​Innovation: Not with a boom but a whisper

We don’t need an Ideas Boom. The talk has been enough.

Picture: Boegh (Flickr).

Picture: Boegh (Flickr).

It’s probably not a popular thing to say, but for all the talk that the Ideas Boom has been a bit of a Fizza, the industry seems to be doing a fine-job of starting-up itself.

I have been a fairly staunch critic of the array of initiatives offered under the loose banner head of the Ideas Boom, but also includes the National Innovation and Science Agenda and changes to crowdfunding and equity arrangements on the grounds that they disproportionately favour investors over founders, big business over start-ups proper and will in many instances help to maintain the status-quo rather than diversify the market to the benefit of customers.

However.

Having spent a considerable amount of time immersed in startup land I have been continually impressed by the increasing ease of access industry has to government, to guide it on creating the right regulatory conditions for their long-term survival.

However.

As was recently mentioned on Mark Pesce’s The Week In Startups Podcast, (or TWISTA for short), this isn’t without its own concerns.

The creation of Tech Sydney has resulted in the informal “unionisation” of the start-up industry, inadvertently creating an “arms-race” between states, where start-ups organise to compete for access to the Premier and by extension the Prime Minister.

Now I’m all for people power when it comes to things like equitable workplace arrangements, fair-pay, honest-to-goodness incidences of sexual harassment and gender pay equity. But unionising the start-up industry - these supposed free-champions of the free market - not so much.

That being said, these last 18 months have given birth to some of the most diverse, high-tech and (dare I say) disruptive startups that would not have been allowed to exist even a decade ago - drone technology for instance, AI, virtual reality - all of these things were the result of collaboration between industry and government. Regulating themselves into existence.

That’s not to say they can’t be regulated out of existence. Look what happened to Napster.

But Napster beset iTunes beset Spotify.

So all of this Ideas Boom stuff is a bit besides the point.

I’m glad that innovation has become an election agenda, even if it is a bit of a political hot potato, because it’s given just the right amount of attention to kickstart the industry in earnest.

While I understand a few grants are now available and the changes to crowdfunding and equity arrangements are already active, nonetheless, few of the initiatives offered by the old IB have been implemented yet.

Despite this Australia has given birth to a plethora of startups over the last 4-5 years.

That was without a bang. Barely even a whisper.

This should not be taken as a sign of letting anyone off the hook.

But if we want a Silicon Alley, then a Silicon Alley we shall have.

And if this is all just another bubble, (and it is), let’s ensure the wake of the Boom doesn’t do too much damage.

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Claire Connelly

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