Episode 1 – Mark Gustowski

Episode 1 of Cut the Cliches takes host Liam Fitzpatrick to Brisbane to speak with Mark Gustowski, CEO of QUT’s Creative Enterprise Australia.

We discuss Mark’s two decades of startup experience, including his time in the Melbourne scene during the Dot Com boom and London after the 2012 Olympics announcement.


Why move your startup to Brisbane?

This article was first published on 61-Bit.

It’s not just cheaper rent and a sunnier climate which is drawing more startups north as Commswork head of communications, Liam Fitzpatrick, discovers…

“We chose it because of the community”.

“Queensland is very relaxed and less affected by status”.

“There’s more collaboration than in any other ecosystem, including Silicon Valley”.

These were a few of the reasons given by founders I spoke to, about why they chose to set up in Brisbane. But what are some of the other environmental and political factors which may affect the relocation decision for startups?

Get **it done
One area of benefit in the Brisbane ecosystem is the ability to execute at a faster pace.

“You can get stuff done in a day up there. In Sydney it can take weeks,” says Graham Ross. The Kusaga Athletic founder believes it’s this enthusiastic attitude which allows direct conversations with government ministers – one of whom is usually in attendance at the numerous startup events throughout the city each week.

“I’ve had follow up calls with senior government officials just to check in. That’s unheard of elsewhere.”

And this governmental support is another reason why startups are drawn to Brisbane – in Queensland it goes beyond just words and feel good policies. In fact, Queensland is the first and only state with a government office for the ‘Chief Entrepreneur’, a position currently held by Steve Baxter.

Testing the responsiveness myself, I received a call back from the local government the morning after first lodging my online request for a contribution to this article.

Paul Martyn, Deputy Director General of the Department of Innovation, confirmed: “The $650 million Advance Queensland whole-of-government initiative fosters the spirit of entrepreneurialism across the complete process of innovation, from the research stage to the implementation phase, encouraging innovative businesses to bring their ideas to market in a way that is globally scalable.”


One of the government initiatives, Hot DesQ, is now in its third cohort. The program offers funding up to $100,000 for interstate and international companies to relocate to Queensland for at least six months. The idea behind the $8m initiative, inspired by a similar Chilean example, is for successful organisations to impart knowledge, experience and new networking potential for existing Queensland businesses.

Admittedly I haven’t seen any ROI stats, but anecdotally I’m informed it’s been a standout success. Sydney-based Citizen Wolf co-founder, Eric Phu, added: “It’s a great opportunity to build up your network with other like-minded entrepreneurs, potential investors, and mentors in a super-supportive environment”.

Hot DesQ has brought over 70 companies through the sunshine state. Brennan Hatton, founder of Wollongong-based Equal Reality, was one of those convinced to up sticks and he was instantly impressed. His startup uses VR in diversity and inclusion training for a variety of organisations including the Royal Navy.

“Brisbane’s attitude towards collaboration was above and beyond – I haven’t seen a large community get together to be unanimously inclusive and supportive of each other. In many places, it’s ideal but in Brisbane, I think they’ve managed to achieve it.”

A startup hub in the making
It’s not only government providing funding to startups. Investment funds and accelerator programs are also contributing to the growth and viability of the region as a startup hub. The state is home to Australia’s only creative tech investment fund. QUT Creative Enterprise Australia (CRE), had its most recent demo day recently. Since 2013, there have been 30 companies across its accelerator and Startup Fund which have received investment, including Cardly, Trademark Vision and Audience Republic.

The new CEO, Mark Gustowski, recently got the chance to showcase the brightest startups from the Collider Accelerator, when leading a delegation to Bangkok for one of the region’s biggest events, TechSauce, at the end of June.

Ranked as Australia’s second startup hub, according to Startup Muster’s annual census, reveals maybe not the size or number of startups in Queensland’s capital, but definitely the collective eagerness in the city. This is what I’m assured of by CEA’s Gustowski. “Come survey time, the entire community participates in some form, to ensure a good showing. Something perhaps overlooked in some of the more traditional startups centres.” The 2018 Startup Muster survey is currently open.

Photo credit brisbane.qld.gov.au

Myriad of reasons
Brisbane now plays host to one of the region’s finest events. Myriad’s second full year curated the best line-up of speakers announced so far in 2018. But co-founder Murray Galbraith admits they’re only at stage two of a 5-10 year process.

The whole feel is different. Big names from Google, NASA, Apple, Stripe and Slack were Qantas’d in on a special Myriad Air chartered flight. But it’s the side events that turned the conference, into a real tech festival. Dozens of complementary events took place around the city. “We have designed Myriad as a platform. We want it to be super fun and accessible for others to build their brand on top of ours, whether that’s launching something new or just telling their story” says Galbraith.

