Sydney: The World’s Best City, A Vision

Sydney has been my primary residence since 1995.

During that time I’ve travelled extensively all over the world. During that time I’ve often spent months away, living in the United States and Europe.

One thing, though, has remained constant – as soon as I return to Sydney I instantly feel at home.

And yet, despite its beauty, despite its wonderful people Sydney has failed to step up to its rightful place as The World’s Best City.

Why? We had the Olympics in 2000, didn’t we? Surely that is enough?

The Olympics gave a much needed boost to the city’s infrastructure for sure, but that was over a decade ago.

Then there is the other quip – mostly used in reference to our erstwhile state government: we’ve got the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, why do we need anything else?

Well thankfully that era has now drawn to a close. Many of us stood up for change in the state and many of us are eager to make change happen.

I am hopeful that, together with our newly elected state government we can all get our city to where it should be: the World’s Best City!

I’ve been quietly working away with a few colleagues on a brave new Innovation Agenda for the city and the state, an agenda that will require buy in from our government and buy in from industry. As we progress this forward I look forward to input from all Sydneysiders.

What inspired me to write this post, though, is the speech Sydney’s mayor is going to deliver this evening. Clover Moore will be delivering the Utzon Lecture and in it she will be talking about why Sydney needs to boost its cycle lanes.

I’m a huge fan of cycling and would love to be able to ride into the city every day. I’ve done it from time to time, but don’t enjoy competing with road traffic. Nor do I have the time to take the circuitous back street routes that get me into the city from St Ives sans traffic.

She speaks of Sydney needing a Vision, an overriding goal we can all point to. A goal we can all strive to achieve.

I submit that this vision should be nothing short of becoming the World’s Best City not only to live in, but to work in. A city that makes a difference and improves society for all.

In order to achieve such a vision Sydney needs to have a more cohesive and ambitious Innovation Agenda. Sydney also needs, in the words of Clover Moore:

not just the imagination to envision the kind of city we want, but also the continued innovation to develop the projects to achieve it, and the political will to put those plans into action.

Hear hear!

Kevin Rose, Evan Williams and the Rise and Rise of the Product Factory

Sarah Lacy has written a great post on¬†Kevin Rose’s new company. The former Digg founder is setting up Milk, a closed innovation shop that, counter to the current Silicon Valley driven incubator-trend, will focus internally on developing up a small number of big hairy audacious game changing products that use the mobile Internet as their enabler.

Firstly, I’d like to congratulate Kevin – I believe he has hatched an awesome plan. Why? He isn’t reliant on bringing on board a steady flow of ‘quality’ entrepreneurs and then melding them to create winners, instead he is using his nous and that of a hand-picked team of coders, thinkers and innovators to quickly iterate ideas and test their viability, pivoting and repurposing when necessary, but always moving forward with a portfolio of potential winners.

Secondly, I’d like to highlight that Sarah has quite rightly picked up on the similarities between Kevin and Evan Williams.

A few years back, Evan and I were having a series of discussions (here, and here)  around product factories РI was infusing product factory magic into a major research lab in Australia and he had set up Obvious along similar lines.

Fast forward four years and his “side project”, Twitter, ended up subsuming everything else in the Obvious pipeline to the point where Obvious fell by the way side. Twitter achieved massive traction and in many respects has been a game changer.

In contrast, I managed to get a number of projects out of my factory – one of which, Open Kernel Labs, has achieved major traction with its virtualization software on 1.1 billion handsets around the world – and more to come. Although we both moved on from our respective organisations, Evan has come full circle recently and is again building up a product factory.

I look forward to seeing how both of them iterate on the product factory concept, how this influences a counter-incubator culture and what they both bring to market next.