A few weeks on from Peter Bradd vacating his post as interim CEO of StartupAUS, the organisation has announced former head of strategy and advocacy Alex McCauley as its new CEO.
McCauley, a former diplomat who worked in Tel Aviv, said he is “delighted” to have been given the opportunity to work with StartupAUS to help Australia’s economy work through the shift from resources to technology.
“This will be a fantastically big year for startups and innovation. We’ve got a bipartisan approach; we need a new engine for growth in the economy and this is it for both parties, and that doesn’t happen very often. It’s a once in a generation opportunity in an election year for us to really shift the national conversation in the right direction and get some policies in place to help transform the economy and deliver on our prosperity in the future,” he said.
“Australia has come a long way recently in recognising the direction we need to take to safeguard our future prosperity, however there is a lot more to do. I look forward to continuing to work with all of our stakeholders to help make Australia one of the world’s leading startup ecosystems. We need to think creatively and act boldly to allow us to take full advantage of the huge windfall technology can deliver.”
The organisation will be focusing on three core issues this year: generating and retaining talent, boosting access to capital, and ensuring the cultural settings are in place to accommodate this talent and capital. With the cultural settings relating to mainstream awareness, McCauley highlighted the importance of pushing the conversation around startups and innovation out beyond its current niche.
“I think that, at the moment, if you say innovation and ecosystem in the same sentence, people’s eyes glaze over, but this is a core piece of Australian economic policy going forward. It’s about skills kids will need for the future, so it’s a policy area that affects every household in the country, it’s about the hip pocket and education and it’s really about setting Australia up to take advantage of opportunities technology will deliver in the future,” he said.
While he believes this will come naturally as innovation policy becomes a key aspect of the upcoming federal election, McCauley believes the industry as a whole has a part to play in helping to build understanding.
“Something I’ve been trying to do is use language that means something to people. I think that, as an industry, we can be quite jargonistic, but we’ve got to understand the audience is broader now than it ever has before, and we need to try to relate to people more directly.”
With StartupAUS funded through corporate partners including Xero, Salesforce, and Xero, the next few months will see the organisation finalise a number of new partnerships with corporates and universities to help build out its team. Building partnerships across the startup scene will also be crucial to increasing the number of voices contributing to the conversation.
“To design a good innovation policy we need to make sure the right voices are going into that process. Because this touches everyone from universities to corporate, startups to government and investors and financiers, you really need to make sure everyone is being heard in the process to make sure the policy is the right one,” McCauley said.
Peter Bradd, former CEO and current chairman of StartupAUS, welcomed McCauley’s appointment, highlighting his extensive understanding of innovation culture and his expertise in policy and advocacy.
“Alex’s experience working closely with government and entrepreneurial personalities made him the perfect candidate choice for this leadership role,” Bradd said.
Having joined StartupAUS last year, McCauley was responsible for developing the organisation’s contribution to the Turnbull Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda. His approach to government will be crucial to keeping the startup agenda front and centre as Australia gears up for an election later this year.
The appointment comes after the organisation added Queensland-based Wayne Gerard, founder of Red Eye Apps, to its board in December in a reshuffle when Bradd stepped down as CEO. Bradd’s current position of chairman is now a rotating role.
Image: Alex McCauley. Source: Supplied.