Credit: Murray Galbraith’s Medium page – thanks

The real success for him though lies in the impact created beyond the event itself. He admits people attend events like Myriad and SxSW “cause Elon Musk says he’s talking”, but what matters most, are the connections made there.

Brisbane an investment capital
What’s the overall aim for initiatives like this? For Queensland to be viewed, not just as a tourism, but also as an investment capital.

To challenge the willingness of those operating in the ecosystem to help out, I messaged QUT CEA’s Entrepreneur in Residence, Alan Jones for comment. And sure enough, I got a reply within a couple of hours. After conceding he’s only been up there for a couple of months, he observed the comparatively reduced price of coworking and rental spaces. Adding “UberX is muuuch [sic] cheaper and faster than Sydney and Melbourne”.

His advice?

“There are plenty of places available on AirBnB at reasonable prices to allow a startup team or a founder to be flexible in their initial commitment to being based in Brisbane”.

Many of those I spoke to for this article has drawn comparisons with Melbourne in the late 90’s in terms of feeling around the ecosystem and maturity of the market. As Sabrina Chakori, founder of social enterprise Brisbane Tool Library expresses, people like her come and stay in the area “most of all because of the potential to create new things” and “challenge the current system”.

I’ll leave the last word to Mark Gustowski who explains, “While other cities have their niche, Brisbane is still deciding what it’s going to be known for.

“I hope it stays agnostic and never decides. Because the melting pot of experience we currently have is really exciting and works for everyone.”

We travelled to New York for World Blockchain Forum

There are so many songs about New York, it’s impossible to walk the streets without humming at least one of the them – be it Jay-Z and Alicia Keys and their epic Empire State of Mind, LCD Soundsystem’s anti-love song or Interpol’s slightly darker still tale of spoilt New York Kids.

We were back in the city again, a place which brings back special memories for our head of communications having proposed to his now wife there.

This time though, it was World Blockchain Forum that enticed us back with promises of the new big thing in crypto. After all, it is where Ethereum and Dash were previously launched.

The main announcement this time round came from Beam, a retail blockchain platform to restructure how we think and go about buying products, read more on iTWire.

Discussing securities and their future within the crypto space was CNBC Africa.

And finally Bitcoin Centre founder Nick Spanos, gave a rousing speech about the potential of blockchain and the fact it doesn’t need to ask government permission, read more on BitsOnline.

We finished the visit off with a customary visit to Yankee stadium for a little relaxation, which would have been easier without a close 4-5 loss to the Nationals

The year that was in technology – Mary Meeker speaks and the industry listens

Silicon Valley and the world were eager to hear what the Mary Meeker report had to say last week – many regard the annual census as a litmus test for the tech industry, where ongoing trends are confirmed.

Recode gives a pretty good summation of the report, along with all of the slides. Tech companies struggling with the ‘Privacy Paradox’ is one key theme, where the collection of personal data is taken under the assumption of improved tailored experiences. Commswork wonders whether a successful blockchain solution can return control of our data back to us as consumers?
2017 was the first year that the shipment of smartphones didn’t increase. But the amount of time people spend online certainly did.

Give me that digital media

TechCrunch does a handy job of distilling the news into a handy 20 slide deck. Slowing internet user growth continuing from the 2017 report. 2017 is the year of voice thanks to 95 per cent accuracy with the likes of Amazon’s Alexa. Public and private investment in tech companies is at a two decade high with the race to become the dominant player in emerging tech fronts of AI and automation.

Alexa on the rise
Credit: Mary Meeker report

Offering a local view, Which-50, reduced its important slides down to just 10, focusing on the $7bn opportunity in mobile advertising (note this is down from $16bn last year with advertisers diverting budgets). Also noting the rise in importance of China on the global stage along with e-commerce within the country when compared with other western nations (well over 20 per cent of all retail sales are made online).

China now has nine of the most valuable tech companies, the US 11.
Print ad spend continues to over-reflect time spent. Mobile and radio look like best opportunities

Commswork speaks to Sky News on Facebook data scandal

Mark Zuckerberg should come out and apologise for Facebook’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal according to Commswork’s Liam Fitzpatrick.

Speaking with Sky News recently, he went on to say that there will be more cases like this in the coming weeks and months – people download apps without reading the T&C’s but Facebook should still be playing a larger role in protecting users’ data to prevent it being harvested without consent.

Expect this story to dominate headlines in the coming weeks

Liam Fitzpatrick speaks with Nick at Sky News

Sports industry facing disruption – akin to late 90’s music industry

Change is coming. And it will be unforgiving to those who fail to prepare.

That was the message from speakers outside of the world of sport speaking at the Business of Sport Summit earlier this week. While the line-up did include the NRL Commissioner, FFA chief exec and AFL GM, it was the consultancies like Accenture, Showdown and Aussie pioneers Wearable X with the starkest message.

