An education initiative aiming to instil a culture of entrepreneurialism in young Australians has been crowned the best idea at assistant minister for innovation Wyatt Roy’s inaugural Policy Hack over the weekend.
Ten innovation ideas centring on culture, capital, co-operation and talent were pitched by teams of founders, investors, CEOs and members of the public sector, who had five hours beforehand to prepare.
After a three-minute pitch and two minutes of questions, the DICE Kids initiative was crowned the winning by a judging panel including Roy, Shark Tank judge Steve Baxter and CSIRO CEO Larry Marshall.
The winning team was led by Erin Watson-Lynn, a member of Australia’s G20 Youth Summit delegate and Generate Worldwide founder, who tells StartupSmart the core idea is to “embed entrepreneurship into the education system”.
“We realised this was already in the education system at all levels, but the problem is in drawing it out of the curriculum and giving the teachers tools to do that,” Watson-Lynn says.
“Once we realised what the actual problem was it was about focusing on what was achievable on the day and how the government can help enable that. It was a pitch for a campaign we could get off the ground.”
The first tool would be a Lemonade Day in schools across the country – a program where primary school-aged children would go through all the steps of starting a small business.
“They’ll set up a lemonade stand, come up with a business strategy, design a marketing plan and execute the business, all the while learning about the different aspects of learning and operating a business,” Watson-Lynn says.
The group put a cost on the program of $2 for each of the targeted 180,000 children for a total of $360,000, referred to by Baxter as “pocket change”.
The idea received very positive feedback from the room, Watson-Lynn says, with some potential partners and investors already emerging. The CSIRO will already be supporting the idea through the schools program, bringing in 60 corporate organisations and schools.
Now it’s about ensuring the idea actually gets off the ground, Watson-Lynne says.
“We want to hold everyone accountable and make sure they keep their word,” she says.
“Everyone wants to stay involved. It was inspiring that these people want to be involved – we’ve got a lot of talent and we want to make sure this happens.
“All the different stakeholders need to be involved, that’s how you make change.”
Nine other ideas focusing on fostering innovation and startups in Australia were pitched at the Policy Hack, and they’ll now be collated by StartupAUS into a single package to be taken back to Canberra by Roy.
Getting corporates to work with startups
Dubbed by StartupWA director Justin Strharsky as the “boring topic”, the first pitch suggested implementing tax incentives for large established companies that work with startup accelerators in some way, whether through funding or coming on as a corporate partner.
“Our industries are not doing a good job of interacting with startups, and startups are not paying attention to industries,” Strharsky said.
Bringing innovation to disadvantaged communities
Anne-Marie Elias and her team suggested a ‘sustainable communities academy’ that would aim to bring entrepreneurialism and innovation to the “most disadvantaged communities in Australia”. Elias focused on a lack of technology and digital skills in these communities, and the need to foster entrepreneurial capacities or risk “further perpetuating the cycle of disadvantage”.
The idea is based on a nationally co-ordinated framework to be delivered with existing infrastructure in these disadvantaged communities around Australia, to be micro-funded from the community and crowdfunding.
The rock star initiative
Team leaders Nicole Williamson and Julia Claven began their pitch by pointing to a series of confronting figures on diversity in startups – 96% of investors are male, 4% of funded businesses are female, and there’s only one female leader on the StartupAUS board.
To help close this gap, the team suggested a ‘rock star initiative’ with three main routes: champions, pipeline and culture.
A key policy was the establishment of a $100 million co-investment fund which would match any funding given to a business with a female founder, similar to what was done recently in the UK. It also suggested using some of the men in the room as “champions of change” to promote action on diversity.
An IP Bank regime
With the aim of keeping successful Australian businesses and founders in the country, the IP Bank regime would encourage the use of intellectual property by Australian businesses.
Tracy Murray from Griffithhack discussed the ‘brain drain’ of startups relocating overseas and how this is “diminishing the innovation ecosystem” in Australia.
The IP bank was pitched as a way to protect businesseses’ IP and give them more of an incentive to stay here rather than move abroad.
“Innovation is undervalued in Australia compared to other countries,” Murray said.
“Australia must invest to make change – doing nothing is not an option.”
Creating investor-ready businesses
BlueChilli’s Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin wants to “put a rocket under” Australia’s accelerators in order to create more investor-ready businesses.
His team proposed a raft of ideas to work with the existing infrastructure in order to get talented people to work with the accelerators, more funding, and improve the culture of investing, with policies including matched-funding and capital gains tax exemptions for startup investors.
Dr Tony Peacock’s pitch focused on changing Australia’s academic culture and helping the process of moving IP from universities to the general community.
“Getting academics to change is like herding cats,” Peacock said.
“You can actually move them by moving the food bowl.”
The idea would incentivise and reward universities that engaged with the industry by increasing funding and creating a competitive rankings system, to the tune of $10 million.
Roy spoke highly of the concept of “shifting the goalposts” and said he had already discussed how to do this with minister for industry, innovation and science Christopher Pyne.
Opening up government data
NCITA CEO Adrian Turner pitched a three-pronged approach to make government procurement and data more open and innovative, including changing the rules of engagement and implementing incentives for ecosystem participation.
“If Australia does this it’ll be a leader in the world,” Turner said. “We should be thinking of all of government as a platform.”
Global landing pads for Australian startups
It’s “very difficult” for Australian startups to establish a presence in a new country, Spike Innovation director Colin Kinner says, and the government can help with this process.
“At the moment it’s the blind leading the blind,” Kinner said.
“There’s no established startup capacity to help when they arrive.”
So his team proposed a network of ‘landing pads’ in startup hotspots like Silicon Valley and New York at a cost of $450,000 each annually. It was a clear and actionable proposal, with Kinner saying it could be up and running by January next year.
Expanding the NEIS to foster startups
Pitched by Nicola Hazell from the Foundation for Young Australians, the final idea focused on expanding the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme to create a “new way of backing startups”.
“We’re all here because we know the startup ecosystem in Australia needs to grow to create the industries that we need in Australia,” Hazell said.
“We’re not pulling our weight.”
The team recommended making the NEIS “21st century ready” by including a startup incentive scheme to help people go from unemployment to being founders and business owners.
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