2016 was a brilliant year for innovation in Australia, with the government and public all jumping on board the fresh wave of new and exciting ideas coming from everyday Australians across the country. Some on this list have been startling successes with far more than their 30 minutes of fame, whilst others have only just recently broken through into the startup culture with exciting paths ahead.
Having looked back at some of the innovators and innovations we came across in 2016, here’s 10 Australian innovators and innovations to watch in 2017.
1. Atlassian: From rags to riches and now powering innovation around the world
Atlassian is the classic rags to riches story on steroids. Starting way back in 2002 with $10,000 on a credit card, co-founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar found success by sticking to their guns, reaching $5.4B on NASDAQ in late 2015. Most recently, Cannon-Brookes and Farquhar both co-received the Australian Finance Review’s Business Person of the Year in December, and are opening a new 400 person office in Sydney CBD this year. Atlassian is now best described as a force of nature in the startup world, with a whole slew of tools and products powering everyone from Airbnb to NASA. Having valuable input into government innovation agenda and the startup community at large, Atlassian has earned their place on our list with not just their services but their continually inspiring story for budding and hopeful innovators around Australia.
2. InnovationACT 2016 winners: Students and Graduate Entrepreneurs
Running for nine years now, IACT is one of the biggest innovation events in the nation. The unique thing about IACT however, is the majority of entrepreneurs getting involved being university staff, undergraduates and graduates from Canberra – putting together consistently novel ideas. Running over an intense 10 weeks, teams with little to no experience planned and constructed their startup ideas from scratch, and pitched to a panel of investors for a shot at the $50K seed funding pool. The six brilliant winning teams this year were,
- Jazz for Joy – A social good enterprise linking performers with communities
- Pixelated Induction – Wireless phone charging
- Wildlife Drones – Enabling ecologists to with drones for conservation efforts
- Crick Films – Creating a transmedia market with awesome indie films
- Ghostbolt Games – New and norm-challenging indie games
- StakTask – Gamification of workplace management
With the innovation community in the ACT thriving more than ever, we can’t wait to see what these guys get up to this year.
3. Prof. Brian Schmidt and the Australian National University: An intersection for research and startups
An new trend getting attention in 2016 has been the merging between universities, startup culture, innovation and scientific research. The classic story of a successful entrepreneur starting their big new idea during university is as old as startups themselves (think Facebook, Atlassian etc…), but now universities themselves are catching onto the bright minds of students and staff on their own campuses. No better an example is there of startup culture ingrained into universities is there than the Australian National University – with Vice-Chancellor and Nobel Laureate, Prof. Brian Schmidt being an outstanding supported for the innovation community. ANU has not only hosted IACT, but even begun to include innovation and startup idea cultivation within courses themselves. ANU has further plans to support any undergraduate, graduate or staff member with a big idea, and being home to some new and exciting startups such as Liquid Instruments and OzGuild has become fertile grounds for fresh innovation.
4. Tom Dawkins StartSomeGood – Crowdfunding social change around the world
Social good initiatives and startups are becoming more and more common, with crowdfunding efforts now including not just fancy watches and backpacks, but truly great charitable initiatives for those less fortunate overseas. Tom Dawkins, founder of StartSomeGood was our first interviewee on IdeasHoist and has been a huge driver of social change in the Australian startup industry. At the time of writing, StartSomeGood has now raised over $5.5M USD, for 731 projects around the world. From youth empowerment to green initiatives, StartSomeGood has done exactly what its namesake implies, providing an excellent platform for social enterprises around the world. Man, just browsing through the site makes me feel warm and fuzzy!