Disruption will hit indiscriminately.

Scott Dinsdale from Accenture warned about the influx of tech giants (Facebook/YouTube), which care not for traditions. Instead they just dispassionately amass content which can captivate their already scaled user-bases. He likened sports’ position now to the music industry in the late 90’s – shifting to digital. It will look slow at first, as digital music sales did. In 2005, it still only represented just 2.5% of the market. But the swing was great and by 2010 that was up to 60%. Today physical sales have shrunk to 16% of the market losing over 80% of share in the space of 11 years.

{Updated 22/03: The harbinger of digital change is backed up by the stats too}:


Dinsdale believes though, that this brings opportunity and ‘there’s never been a better time to be a leader in the industry’. He asks What would you do in digital today if you ignored what has happened up until this point? The best ideas are from those free of the ideas that have come before (the baggage of history). Revolution not evolution.

He explained Metcalfe’s Law, that the value of a network is directly related to its size. The bigger the audience the more valuable any single piece of content becomes. It’s the connecting which becomes important not controlling the flow of information. Sport has a multi-platform opportunity. So for those already with a huge ‘social network’, like the Facebook’s of the world, the attraction of sport is obvious. The profit comes when there’s scale in revenue. Its potential for the platform is enormous and unquantifiable right now.

He’s not alone in his belief in the opportunity:

Athlete turned business women, Angela Ruggiero admitted, “Yes, it’s a risk if (global sports brands) don’t (use technology),” the four time Olympic medalist, now CEO of Sports Innovation Lab said in a separate interview with SportTechie.

“But it’s also a massive opportunity to leverage what’s out there – to leverage how you engage your fans, to leverage how you support your athletes on the field of play, to leverage how you’re reaching your audience globally is all done through technology now.”

Nor is Dinsdale alone in his perceived threats to incumbents:

Ricardo Fort, VP of Global Sports Partnerships gave a personal tale of how Brazil’s exit of World Cup 1982 etched into his memories along with an ad from that same year. His delivery was humourous and open. But the message that followed was very clear.

B2B sponsors will not provide the benefit for fans and ultimately will damage sport.

Companies like Coca-Cola seek to add value in activations like its global World Cup trophy roadshow Fort said. However tech brands simply choose sport sponsorship as the cheapest approach for brand awareness. And without consumers as their target market, there’s no need to offer value for fans was his contention.

The key to future success according to Accenture? Nailing four challenges:

Credit: Dinsdale’s Accenture BOSSummit presentation

(Phygical – a discordant and now cliched pairing of digital and physical)

Time to initiate a different mindset in your organisation by questioning the status quo and looking at how to benefit your audience. Fan insight has never been more valuable.

Transparency issues in ad tech industry highlighted during Programmatic Media Summit

Let me preface this article by saying I have worked with a number of ad tech vendors, doing some stellar work for clients.

But despite having worked in the industry for the last seven years, there remain problems. Long argued issues of brand safety, measurement and an overall lack of transparency in the process of digital ad buying has followed the media narrative around programmatic for much of the last decade. Since 2011 we’ve seen articles like this one from Digiday on the ‘wild west’ of ad tech. But a year of acquisitions has narrowed the ad tech pool of players – and a noticeable shift to reposition as martech companies has been accompanied by increased conversations of education and adding demonstrable business value.

Well Sydney’s ICC played host to some of the industry’s foremost thinkers in the space at last week’s Ashton Programmatic Summit.

To give a little context, it’s well worth, seeing the opening remarks from the IAB’s Vijay Solanki here.

And for further insight on transparency issues, which were highlighted during the event, see Which-50 cover story from Andrew Birmingham in his post here.

In an effort to address the ad fraud, Ad News reports that App Nexus is enforcing ads.txt which it explains: “The IAB’s ads.txt protocol is an effort to crack down on ad fraud in programmatic trading. It makes it much more difficult for fraudsters to commit domain spoofing, where imitation domains mimic premium publisher’s URLs to trick buyers into buying inventory from an unrelated site.”

During the event, Danielle Uskovic, head of digital APAC for Lenovo pointed to the success in the last 10 years of programmatic, going on to claim it’s the future for all media buying “From print to billboard to radio and TV, it’s all going to be served programmatically – so it’s time to embrace it. It’s time to realise that this is the future.”

Uskovic went on to call out naysayers of ad tech, covered by Ad News, to which Mark Ritson has replied in the comments and points out the industry needs to address issues within the ‘murky’ (P&G’s Marc Pritchard’s wording) value chain.

Infamously sceptical about the effectiveness of digital media, Ritson has dedicated his weekly column in The Aus to highlight the discrepancy in margins for media agencies between digital ad buys (typically 7-10 per cent across the duopoly of Facebook/Google) over traditional media (often just 3 per cent for TV, OOH, radio, etc).

