Finding Positives In The Silicon Valley Brain Drain

I’ve had a number of people approach me in frustration at the recent article on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald highlighting how entrepreneurs are moving over to Silicon Valley in droves due to the lack of support they are getting in Australia.

It’s a serious situation and one I highlighted in my recent submission to the Federal Government. But I also want to paint a positive picture around the article in the SMH.

Here’s my take:

Back in the mid 2000s when I was the Director of Commercialisation at NICTA I was hell bent on leveraging their research as a platform to build a Nokia or SAP for Australia. We came close with Open Kernel Labs – their software is pervasively used on 1.6 billion mobile devices today and their journey is far from over. But, they are run by a US CEO and HQ’d in Chicago.

 

So for me, this is one of the major windmills I am tilting at. How do we build some major tech companies in Sydney that can boost the ecosystem around them and act as a “strange attractor” to bring smart entrepreneurs to our region as opposed to having them feel they need to move to Silicon Valley.

 

On the positive side, having more people like Nikki exposed to the Silicon Valley machine can mean that when she does return to Australia she will be far more globally connected and do the serial entrepreneur thing from here.



UPDATE: Nick Leeder, Google’s ANZ MD, echoes my sentiments in an article in the SMH, “Aussies are always going to travel, and that’s what makes this such a vibrant country. The trick is to get them back faster, and with their talented international mates in tow.”

The other positive thing to come from this article is the exposure to the problem in quarters that may not have had it within their current attention span. On the day the article was published I was having a conversation with a very senior bureaucrat in Canberra. She was excited that not only was this article published, but it was done on the front page of a major Australian newspaper. From her perspective it was good that because of this level of coverage these issues would reach the minds of this country’s senior politicians.

 

We need to keep pushing the barrow, encouraging more entrepreneurs to have a go and to think big, to think global, while living local.
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One thought on “Finding Positives In The Silicon Valley Brain Drain

  1. Thanks for your post Randal,

    I must admit, when I first read the SMH article I was quite frustrated to hear that Aussie entrepreneurs feel their only option is to head to Silicon Valley to find investors who are willing to help their business take off. When, in reality, we should be cultivating an environment locally here for innovation and productivity growth. I’m glad you highlighted the fact that having such a story on the front page of a major newspaper has and will raise many eye brows in the corners of the country who have influence.

    Let’s keep pushing the barrow!
    Amanda

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