From SA to Silicon Valley: Meet this year’s Pearcey National Entrepreneur Award winner

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DTEX Systems co-founder Mohan Koo receiving the Pearcey National Entrepreneur Award from South Australian Premier Steven Marshall. Source: supplied.

Mohan Koo, co-founder and chief technology officer of cybersecurity company DTEX Systems, has taken home the Pearcey National Entrepreneur Award for 2021.

The award was presented by South Australian Premier Steven Marshall in a ceremony broadcast online, with Koo’s family in attendance.

Founded in 2014, DTEX Systems is a cybersecurity company focused on human behaviour as the root cause of breaches. More often than not, Koo tells SmartCompany, when a hack is successful it’s because of an action taken within the business.

Now headquartered in Silicon Valley, the business has about 200 corporate customers worldwide, including government organisations, large banks and Fortune500 companies.

While Koo welcomes this recognition in Australia, he’s also humbled just to be part of the Pearcey network.

The event on Wednesday was a small affair, broadcast online and attended by the other state winners, previous national winners and hall of fame inductees.

“They’re just a collection of some of the world’s most talented entrepreneurs and technology leaders,” he says.

It demonstrated just how much talent is coming out of Australia, with individuals building that are leading on a global scale.

“We have reached a pivotal time,” Koo adds.

“No longer do you have to be in Silicon Valley to sell to the US market … We have the support infrastructure and the recognition that Australians are leading the world in different fields.”

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Mohan Koo with his family and other attendees at the Pearcy National Awards ceremony. Source: supplied.

Koo’s family was able to attend the event, sharing in his success. That was equally important to him, he says.

“They’ve been on the journey with me.”

Pearcey Foundation chief judge Rick Harvey called Koo’s achievements in international expansion “nothing short of amazing”, noting that DTEX Systems is one of the most trusted brands in the cybersecurity sector.

Koo’s story is “a testament to his passion and advocacy for technology, and the expertise and innovation of Australian entrepreneurs,” he added.

Lifetime achievements recognised

Having won the South Australian State Pearcey award, Koo was pitched against the winners from other states for the national title.

They included Victorian winner Bronwen Le Grice, founder of ANDHeath; Hireup founders Jordan O’Reilly and Laura O’Reilly, who won the NSW award; and Queensland winner Michael Holmstrom, co-founder of STEM Punks.

The winner in ACT was Dr Daniel Shaddock, founder of Liquid Instruments. Nina McMahon, co-founder of PopUp WiFi, won the Tasmania award and Charlie Gunningham, founder of Damburst, won in Western Australia.

Elsewhere, David Thodey was awarded the 2021 Pearcey Medal for lifetime achievement and contribution to the tech sector in Australia.

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Pearcey Foundation chair Wayne Fitzsimmons and Pearcey Medal awardee David Thodey. Source: supplied.

Thodey was also chief executive of Telstra until he retired in 2015, and until recently was chair of CSIRO and formerly chair of CSIRO and chief executive of Telstra. He is currently chair of Xero and Tyro Payments.

Pearcey Foundation chair Wayne Fitzsimmons said in a statement that Thodey has “consistently demonstrated sincere and sustained interest in supporting many organisations in the Australian ICT industry”.

That includes support of the Pearcey Foundation, he added, which focuses on attracting the next generation of tech industry players.

Thodey was also appointed to the Pearcey Hall of Fame, alongside tech educator and advocate for women in tech Judy Hammond and Alan Noble, former engineering director of Google in Australia and founder of not-for-profit AusOcean.

Each year, the Pearcey Medallist and Hall of Fame inductees are chosen by their peers in the industry through a nationwide vote.

“These are the very best in our industry based on a lifetime of achievement,” Fitzsimmons said.

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