Competition: Shifting Focus To Achieve Real Commercialization Wins

Five years ago I was asked to be an adviser to a new business being incubated within the walls of the London Business School: the Global Security Challenge, an annual competition to find the world’s best security startup and provide it with funding and mentoring to accelerate its growth.

Fast forward to 2010. The Global Security Challenge (GSC) has proven that its competition model for funding innovation works. A total of $2.5 million has been awarded to winners and the collective group of finalists has attracted more than $80 million in funding.

GSC has now morphed into OmniCompete, an organisation that runs competitions across a wide range of sectors all over the world.

OmniCompete’s CEO, Simon Schneider, had an article published earlier this month in New Scientist in which he talks about how competitions can be a cost-effective way for solving large, global problems by boosting innovation.

He starts the article with the premise that the current systems for funding commercial science often do not create the kind of short-term wins required by government. And he goes on to urge us to find a model for attracting private investment that gives investors greater comfort “buying into science”.

I believe GSC has hit onto one part of the winning formula.

Another organisation that is leading the way is New Zealand’s Foundation for Research, Science & Technology. They have shifted focus and as a result they are starting to see a definite improvement in the quality of both research and its translation to market.

Over the last few years the FRST has changed its mindset from being a funder to being an investor and this has fundamentally changed the way they work.

As a funder, they were only able to support the best research proposals submitted to them – a substantially reactive model that brings with it a plethora of administration and administrative-style thinking.

As an investor, the FRST can actively help shape the direction of research proposals. And as they say, “This makes it more likely we can invest in research that will produce tangible benefits for New Zealand.”

This is the crux of what Simon, the GSC and the FRST have done in terms of shifting focus: they have empowered investors to actively help shape the direction of innovation.

I believe they are onto something significant here.

Announcing AngelLoft, the new angel + executive network

I’m very excited to be announcing AngelLoft, the new angel + executive network. It’s for serious investors and executives and it’s seriously Sydney.

The premise behind AngelLoft [website coming soon] is to provide a premium invite-only forum within which to bring together a group of angels, aspirant angels and top business executives.

The first AngelLoft dinner will take place on Wednesday, 15th December in a private loft at a top Sydney restaurant. The speaker will be Yammer’s newly appointed head of the Asia Pacific region. He’ll be speaking hot off the plane from Silicon Valley and will have some incredible insights to share with you.

In addition, one quality venture will be doing a pitch. In fact that is our mantra at AngelLoft: its about quality – of company, of speakers, of pitches and, of course, of dining.

As readers of Metarand, I am extending an invite to you to join AngelLoft and we’d love to see you at the first dinner. Can you please let me know asap whether you would like to attend on the 15th December. Places are limited and we’ll let you know if you’ve reserved a seat within the next few days. Cost for the dinner will be $250 a head, payable on the night by cash or via Paypal bump.

Let me know by emailing me at randal at seggr dot com.

A Day At Bondi with Aquabumps

Hugely inspirational to any (and many) waterman, Eugene Tan has kept us “in the water” with his excellent photography for over a decade. Entirely focused on Bondi, with occasional Mentawai or Bali sojourns, Aquabumps, as he is known, has a 40,000 strong following.

He’s now released his first book – check out the video below:

‘A Day At Bondi’ Aquabumps Book by Eugene Tan from Aquabumps on Vimeo.

Deloitte Technology Fast Top 50 – Take 2

Congrats to the companies that featured in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 Australia list announced today.

Most pleasing was seeing two former portfolio companies of mine in the top 20!

* Tigerspike, of which I was Chairman through its formative years, came in at number 17 with growth of 170.7% and its their fourth consecutive year on the list; and

* Cogstate, which was part of my ADI portfolio, came in at number 19 with 150.7% growth and for them its a whopping sixth consecutive year.

Your Life, On Facebook: Now

How will your life play out as depicted by your social presence?

The answer has been contemplated by Maxime Luere in this brilliant video, she describes as “the story of a man told through facebook’s interface”.

One could build up an excellent narrative using this technique:

Connecting Tech & Surfing Downunder

Over at The Next Web, Kim Heras has done a fun interview with me on the connection between surfing and technology.

In it I discuss the need for more leading brands and success stories to flow from the Australian tech and sporting industries.

There’s a key quote from the piece I particularly want to repeat:

One area that I am really excited about in the surf arena right now is the scale at which stand up paddlesurfing is taking off – it’s the fastest growing water sport on the planet and there is a lot of tech experimentation around shapes and materials for both surfing and racing as well as with boards, paddles and clothing, not to mention tapping into social media to grow awareness and participation for the sport.

I am really interested in exploring the creation of a world class Australian SUP/sport brand – it’s an exciting time.