people are now familiar with, it is a fully fledged mobile telecommunications system providing, browsing, search, maps. IM, VoIP, downloads, uploads, social networking and more.

• Who are the people behind this and how it started?
The concept for Podmo was mine but it was actually built by the team from Kukan Studio which is my first business that I started with Karyn Lanthois in 1999. Kukan is still going strong and is being run by Karyn now. Kukan makes games and provides JavaME porting services to many of the leading game publishers including THQ and EA. Podmo started out of a frustration over the lack of opportunity for mobile content developers and the ridiculously high data charges associated with accessing mobile content over a Telco network. I was first looking at some sort of mobile content, Bluetooth vending machine, then one morning after reading through the Bluetooth specification it dawned on me that if we had enough vending machines linked together then we could build a network and it would be cheaper than the technology that the Telco’s are using. Many people told me the idea would never work and that Bluetooth would not have the range or capacity. In fact the opposite is true Bluetooth technology is more than capable of doing what we need it to do, not only can it do it, Bluetooth is inexpensive and it is everywhere.

• How long it took before it was up and running?
It took about 6 months from the time we decided to set Podm up until we launched the Beta trial in Adelaide last year. However there was a lot of prior knowledge and work that went into the product that came from Kukan. The lead JavaME developer at Podmo Ben Tilbrook who came from Kukan is in my opinion the best JavaME programmer going around. His knowledge of JavaME is extraordinary and really helped us fast track the development. We had also ported several Bluetooth multiplayer games for THQ and developed our own JavaME location based applications back in 2002.

• What is the main objective/mission behind your venture?
To be disruptive by turning the Telco business model on its head. I strongly disagree with the over used phrase “the great thing about mobile is that people are happy to pay for it”. This is total and utter crap. People are sick and tired of being ripped off by Telco’s. They have just never had the choice until now. I am a big fan of the Virgin business model of finding an industry that is dominated by bloated, outdated, high profit companies and going in and doing it better, faster, cheaper and smarter. Shifting the market is what it is all about.

• What services it provides it for consumer or customers?
Podmo means different things to different people depending on what role they play in the ecosystem. For location partners such as retailers or the education sector we provide them with a Telco in a box. They simply order one of our kits and we provide them with the hardware and software to control their own part of the Podmo network. For advertisers on the network we provide them with targeted location enabled advertising. Like the retailers, advertisers can control their campaigns in real-time making adjustments to improve take-up. Content partners can upload and distribute their content throughout the Podmo network. We provide a simple intuitive upload tool which takes care of porting to all the different devices on the network. For instance I can upload a video that was posted on YouTube to Podmo and Podmo will recompress and resize that video for all of the different handsets. We also supply content developers with a way to sell their content on Podmo to generate revenue in the same way that iTunes does except we solve the device fragmentation issue at the same time. Finally for the user we provide almost exactly the same experience as any of the popular Telco's can except it is 100% free for the end user. The end user can even download our free Podmo server and turn their home into a Podmo zone. Providing Podmo for free means that our end users have the money they would have normally paid to the Telco to purchase content or products that they saw advertised on the network. It's a win win situation all round. Podmo improves the experience for retailers, advertisers, content producers and the consumers. Nobody is left out.

• What type of customers you are targeting?
Initially we are looking to get as much coverage of the Podmo network as possible so customers like Starbucks and McDonalds are obvious candidates for our technology because they will expose our service to a lot of people quickly. That being said we are working, with educators, government, TV producers, game publishers, content producers, advertisers, small business, broadcasters and of course the end user.

• How many people are using your services?
In Adelaide we have over 3000 members, roughly 40 location partners, several advertising partners and hundreds of content producers all involved in the Beta trial. The platform and business model has now been fully tested and we are moving into the commercialisation phase of the business. There are several big deals on the table at this point and you will start to see Podmo popping up everywhere around the globe.

• What sort of marketing you are using to spread the word?
To date other than the first month of the Beta trial where we ran, TV, online, print and radio advertising, it has been purely online social networking and word of mouth. This is one of the reasons we chose Adelaide as the location for the Beta trial. Adelaide is small enough that people will hear about you quickly. This however, can be a double edged sword. In the beginning of the trial we had some technical problems with our network that are now solved but we still run into people who think that those technical problems still exist. By isolating the trial to Adelaide we hope to learn from our mistakes and avoid these sorts of issues as we branch out.

• How are you measuring the success of your venture? Are their any special mechanisms/tools are in place to monitor the progress?
We have our own internal KPI's but for the trial the main issues were, uptake and stickiness for the end user, technical performance of the network and partner development. We have consulted with our initial customers and fine tuned things to the point where we think we are now ready to go.

