Shenzhen — China in 1992. Image from The Guardian.

Together

A keynote for the launch of Founder 10X Accelerator / UNSW — February 2018

This is Shenzhen — China. In 1992.

And today.

Shenzhen today. Image from The Guardian

30 years of growth. A small fishing village of 30,000 people in 1980 has grown to a megacity of 12M. Now it leads the world in hardware innovation — The ‘Silicon Valley of Hardware’. Layer by layer, connection by connection — a fabric of industry has emerged.

And not by accident.

I’ve never felt that the world owed me a job. I’m much more interested in looking for problems to solve and getting on with it. It is this mindset that will never make me redundant in the world because there will always be problems to solve. Always. My friend, Steve Sammartino, in fact asks the question: what would happen if we asked our kids about the problems they want to solve rather than what job they want when they grow up?

What we are seeing in Shenzhen is 30 years of deliberate innovation. Persistent, deliberate innovation that catalyses millions of people to forge new industries faster than the old ones expire. Each person playing their part over decades, contributes to a better future. Piece by piece. Little by little.

In Shenzhen, there is no national outcry about the threat to fishing jobs.

When I co-founded Pollenizer, Australia’s first tech startup incubator in 2008, I was solving a problem. I’d just left my role as CTO in one of the biggest startups in the world at the time and I wanted to do that again.

But, you might be surprised to understand that there were few startups to work for in 2008. No incubators or accelerators, few investors. A handful of startups emerged occasionally and struggled in private to resource a journey to first base.

Mick Liubinskas and I founded Pollenizer to make that easier. We helped a first wave of Australian tech startups to solve problems for this country and the world. This wave discovered better, cheaper, faster, more fun ways to buy and sell, communicate, get a job, do a job…

Today, as an innovation fabric, we have discovered a new way of working that applies an entrepreneurial method to problems — getting them solved at a scale and at a rate of change that matches the disruption of all things. Today in Sydney alone, hundreds of startups are founded each year with a rich support network and a degree of sophistication and focus we have not seen before.

And now the problems themselves — wonderfully — are harder to solve.

That’s why we created Main Sequence Ventures at the CSIRO — a new kind of venture capital fund designed to transform these difficult problems into industries.

Importantly, this is ‘why now?’ for university accelerators like Founder 10X.

The changing nature of work combined with this new way to create jobs and impact through solving problems. And the knowledge that is needed to solve the problems of today is deeper. It is not possible to read bunch of blog posts to acquire the knowledge that is needed to mine asteroids or build single passenger aerial vehicles.

These founders are inside universities and they are poised to invent the future.

Now we need to figure out how to feed 10B people, how to become a multi planetary species and how to redesign our cities when cars are obsolete. We need to cure cancer, deliver a consumer centric health system and how to increase computing power when Moore’s Law is dead.

It was only 10 years ago that Pollenizer appeared in a tiny startup fishing village — a community that could, and literally did, meet in one room. Entire industries have emerged since then and we are just at the foot of the mountain.

Tonight we will glimpse new industries emerging.

We each play our part to invent a better future. Let’s keep going.

Its working!

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