My 12 months as Queensland's Chief Entrepreneur comes to an end today. Has that time flown? Yes & no. Time flies when you're having fun and there have been lots of memorable moments, none more so than the incredible adventure that was Myriad Air - the Qantas 747 taking off from San Francisco that transported some 200 founders, investors and innovators from Silicon Valley to Fortitude Valley for the Myriad Festival. The intense networking and pitching that was done at 35,000ft had to be experienced to be believed.
There have also been the 300+ panel events and talks across the state, which as the photo above with Tammie Scharf, teacher at Queens Beach State School, Carly Brown, founder of UnePiece, and Llew Jury, founder of Reload Media, shows, have been high energy, extremely engaging experiences.
I've met business owners, startup founders, angel investors, inventors, innovators and local government leaders in Emerald, Rockhampton, Mackay, Yeppoon, Toowoomba, Dalby, Roma, St George, Airlie Beach, Bowen, Hervey Bay, Bundaberg, Gympie, Gladstone, Cairns, Atherton, Townsville, Ipswich and the Gold & Sunshine Coasts. The fact that some of Queensland's most exciting entrepreneurs have taken time out of their crammed calendars to come with me on these missions around Queensland has made a real impact, both on their understanding of the Queensland business landscape and in terms of providing the audience more opinions and experiences than just mine. I thank all of those that made those journeys with me, this article is too short to mention you all but my thanks is heartfelt.
My visits around the state have driven home the facts:
We have buckets of raw entrepreneurial talent;
Entrepreneurs are building businesses all over the state;
Innovation is happening in real time, right now. From tomato farms & cattle feedlots through to food processing and medical tech. And, it's not innovation for the sake of it - it's because these businesses have had to embrace change to keep existing customers and move into new markets. It really is a case of innovate or die;
We need a better telecommunications network and urgently.
I've been genuinely impressed by the variety of great businesses I've seen. And that's not even counting the kidpreneurs! To see school students from the age of six right through to 17 giving entrepreneurship a crack has been another highlight of the last year. Let's keep this momentum going. The best thing old people (if you're over 21 you're old) can do to support these business leaders of tomorrow is to get out of the way.
It hasn't all been awesome events, innovative businesses and budding entrepreneurs. There have been times when progress has seemed slow. I've been working closely with government to unlock our state-owned fibre network. Utilising the fibre already in the ground or strung across high voltage power lines has the potential to light up regional Queensland with the world's fastest internet speeds. But it hasn't happened - yet. I understand why government moves slowly, but it doesn't make it any less painful for those outside the process who need this pivotal project to happen quickly. I plead that all people in Queensland give this project a fair go – it is one of the more important things we have done since paving the roads - this is government’s chance to be daring (even if it at a speed slower than I would prefer) – let’s cut them a break.
We need more startup investors in Queensland. There has been progress over the past year thanks largely to the Advance Queensland Regional Angel Investor Program. We've now got early stage angel investor groups established in Townsville, Bundaberg, Fraser Coast, Ipswich, Redlands & Gladstone and more. The next step is to get these investors supporting startups and generating deal flow. It'll happen, let's not lose momentum, keep the pitch nights and networking events going!
My flying cars aren't yet cutting the commute time from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane to 20 minutes, but that was always a medium-term vision. Someone needed to start the conversation and risk being called crazy, 12 months ago that was me. Now there are smart cities groups and flying car meetups right here in Brisbane embracing the vision and working towards making it happen. And it must. I attended the Uber Elevate conference in LA where they're promising air taxis by 2023. NZ has been testing their VTOL flying cars last year along with Dubai. If Australia is serious about innovation and smart cities, we need to be part of this transport and planning revolution too and I would love the country's first flying car to take off in Queensland. Why are we still spending billions building roads – we need to embrace this – we need to give our politicians the room to make brave decisions – for the good of us all.
Last but definitely not least are the Queensland startup successes. The globally ambitious problem solvers, as highly skilled and hungry for success as anywhere else in the world. At the risk of leaving some out, the standouts this year have included Tanda, Go1, Tritium, Arkose Labs, RedEye and Movus. The next Queensland-based Amazon or Google might be agtech, biotech, edtech, fintech - it doesn't matter. It's not about picking winners. We need to support every startup in the early stages. Even in the startup world, growth takes time. The success stories mentioned began their journey six or seven years ago and back then, no-one predicted that a cyber security, IoT or edtech startup from Brisbane would attract serious global investment, but that's exactly what's happened this year.
None of this would be happening without the contributions of the wider ecosystem, and I don't mean the actual co-working spaces, incubators, accelerators, government and universities, I mean the people that work there - paid and voluntary - who run meetup groups (often in their own time), hold events, attend events, mentor founders and provide free advice. It's the Give First attitude of people who provide the support, encouragement and energy that makes things happen. And the success of those startups mentioned show that what we’re doing as an ecosystem is working. And to all those people, I say thank you very much.
To the next Chief, I say meet every entrepreneur you can, help them as much as possible and most importantly, provide honest feedback.
What's next for me? More investing in startups and more time with my beautiful family. I do like a good pitch night, so keep an eye out for me at one of the many around Brisbane. You can keep in touch via Twitter, Facebook and check out my best food pics on Insta.
Always be networking and never forget: execution is everything.