Innovation or common sense?

Last night on The Voice, 15 year old Lucy stood up to sing. Belting out a David Bowie classic, she commanded the chairs to turn, and turn they did. In moments she had judges pitching, Seal & Kelly baying at her feet in bloodlust.

This is how I feel about innovation in Australia. Branded & bright, the entrepreneurial movement is upon us. Startup Hubs, meetups and pitch nights are on every street corner, with their own lingo and groupies.

However in the race to fund one international superstar, the streets are littered with bust up initiatives, leaving behind a wake of destruction and many broken hearts.

I’ve had an “expert” in one of these centres lecture me on my incorrect definition of an investor (Sorry, mixed up Angel & Venture Capitalist). However, I’m one of the small percentage of startups that will ever attract funding and I’ve spent two years gaining it, not learning lingo!

And that’s the crux. This bubble has its focus on things that don’t matter. I see job ads touting “a well funded startup” and receive constant offers to enter pitch competitions. How about a competition for the most quickly profitable startup? Or isn’t that the point of business anymore?

The real crisis facing our economy is not being talked about. The latest study from Deloitte Access Economics warns that within 5 years 50% of business will involve digital tools. Yet less 20% of small business are interacting socially.

For our economy to really grow, Australian small business must survive, employ locals, and produce a viable product.

We have an entire generation of whip smart owners, who have been making profits since before the startup kids had their first weetbix! Completely lacking digital skills, they are about to enter a swift change in the market, with the final (and mainly rural) rollout of the NBN and the entry of Amazon, Uber Eats, and Afterpay. All of which could transform their business, if only Ma knew how to open that blasted Windows update.
What if we grafted our entrepreneurial spirits back into existing mum and dad business? What if we spent some of the cash & effort on closing the digital divide for the baby boomers?

I can only groan to think of the vast body of knowledge these business owners will take to their “early retirement” as they bow out of a totally changed landscape. Meanwhile the bankrupt 21 year old entrepreneur will start a coaching business and launch a blog detailing how they burned through 2m of seed funding.

Maybe a bit less focus (and spending) on innovation, and a large whack of common sense could go a long way here.

– Melody Jarvis