• What is the monetising/revenue model? Is their any new model, which is being tried?
Our model is new in the mobile space but it is not new in the rest of the media world. Free to air television, print, radio and online businesses have all relied primarily on advertising revenue to pay for the content they produce. Why should mobile be any different? I think the Telco's charged through the nose and ignored advertising on their networks because they could, not because it was the best model. That leaves the door open for companies like Podmo or Skype to revolutionise the telecommunications business model. We also generate revenue from the sale of content and hardware.

• Which are the main competitors or major players in this market segment?
When you think about it we have many competitors but no real direct competitors. By that I mean there are many competitors who provide a little of what we do but not the whole ecosystem. For instance a company that provides proximity based Bluetooth marketing is a competitor, a company that allows content producers to self publish is a competitor, a company that provides a WiFi network is a competitor. However none of these competitors provide what we do in its entirety. I guess at the end of the day Telco's are the closest things we have to a competitor but they cannot offer their service for free. They are bound by their business model that requires their customers to pay exorbitant amounts of money to access their network. I keep hearing people talking about the tipping point when data is so cheap that it does not matter. I strongly disagree with this. Telco’s need to keep charging for data to support their high network costs. If the Telco’s weren’t worried about free networks popping up why is the iPhone locked to a carrier and why are there rules about what you can do using it’s inbuilt WiFi? Another example of this flawed logic is the Skype phone on the Three network. People believe it is free VoIP. This is simply not true. Firstly you need to be on a plan or purchase prepaid credit from Three and then the amount of time you can use Skype for is limited. Compare that to running Skype over Podmo and you will see what I mean. Using Skype on Podmo would be 100% free.

• What are the main technologies used behind this venture?
The primary technologies are Bluetooth and Wifi. We develop a lot of our stuff in Java and our servers are Linux. We are innovating a great deal in the area of Bluetooth by increasing the range and capacity of Bluetooth radios. We are doing a lot of work in the area of mesh networking allowing us to improve capacity and scalability of our network.

• What has been the most easy to use, out of box and helpful technology?
I don't think such a thing exists.

• Are you using lot of open source tool sets for this?
Yes we use open source tools wherever possible.

• What is your operating environment (operating system) and what type of database you are using?
We use OS X, XP, Vista and Linux depending on the application.

• How often do you catch up with others trying similar things and where do you catch up? Do you have dedicated communities in your city?
We have a really strong mobile community in Adelaide and indeed in Australia. We were the founding industry partners in the Mega program and we started and help run MoMo (Mobile Monday) in Adelaide with the AIMIA state chapter. We often catch up at MoMo or other industry events run by AIMA SA.

What’s your thought on being an entrepreneur? How tough it is to start a venture in Australia?
I think being an entrepreneur is great and I wouldn't swap it for anything. I do think though that you need a really tough skin and in Australia our entrepreneurs are highly undervalued. I am very proud of what myself and my team have achieved and I have many friends who I am also very proud of who are doing the same thing. The major problem is nobody really wants to support you until you are a going concern, so it is your job as an entrepreneur to convince as many people as you can that you are going to make it. Of course many don't or at least don't at their first, second or third attempts. This is where we in Australia are really cruel to our entrepreneurs, we knock them on the way up and if they fail we write them off. If they do finally make it we stab them in the back and tell them they are getting too big for their boots. Money for a start-up is very hard to come by in Australia. That is why a lot of our talent heads off to Silicon Valley. But hey it's not all doom and gloom, this environment here makes the challenge even more enticing and I assume the victory even sweeter. Only time will tell.

• What do you think of the digital revolution that is breaking the conventional business model for media houses & music companies?
I think it is great. Change brings opportunity. Opportunity means progression and growth. Change is a good thing and the incumbents should embrace it instead of fighting it to their own detriment.

• Telstra has Sensis in its portfolio (dominant in local business search and classified ads with the Trading Post) and with a 50% holding in Foxtel. Do you think Telstra is similar to Google in Australia and is positioning itself as a media company?

I am not really in a position to comment on where Telstra is headed. I am sure they are trying to diversify. It would be hard to imagine them competing with Google on any level. The companies are diametrically opposed.

•Do you think Telstra is the major player for the future growth of Australia in a digital economy?
I think Telstra influences our telecommunications industry greatly. I believe that many of Telstra’s business practices have been put into place to reduce competition and innovation in the market. Of course this is what their shareholders want them to do and they are doing a good job of it. The problem is that it is not good for the industry as a whole. The rest of the industry is really at a disadvantage, especially when you take into account that tax payers payed for the network that Telstra monopolised to put them in the position they are in. Because of this they do not have many friends in our industry. This I think will eventually result in a concentrated effort from the majority of the rest of the industry to remove their power to create a more even playing field.

