In the conference center of AON Corporation, in Sydney Australia, the atmosphere was electric. We were there along with 175 members of Sydney’s business, entrepreneur and government community to celebrate eight women who were being introduced into the Springboard global accelerator network, yet something bigger hung in the air. Silicon Beach is starting to make waves.
The bigger message being conveyed was that Australia’s innovation start-ups were getting the attention and support from some very notable corporations, business leaders, investors and service companies. These start-ups have been struggling in an environment that did not respect their commitment, innovation and competitiveness. For the first time I saw the green shoots sprouting and I believe that Springboard’s commitment to building out the entire eco-system around entrepreneurs, women and men alike, was beginning to take hold.
In only our second year in Australia, we have seen encouraging improvements in the business of start-ups. We are not the only ones trying to grow the eco-system supporting the Australian start-up community, but I think we have been among the most effective in getting our message out. Entrepreneurs need human capital as much or more than they need financial capital and we have been building the human capital network around women entrepreneurs for 14 years. During an interview with Switzer TV, I mentioned, “It’s very important to understand how critical human capital is to traction. Financial capital follows human capital.”
See Kay’s interview here:
Amy Millman, Springboard co-founder and President, the Springboard team and I were in Australia to induct our next eight women entrepreneurs into our boot camp and coaching program. They were chosen from a group of about 150 companies screened by Wendy Simpson, Chairman of Springboard Australia. These are the best of the class – women who have developed innovative technology or deployed existing technology to new markets. They are coachable and scalable. They can compete on the global market, something really successful Australian companies need to do. (See Silicon Beach Part 2 for details about the women and their start-ups; next post.)
I was equally grateful for the opportunity to speak to some of the most influential people in the world of policy and government, who can contribute to this growing community in profound ways. U.S. Consul General Mary Burce Warlick in Melbourne brought together some rising stars in the innovation community with university commercialization officers and reporters who could learn more about the importance of this nascent community.
In Sydney, U.S. Consul General Hugo Llorens convened a luncheon for top women entrepreneurs and Honorable Malcolm Turnbull, Federal Minister for Communications in which we discussed ways to move forward the initiatives for women at all levels, including corporate board posts and well as in corporations and for entrepreneurs. I later had the opportunity to speak with him about the tax laws in Australia that are so punitive for employees of startup companies that you wonder who ever would dare to work there. The Australian National Affairs news quoted ANZ Bank Chief Mike Smith when he expressed dismay at Australia’s “Byzantine” tax system and its excessive bureaucracy, which he said “stifled entrepreneurialism.”
Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Chair, was generous with her time to discuss the initiatives her office is backing to advance diversity in the boardroom and in corporations. It was important for her to share her thoughts on creating meaningful change for women on corporate boards established by Male Champions of Change who promote more diversity in corporate board rooms and executive suites. She said, “Gender diversity will not happen without the ongoing commitment and momentum of decent, powerful men, men who believe that leadership is a shared activity.” My request of Elizabeth was that Male Champions of Change include women entrepreneurs in their network of support. That would create a real tidal wave!