With a focus on exponential tech and big-picture thinking, SingularityU Australia is striving to encourage and inspire entrepreneurs Down Under, according to chief executive Christina Gerakiteys. And, she says, maintaining a positive mindset can be good for founders and the nation as a whole.
Gerakiteys herself got involved with SingularityU about seven years ago, when she started running workshops at events and met some of the leaders in the organisation.
She “fell in love with the organisation because of its optimism, its positivity”, she tells StartupSmart.
When she met now co-chief Lisa Andrews, the pair decided to get more involved and open a chapter in Australia. Now, they have six chapters here and will soon be announcing a seventh, she says.
In April, the team launched its Global Impact Challenge in Australia — marking the first time the competition has come to the Asia Pacific region.
“We take startups who have moonshot ideas and we ask them how they might use exponential technologies to scale whatever it is they’re doing to a global level,” Gerakiteys says.
At the same time, the program is working with other Aussie organisations to give startups additional opportunities.
“We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel,” she adds.
Australia already has several startup programs. So, if a startup is working with one of those, but fits the SingularityU bill, they can take up both opportunities.
“We want to have an aggregating effect, bringing people together.”
Bringing a SingularityU summit to Australia was intended to spread the word of singularity, Gerakiteys explains. She had attended summits in other countries and found them to be inspiring, to say the least.
“I walked out of my first summit and my jaw hit the floor, because I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” she says.
Having an event like this in Australia “is a way of spreading the word and introducing people to the prospects of SingularityU,” she adds.
“I knew that I had to help the message and help spread the word, which is to empower, educate, inspire leaders to use exponential technologies to solve the global grand challenges.”
Technology is becoming increasingly powerful. And sometimes, Gerakiteys says, it can be easy to fear that power.
But it has clear positive use cases, too, for example in healthcare, education and social impact.
“I’ve always been an idealist,” she adds, noting that some might even call her naive.
“Everything has an equal and opposite reaction. So if you believe in how bad it can be, you have to believe in how good it can be.”
Boosting Aussie entrepreneurship
In Australia, in particular, there are huge opportunities for startups, and huge benefits to be reaped form nurturing them.
Historically, the only option for Aussie startups has been to move overseas, often to Silicon Valley.
“We think everybody does things better over there, and they don’t,” Gerakiteys says.
Australia has great mind-power and intellectual capital, and there are great innovations coming out of the country, she adds. But we end up either selling companies internationally, or seeing entrepreneurs move away.
“If we kept that economic power here, then it would make us a much richer place — and I don’t just mean richer in terms of monetary funds, I mean a richer society,” she explains.
SingularityU, and the summit, is intended to help inspire those entrepreneurs, and get them thinking about the possibilities that face them here.
“We want to have people innovate by design, not just by necessity,” says Gerakiteys.
“We’ve got great innovation here, we’ve got great minds here, we’ve got every opportunity to be able to do that,” she adds.
“The more people talk in terms of optimism and positivism, and what is possible, and moonshot ideas … I think the more possible it is for us.”
Gerakiteys even applies this theory to the economy, to an extent.
“If we keep listening to the negative rhetoric about the economy, then we will go into a downward spiral,” she suggests.
If you pay attention to positive news, on the other hand, that positive mindset can have an effect on the innovation at play, and therefore potentially the economy.
“There is just as much positive economic news in the world right now as there is negative. It depends which one resonates louder with you and which one your listening to,” she explains.
“Our actions and our behaviours are so totally aligned with the mindset that we’re in.”
What’s interesting — and sometimes surprising — is how easily a person’s mindset can be influenced.
“Everyone has got a school story, when someone told them they couldn’t do something or that they were bad at something,” Gerakiteys says.
“We’re so highly influenced by anything people say … it’s really easy to follow a negative or a positive mindset, depending on how you spend your time or who you surround yourself with,” she adds.
“We’re really working hard to increase the positive mindset that will increase the economy. I’m really optimistic.”
StartupSmart attended the SingularityU Australia Summit as a guest of SingularityU.