• What’s your thought on Mobile Industry in Australia, esp. in context of it as a games platform/next pc? Do you think we can compete with Japan and South Korea in this space?

As you can probably tell I am not a big fan of the current business model that dominates our mobile industry. Change needs to happen and I can see it coming. I go to as many MoMo's and talk to as many industry participants as I can and they are all saying the same thing. Telco's charge too much and give too little back to the developers. I think Japan and South Korea are very different markets and what works there will not necessarily work here. I don’t think we need to compete with them. I think every market is different and it is important to understand those differences.

• What do you think of new ventures and innovation coming out of Australia?
We have a great pool of very innovative and talented mobile developers here in Australia. I just hope they all make it through to the other side. Traditionally this has been a very hard thing to do.

• Do you think we can create a new Google in Australia?
Of course we could! The thing is though we don't want to create another Google we want to create the next big thing. Before Google everyone was asking “do you think there will be another Microsoft?” Google is not another Microsoft just as the next big thing will not be another Google. It will be something else, maybe it will be Podmo ;)

• What Government resources have you used to help your business? And have they made an impact?
We have had a Commercial Ready grant and it has really helped us in the R&D phase of our company.

• Have you sought any funding?
We have dabbled in VC acquisition. We are just learning the rules of engagement. We have had a lot of interest but have not committed to anything yet. Obtaining VC money is a minefield and there are very few of them in Australia.

• Why do you think that we have not created many world class companies in technology based business (except, medical science based) as compared to other OECD countries?
I think it goes back to support of our entrepreneurs and especially in the digital media space. In my neck of the woods it is one the most under funded sectors. We need to invest for the future and not for now. Mining is big now but is not going to lead us into the next phase of our evolution. Digital media is an enabler and allows for innovation across many different industries. I think we should be focusing on Green and Nanotechnology. I know that is where my next business will be positioned.

• Do you have any thoughts on our TAFE/Universities and their curriculum in terms of promoting and encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation?
I think in Adelaide we are in a very good position at the moment. Both TAFE and Universities, especially Uni SA and TAFE have been very supportive of our industry. The Mega program could not have happened without the support of the education sector. Indeed it was founded by Peta Pash who is from TAFE SA. In my opinion Mega is the best thing going around to fast track our next generation of mobile entrepreneurs.

• What do you think the government (federal and state) should do to improve the culture of innovation and the telecom industry?
We need more competition in the marketplace. Competition breeds innovation. This debate over or network infrastructure is just getting so boring. Someone needs to step up and sort it out soon. We also need to create opportunity for our up and coming content producers. Currently it is very difficult for our mobile producers to make a living. It is near impossible to get onto a good spot on a carriers deck and even then they will take they lion share of the profit. We should also abolish premium SMS scams. I am sure you know the ones I am talking about. You see a girl in a bikini late at night on TV telling you to text off to this number and something amazing will happen. Then you read the fine print, if you have a bionic eye and it states that you will be sent 2 messages a day at $6.60 for 2 weeks unless you text the word stop whilst standing on your head. These sorts of scams are earning lots of money for those involved and a lot of it is going back to the Telco. It is also telling the public that they cannot trust our industry and that we are all rip off merchants. Many people have been burned by this and high data charges. These people simply do not come back and try mobile content again because we have lost their trust.

• At the 2020 conference, PM Kevin Rudd met with top 1000 people from different background to discuss and collaborate on the issues facing the nation. What issues would you have raised if you were given a opportunity to attend?
I think I would have had to focus on how difficult it is for our mobile practitioners to earn a living and that a lack of competition in the Telco space is seriously hampering the emergence of new and more equitable business models.

• Any thoughts on who is going to get the network coverage for the launch of iPhone in Australia?
I have heard it will be Telstra. It would make sense as the model for the iPhone is to lock you into a carrier for up to 2 years. This sort of model removes competition and stifles innovation, which seems to mirror what is already happening. Steve Jobs really had a chance to take on the Telco's but instead decided to collude with them.
• Do you have any advice for people who want to start their venture?
I have plenty of advice, some of it may be useful but there is way too much to fit into this interview. My one main piece of advice would be not to do this because you think you are going to be some sort of entrepreneur rock star like Steve Jobs, because the reality is you get little respect for being an entrepreneur and you won't get it until you succeed on a big scale if you get it at all. You need to do it because you have a very active and creative mind. The joy or reward comes out of trying to solve the ever evolving puzzle that never stops adapting. You also need to genuinely enjoy people and being around them. If you cannot communicate well and motivate your team you are dead in the water. You cannot do it on your own.
Thanks Che for sharing your thoughts. We look forward to hearing from you in future on the progress of Podmo. All the best for future.

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