When Aussie start-up, Nura, wanted to raise funds to help launch its high-tech, self-adjusting headphones onto the global market, it turned to crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.
The ground-breaking Nuraphones attracted the support of over 7,000 ‘backers’ who pledged money in return for early access to the product, netting Nura over US$1.8 million and breaking records for an Australian crowdfunding campaign.
Recent decisions by the Australian Government to expand the use of crowdfunding for equity raising, initially by public companies and now potentially by SMEs and start-ups, could make a huge difference for companies seeking capital for growth and expansion.
The first round of legislation came into force in September, allowing licensed intermediaries to provide access to crowdfunding for retail investors. The second round, introduced into the Lower House on 14 September, which proposes to extend crowdsourced funding to eligible proprietary companies, will be one of our key catalysts for Australian innovators and start-ups while providing special investor protections.
Given the potential for this new bill to foster innovation by opening up funding opportunities for smaller and early stage companies that might otherwise struggle to access traditional funding sources, we encourage both sides of Government to support early passage of the legislation.
Rapid advances in technology and the growing competition our start-ups face from international players makes it imperative that we embrace measures that will enhance our competitiveness and assist Australia’s transition to a digital economy.
When Treasurer Scott Morrison addressed a sold-out ACS breakfast in Sydney in late September, he challenged our members and all ICT professionals to be change agents in harnessing new technologies.
“We live in a time where the pace of change is nothing short of extraordinary,” he said. “I commend the Society for seeing IT as a driver of productivity and increased living standards. And importantly, you realise that advances in technology benefit all sectors of the economy, not just your own.”
The Treasurer’s speech echoed comments that I made to the ACS leadership back in February last year when we embarked on work to develop the new ACS Strategy.
At the time, I reminded my colleagues that, as ICT professionals working in the field, we are equipped to understand the digital trends and manoeuvre the potential impacts of rapid changes in technology in the Digital Economy.
However, understanding the trends and potential impacts of change is not enough; we must share our insights, inform, educate and provide strategic leadership to enable and foster innovation amongst our stakeholders, from government, the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.
In order for Australia to be a world leader in the digital economy, we must focus on three areas:
· building Capacity to ensure that we have sufficient technology professionals to meet our economic growth needs by encouraging more people into ICT and STEM-related careers and attracting top talent from around the world;
· developing Capability, by developing superior skills and expertise in our people, establishing benchmarks, providing education, and identifying areas for focused attention which represent significant opportunity; and
· acting as a Catalyst to spark innovation and encourage both public and private sector organisations to embrace technology to transform processes and reimagine customer experiences.
One of the tangible ways in which the ACS seeks to enhance the sharing of knowledge and encourage more innovative thinking is through our annual Reimagination Thought Leaders’ Summit and ACS Digital Disruptors Awards, which was held last Thursday in Sydney.
This sell-out event featured keynote presentations by:
· actor, social advocate and tech investor, Adrian Grenier of Entourage fame, and
· world-renowned games designer and author, Jane McGonigal, who believes games can unlock our persistence, energy and collaborative creativity, generating a sense of purpose to help us solve the problems we face as a society.
Reimagination also featured a series of panels involving C-level executives from many of Australia’s most prominent and innovative organisations, who shared their insights and experiences on transformation and disruption.
I took the opportunity to expand on some of the exciting initiatives the ACS is planning to help build our nation’s Capacity and Capability along with our strategies to Catalyse growth and innovation.
To enhance and inform our efforts, the ACS has established a number of new expert Committees and Boards focused on the areas of Cyber Security, Diversity, AI Ethics, Blockchain, the Internet of Things, Data Sharing, Professional Education and more.
Almost 100 subject matter experts have stepped forward to help shape our thinking and guide the work we undertake in these key disciplines, and I am enormously grateful for their commitment.
These are exciting times and there are many possibilities ahead, of which the new Crowdfunding legislation is just one. Our ability to embrace and convert these possibilities into meaningful opportunities will determine our future success.
Anthony Wong is President of the ACS and Chief Executive of AGW Consulting P/L, a multidisciplinary ICT, Intellectual Property Legal and Consulting Practice.