5. QB50 – High-tech Aussie cubesats, in space!
2016 also marked a key year for many science and technology based initiatives, and Australia was no exception. The QB50 project is an EU initiative with 27 countries involved, and aims on launching fifty cubesats – little cubic satellites that fit on the palm of your hand, into the ionsphere for one of the biggest observational space projects in history. The initiative is not only technically challenging, but complex on a cooperative organizational basis too. Australia is right in the thick of this one, with scientists and students from ANU, USyd, UNSW and UniAdelaide working together to contribute a total of three individual cubesats. The big launch is now set for March 2017, and we’ll certainly be listening closely. With the incredible space physics and engineering talent here in Australia, there’s even buzz of a local space program…here’s hoping!
Mired by political turmoil in Britain and the US, democracy has had its foundations rocked a fair bit in 2016. Instead of being frustrated and complaining about pollies though, two Aussie based startups/political movements are looking to shake things up and introduce a new, modern way of doing politics.
MiVote, founded by Adam Jacoby, is a not-for-profit disruptive political movement aiming to enhance democracy by giving citizens access to transparent, up to date and mutli-faceted information on political issues through a smartphone app. With ‘fake news’ leaving a sour taste in our mouths from recent memory, this strikes right at the heart of what makes democracy work.
Flux, founded by Max Kaye and Nathan Spataro, is a hybrid political movement and startup which is looking to flip the system on its head altogether with the visionary and modern “Issue Based Direct Democracy” (IBBD) system. With the Flux app (which is soon to be released), a Flux senator votes according to what his voters choose with their smartphones. The interesting twist to IBBD which sets it apart from regular ‘direct democracy’ is the idea of political capital, and trading votes. So if you’re not interested in a particular issue (or perhaps not at all in politics), then you can give away your votes to someone who you know aligns with your views. If there’s ever been an attempt at innovating democracy, this is it.
7. Invoice2Go – Saving Aussie businesses time and money
Invoice2Go featured on our 8 Aussie Fintech startups list, as one to watch in 2016. By the end of the year, they’d raised over $50M in total capital, and was recently listed in Business Insider’s 2016 Top 20 list. In the era of smartphones, who would bother with messy and headache-inducing paper invoices? Invoice2Go thought the same thing, and after launching their smartphone app in 2010 found wild success amongst Australian businesses. With an average 3 hours saved and payments seven days earlier – the time and money adds up making this one a no-brainier for small to big Aussie services. Now boasting over 250,000 small businesses signed up, Invoice2Go is a neat and proud Australian startup, well deserving its place on our 2016 list.
8. DisruptSports – Custom sport gear
DisruptSports gives its customers the chance to customise their own skateboards, surfboards, snowboards and even yoga matts. Not only is it a neat idea, but the startup founded by Gary Elphick lived up to Disrupt’s name by shaking up a stir in the pitch show, Shark Tank, when Elphick turned down a $200,000. After a bit of controversy with their co-founder being deported over a fruit-picking scandal (I know, right?), the startup is now backed by the Turnbull government on the prestigious, $11.2M RocketPad accelerator program over in Silicon Valley. Now rocketing ahead with rapid growth in the sporting market, DisruptSports is looking forward to a bright 2017.
9. Brendan Falk & State Rank Lectures
Although lots of uni students are jumping on board the innovation bandwagon, some bright ideas start from even younger entrepreneurs like Brendan Falk, founder of State Rank Lectures. Having aced his HSC – the final exams for NSW students, Brendan realised that he could do more for his fellow students by bringing together “State Rankers” from across Sydney and surrounds, so that upcoming Grade 12 students could learn from the best. Graduated Brendan was one of the few Australian students accepted into Harvard, and in our opinion has left behind a brilliant and resourceful startups for NSW students.
The issue with fancy 3D tech (TVs, 3D printers, VR headsets etc…) is that it’s all so expensive. Eora3D is a 3D scanner that very simply runs using the power of your smartphone. Boasting impressive specs (8 million points per scan, 100 micron accuracy etc…) Eora3D managed to top over 100 million startups in Silicon Valley’s Disrupt 100 list, beating the likes of IBM’s Watson. With an impressively successful crowdfunding campaign, you’ll certainly be seeing Eora3D around again in 2017.