Telstra CEO says Australian tech industry needs self-belief to become international player
The technology industry in Australia has for a long time offered promises of great innovation, but never quite delivered on that potential. According to the boss of Australia’s largest telecom company, all that is needed is the confidence to support the burgeoning industry from investors.
David Thodey, Telstra’s CEO, yesterday told a conference in Sydney hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce that he sees no reason why Australia cannot produce the next technology giant, something that hasn’t yet happened for the industry, but investment is required.
“I’ve been in this industry for nearly 33 years, and I’ve talked a lot about the importance of innovation and technology within Australia, but the truth is it hasn’t nearly gone a tremendous way. There hasn’t been real sustainable investment in local technology companies within Australia.”
Thodey also said the country also needed to refocus its economy towards technology, as the mining resources that have fuelled growth in recent years cannot last forever. “We’re a lucky country, we’ve got great mining resources, we’re a great sporting nation, but can we really become the clever country? Many of the other things that our wealth is being created on are not necessarily sustainable over the long term. We have an incredible opportunity to change that focus to become a clever country, and I really think we need to do it.”
The industry has failed to take off in recent years. Last year, a number of US investment firms took stakes in Australian start-ups, such as Tiger Global Management’s buying 40 percent of e-commerce site Catch of the Day. However, none of these businesses have yet made an impression on the global tech industry.
However, Thodey doesn’t think it is up to the government to push this growth, but that it will come with a few successes. “We’re not looking for a hand-out. I think it’s about creating an environment where innovation is seen as good, we’re encouraging it, creating a vision for it. And success helps; if you can get a few good wins under your belt, then the industry will grow in its own right.”