The debate is not going away any time soon as industry events will continue to build on the tension between the diametrically opposed Jason Pellegrino from Google and adjunct business professor Mark Ritson.

Mobile World Copycat – Android competitors mirroring the good and bad from Apple

Barcelona was the destination for most in the world of tech this week, as Mobile World Congress was in session.

But most of the media was underwhelmed by the hardwares on offer.

Indeed Fast Company reports that phone makers are embarrassing themselves by coping Apple’s ideas, as we move towards a future with features ubiquitous across devices.

Following on, The Verge gives the best and worst from the event and explains why the future of mobile is more notches than headphone jacks.

5G was on the lips of most speakers though, as Chinese manufacturer Huawei announced a partnership with BT to bring the technology to customers in the UK, as ZDNet reports.

In a look to what comes after mobile, The Register weighs up options from this year’s event, mainly looking at the impact of AI.

The best of CES – ‘ingredient technologies’ and 5G to expand most industries say CTA tech analysts

The annual tech and gadget pilgrimage to the desert took place last week.

Drones, unnecessary connected devices among some pretty cool and innovative tech.

To discover the real insights behind the event, head over to Juniper Research where there’s a 30 page report on the impact of ‘ingredient technologies’ from CES, ‘those that glue the industry together’ (5G, AI, IoT, mixed realities, AR, VR, etc). It can be read in full here

It’s the first year Google has set up shop at the event – billed as a VAS (voice activated services) battle of epic proportions as the Californian behemoth went up against Amazon which has been at the festival for many years through its cloud offerings. Sahil Patel explains more on Digiday.

Despite a biblical downpour on the first day, Google’s pop-up demo tent received a visit from TechCrunch’s Tito Hamze and you can see what he experienced here.

To read more on the Consumer Technology Association’s 2018 predictions, head to VentureBeat as Dean Takahashi reports from Las Vegas.

Oh and the lights went out. At an electronics festival. The irony was not lost on social media. Engadget with the update and the best Twitter could capture.

ICOs overtake venture capital funds bit by bit

bitcoin, ICO,

This article was originally published in The Australian

Their credit cards were maxed out. They owed tens of thousands of dollars and needed publicity.

So Brian Chesky and co-founders spent their last dollars on making political-themed cereal boxes around the Obama/McCain election.

This PR stunt catapulted Airbnb into the mainstream. Silicon Valley is littered with serendipitous stories of investment — yet now the process is being democratised through technology. Blockchain is shifting access to capital.

At its simplest, blockchain is a record of who owns what. It’s a digital ledger that underpins cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin, and is now being used by entrepreneurs to raise funds.

In the first half of the year, Goldman Sachs found the pace of investments in initial coin offerings (ICOs) has for the first time overtaken traditional venture capital (VC) funding for early and seed stage.

But why would an entrepreneur today choose this type of funding?

There’s less rigorous pitching required. No Shark Tank style grillings from potential investors. Instead a more serene crowd-funding Kickstarter approach with tokens offered for those investing. The value of the token is dependent on its scarcity but also the demand for that currency, the more businesses that are built using the same blockchain, the higher the demand.

And it’s quick too. Having an idea, taking it to market and letting the crowd decide, can be much faster than waiting for an Andreessen Horowitz to sign on the dotted line. However, traditional VC/accelerator routes do give access to networking, and mentors.

So how do you successfully go about it? First, you need a good idea. You then have to plan how you’re going to get people interested. If you’re in infrastructure you’ll have some competition as 35 per cent of the 234 ICOs this year have been in that sector according to CoinSchedule.

Will your coin be used as currency, only aiming to store value like bitcoin, litecoin or dash? Or will it become a platform, like Ethereum or NEO, where it will not only store value but also be a programmable currency that powers a blockchain’s unique function? Or even a subcategory of platform know as “product coins” like Golem and Sia, where the coins are used to access one thing that blockchain specifically offers.

Once that’s decided, you’ll need to set up the back-end for your denominated coins to be distributed to investors and managed on exchanges where they can be freely traded. Smart Contracts cut out the middlemen. They allow all of the ­financial aspects of an investment, to be coded and run automatically. Ethereum has lowered the barrier to entry by providing a platform that enables anyone to develop their own coin without having to implement their own blockchain.

Often you don’t need a minimum viable product or prototype, with founders opting for a white paper to outline their vision and what investors can expect. Many point to the lack of regulation and protection for would-be investors — no formal “equity” is given, leading to commentators referring to it as the “wild west” of investment. Scams are commonplace.

But stricter regulation is coming. China’s recent ban for start-ups choosing this route will ultimately pave the way for a more robust industry. To ensure both you and your investors are protected, it’s worth seeking legal counsel on the technical set-up of your ICO.