ACS President Yohan Ramasundara on the past and future of tech, how he’ll spend Christmas & his summer reading list

- December 20, 2019 5 MIN READ

It’s been a big year for ACS, the professional association for Australia’s technology sector with more than 45,000 members, from the acquisition of industry groups ADMA, IAPA, DGA and DT&C, to the biggest ever Reimagination conference, the launch of  a new Melbourne hub and an overhaul of the society’s governance structure.

As part of our summer series, Startup Daily spoke to ACS President Yohan Ramasundara about a busy year and what’s ahead.


What were your highlights for the tech sector in 2019?

Globally the sector continue to grow. I had few opportunities to connect the Australian sector with other global leaders such as Silicon Valley, London, Beijing, and Boston which was great.

The Australian sector growth, deal flow and investment availability is behind the global leaders due to lower risk appetite, less incentives for investors, etc. Nevertheless it’s a vibrant sector which we need to support in 2020 and beyond.


What were your personal highlights?

I’m very proud of what I was able to achieve with the ACS to lead and shape the technology ecosystem in Australia with the help of an amazing team of staff, partners, supporters, volunteers, committed members and tech professionals.

I enjoyed seeing many of my mentees being promoted, being recognised for their excellent work and setting up their businesses and in 3 instances scaling up rapidly. I must say I continue to learn a lot from them too!

I had many personal growth opportunities, learnings and moments, made new connections that defined my life to be a better person.

Playing Cricket with my son and daughter in the backyard is certainly a key highlight.


What company do you most admire for its achievements in 2019 and why?

There are quite a lot of companies, but if I have to choose one, I’d say GHD Digital, one of the fastest growing global professional services firms providing much needed digital service offerings build on the capabilities of GHD’s 10,000 people in 200+ offices worldwide helping clients define their future in a digitally inspired world. They have grown at a rapid pace averaging 1 person a day growth over the last 18 months delivering impactful results in the physical and digital worlds. I was very impressed with their achievements so I joined them as their Government Digital Leader to contribute to the cause.


Is there a business you wished/are pleased you backed in 2020?

I’m pleased to back www.betalaunch.io which will make a `massive difference to the global startup community by providing affordable means to get their valuable ideas off the ground to tangible products in their journey to commercialisation. Beta Lanch has a longer term vision, solid but evolving business model, great societal benefit, great technology capabilities, talent pipeline and scalable leadership.


How do you view the current technology climate in Australia?

We have some great success stories. But as an ecosystem it’s not yet optimal. In a globalized environment, in general terms, people/talent follow $$.

$$ flow to the economies offering greater incentives and best returns that are investor friendly and less bureaucratic. We have a bit of a way to get there.


Who do you think could be the next major tech unicorn?

There’re too many candidates who will join $1b+ valuation club. $1 billion is becoming the new $1 million. We will see more unicorns from China and India. We’re due for some life sciences related startups to scale. I think the next trillion dollar company will be based on our genetic code.


What tech companies will you be watching in 2020 and what are you expecting to see in tech next year?

I’m quite interested in the life sciences, deep tech, AI and fintech related startups.

If every aspect of your life is tracked, monitored, saved, analysed and reduced to infinite control by others, it’s a prison. With big tech companies eavesdropping to gather more insights to predict our next move and (potentially) sell our preferences (data) the importance of privacy will be an important topic.

Automation and AI will continue to become mainstream. High volume, easily repeatable tasks will be done better by machines (tech). Only people who will lose jobs to machines will be the ones who won’t be able to work alongside them to augment their capability. Many new tech jobs will emerge.

Greater cyber posture will be required with demand for more cyber professionals with the use of technology by nation states to serve their interests grow.


What are you hoping will happen in 2020?

People valuing their intangible assets more such as data, Quantum becoming more accessible, Us tackling SDGs more strategically to get us at least a step closer to the target state. Less talk more action from people in positions of power across the world.


What are your goals for the year ahead?

Bring my social impact startup ISKOLE (means school in many languages) out of stealth mode with a mission to connect us better with our schools to improve education and education for all.

Scale up Beta Launch (www.betalaunch.io) to help more entrepreneurs to bring their business ideas to life. Last year we grew 9 start ups and 5 of them have gone beyond everyone’s expectations, so I’m looking forward to multiplying the success stories in 2020.

Scale down my travel, connect more with the local community, continue to learn, eat healthier and get back in to shape.


What’s keeping you awake at night, business-wise?

Nothing’s keeping me awake at night, I’m a good sleeper. With slow wages growth, increasing living expenses, and more percentage of average Australian’s salary commited to large home loans, the financial outlook is not looking good which will affect people’s spending and investment habits. But as with anything every situation provides positive and negative risks for us.


Are you taking time off over Christmas and how do you plan to spend it?

Yes, 2 weeks – a 1.5 week road trip and 0.5 week recovering ;o)


Where’s your favourite place to head to relax?

By the beach. We’re so blessed with amazing beaches in Australia! I try to find a new beach every time to make it a new experience.


What are you most looking forward to for Christmas?

I love seeing people happy. Everyone seems to be extra happy around Christmas time. May be it’s Santa, maybe it’s the food maybe it’s the holidays or may be its all of the above and more. But whatever it is it’s a great feeling.

I also like catching up with the extended family and friends. We should do it more often, but better once a year than never. Although we live in an increasingly digitally connected world, we’re being isolated i.e reducing our human to human connections.


Your favourite summer holidays tradition?

I like driving. Especially around the Australian east coast. We always go on a long road trip and then relax, reflect and recharge for the year ahead.


3 books people should read over summer and why?

The courage to be disliked – it shares simple lessons to be yourself and be happy

AI superpowers – AI is redefining what it means to be human and this provides a good inro and looks at AI in China & US

Hit refresh – I’ve been impressed by Satya’s ability to continue to evolve Microsoft and this provides few good lessons.