By Jason Lim, cofounder of AsiaRecon
It is clear that Australia needs to diversify its economy away from relying on mining and resources, scale the economic output of our relatively small labor force through innovation and truly engage with Asia beyond tourism, education, mining and agriculture. For the country to compete in the world economy and remain relevant, it must adapt and innovate. This means aggressively positioning itself to take advantage of technology and its proximity to Asia.
After witnessing the speed and scale of Asia’s technology and entrepreneurial evolution and realising how detached Australians were, myself and Mathew Benjamin pursued a conviction to change the situation by taking a delegation to Asia to see what’s happening for ourselves. This program is called AsiaRecon.
The program runs with the idea that Australia risks being left behind if it doesn’t actively participate in the rapid change taking place across Asia and that Australia can learn a lot from Asia and should seize the opportunity to attract the best ideas, technology and investment from the region.
AsiaRecon successfully carried out its first tech tour between September 5-12th this year. Over 8 days, 15 delegates from across Australia visited over 30+ companies across Singapore, Shanghai and Beijing, hosted 4 community events and along the way met with over 220+ investors, entrepreneurs and other key community contributors. The mission of the tour was to bring back new insights, ideas and relationships for the future economic benefit of Australia.
The delegation was made up of a unique mix of entrepreneurs, investors and government representatives from the Department of Communications and CSIRO. All the delegates agreed that this diversity contributed to much of the value of the trip.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the program was the relationships I formed with the other delegates and the conversations we had throughout the trip,” said Jackie Ariston, community and program manager for ATP Innovations.
The delegation visited some of the most prominent organisations across each of the three major tech hubs. This is a sample of some of the organisations the group met with:
- Temasek Holdings – a S$266 billion investment company owned by the Singaporean Government
- Sequoia Capital India – one of the world’s most prestigious venture capital firms
- Blk 71 – a thriving campus for startups, accelerators and investors
- iDA Labs – a hacker space fitted out with free to use 3D printers, sensors and games for people to collaborate around creative ideas
- Alibaba – the world’s largest online retailer with history’s biggest IPO
- People Squared – one of the original startup co-working spaces housing Pozible and Chinaccelerator
- Fudan Software Tech Park – a jointly run incubator between the government and Fudan University
- TechNode – an influential bi-lingual tech media company in China that also manages TechCrunch China
- Baidu – China’s dominant search company
- Tech Temple – a popular startup co-working space and incubator
- Innovation Works – China’s original tech incubator founded by Dr. Kai Fu Lee
- Cadwalader – a prestigious U.S. law firm lead by Rocky Lee that works with most major Chinese tech companies
The intense program was a mind-opening experience for the delegates. Not only did they learn from the hosts and each other, but also from the immersion into the local culture and environment, especially in China. Many of the delegates were impressed by the scale of young and ambitious entrepreneurs working passionately and the deep involvement by Government to support the ecosystem.
Immediately following the trip, delegates are starting to do things differently.
Murray Hurps, general manager of Sydney coworking community Fishburners said that after the trip he would consider ways to better promote Australia to other countries, particularly its neighbours, and have a more considered approach to government support. He said Singapore is clear evidence of why we need more than grants to build a productive ecosystem.
Philipp Ivanov, CEO of Asia Society Australia and advisor to AsiaRecon, has also backed the initiative, explaining, “AsiaRecon provides a unique opportunity for Australians to take a deep-dive into Asia’s technological and innovation renaissance. They do it by taking thought-leaders and champions on a journey to Asia’s hubs of innovation to let them make conclusions about Asia’s rise and to build connections with the people behind it. I and my organisation, Asia Society, are proud to support AsiaRecon and its important mission.”