Innovating in Australia

I loved school. But I think I loved school for all the wrong reasons. I was pretty independent from an early age, so I would get myself up to the school yard early everyday. Infact I was usually one of the first to arrive. I think this would be around 7:45am. The reason, it meant that I had control of the cricket pitch. Each year had their own section, so I would have control, I had the bat, I had the ball. So it meant that I got to bat first. As kids arrived, with ball in hand, I was already firmly in place with my eye in.

I was lucky, as I was pretty good as a youngster. So, some mornings after several arguments of claims that I had nicked the ball or hit the painted stumps (which in my view it clearly hadn’t) I would bat all the way through until class. This was my main motivation at school. Later on developing into PE being a favourite, playing footy and going to the Gym.

But I was also a bugger of a kid. Smart enough to be in the good classes but wayward in behaviour. The typical report card…. if he put his mind to it etc etc you get the picture. I could not be reined in by rules. The same was after school at Uni. The same after in the workplace. I just struggled with being told what to do and sticking to hard and fast rules. To my detriment…..

But I have been on the entrepreneur rollercoaster for some time. Having most recently built a financial services company that I have just sold as I now take on my next venture.

So, had I been inspired by potentially creating a business, looking at the marketing and taught the basics how to run a business…. maybe things would be very different. Different in that I could have harnessed my ‘super powers’ a whole lot earlier. How many others are there that can be caught earlier on.

Australia now

Personally I feel that Australia is a great place to be in right now to startup and for Innovation. While many will argue this, as the past is certainly not a a good indication for this particular point. Having a look at recent and not so recent times. Many startups move to the US — silicon valley — funding has been an issue, staffing is a big issue and now in the nanny state of Sydney actually attracting people to come and work somewhere you cannot go out for a drink on a Friday night has become somewhat unappealing.

Matt Barrie, Freelancer founder, wrote an article on innovation in Austrlralia and where it

can start. It is a good read — linked below.

Matt Barrie on Innovation in Australia

Recently I attended a startup pitch competition up at my old school. There was a panel of 4 great entrepreneurs that included Mr Farquhar of Atlasssian fame. The panel talked about their journey, experiences and what the students can do to innovate and be entrepreneurs.

This was followed by 4 students (3 from the school in Yrs 9, 10 & 12 and one Yr 7 student from a nearby girls school) delivering their presentation on their startup. What a great way for these kids to learn. Real world, real entrepreneurs and real startups. Really impressive was the young girl who will be on Shark Tank soon. Her company is already in action and she has made a few sales. While she did not win in the day she won the hearts of the crowd.

This is Innovation……!

People like Matt Barrie and the Atlassian boys are pushing the government. Malcolm Turnball has sent a wave of excitement through the startup community. He himself, it is well documented, made money through a tech startup — OzEmail. So what a brilliant example of someone leading the country with genuine experience. We all hope he pushes through with legislation and more. Infact, in turn he has pretty much forced the hand of the opposition to create policy around entrepreneurs…. this is surely a good thing.

Add to that the appointment of Wyatt Roy to assistant Minister of Innovation. This has also been met with a lot of excitement. So far rightly so. With MP Roy attending events at Fishburners and more. So a clear push from the government and I hope that this keeps coming and so and so on……

For this reason I think it is exciting to be here right now as long as things happen.


We need a real push here. There are some programs out there. After talking with a school for some time over the last 12 months we have identified a couple of problems. Then also as a country — please refer to the article as Matt Barrie raises some important points — As a problem, some what of a black hole when it comes to the curriculum and ‘entrepreneur education’. Many talk about IT education as well. I will steer clear of talking about that. As there are far more qualified people than I.


But, here is a problem that I have identified. Year 10. It was already a vacuum when I was there and definitely a time when I and many others had the most fun and did the least. This is even more apparent now as there is no longer the School Certificate. It is pre HSC, so students have decided what they will do in years 11 & 12. So the other subjects that they have, like — say, Geography, PE and Art which may all be part of the curriculum are not really being paid all that much attention for a student looking at say — Science, Maths & Physics (as an example)

So what do you actually teach these kids? They are at an impressionable age. AND through personal experience keen to create, grow and explore. So it is a golden opportunity.


A solution that I am offering up is an entrepreneurs program taught by entrepreneurs. If Matt Barrie did a 5 minute video on how to ‘test your product’ across a student platform, that carries a fair bit of currency. Allow the students to come with their own Startup.

Take their startups and pitch them, present them the whole shebang. Add to that, throw it into a competition. This is real world experience through a real world situaiotn. That is learning. Winning ideas go through to a much larger competition and so on. Again all real word learning.

We have a platform being put in place for students to go on, collaborate, learn and compare. Allowing for kids in Bondi to pick up on what kids in Bunbury are doing. Allowing education to flow through in an environment that the students are interested in……

The opportunities are endless. But importantly we are educating youngsters about innovation and what it takes, and who knows…. maybe even pick the next Atlassian and be able to harvest it in our own backyard….. Fascinating.

This year is the inaugural schools program and competition. You can check that out at

Now.. add to all of this, must mention, it is StartUp Week Sydney. This is a great initiative

that has been put forward. Many Free events and ticketed events to attend. AND there is

SydStart this week as well (watch for me on stage!!!). So talk about there being a lot on and happening around Startups right now……. I will be in attendance at many of the events so look for me and I am happy to talk. I will be the one walking around with my bat & ball!!


Piers Warren