I’ve been an infrequent visitor to the ICWA’s previous Enterprise Tuesday sessions at Bentley Tech Park; for a cyclist living (just) North of the river, Bentley is out near the black stump somewhere.
So the session at ECU’s Mt Lawley campus was a relief, although I was obviously still late as the campus isn’t easy to navigate (even asking a resident where the lecture theatre in building 10 was got a puzzled reply). The format was the same; a few speakers followed by nibbles and networking, but the novelty of holding the event in a lecture theatre was actually an improvement; speakers were clearly heard and seen, and the screen was clearly visible. It didn’t work quite so well for the networking, as we all wedged into the tiny space in the front, but you can’t have everything.
The speakers were very interesting and engaging. Michelle Milton talking about her adventures with High Tea Society was the stand-out for me, but purely because it most resonated with my struggles as a startup with social media. Her story of creating a brand from nothing and successfully monetising it was pure gold, and her accessible, honest, down-to-earth speaking style really got me on-side. Being a techie I have a natural antipathy to marketing, but I was sold.
Two speakers addressed the problems of commercialising academic innovations. Sue Bahn from RiskSpotter told the story of her journey to commercial product from academic research, and she made a persuasive case that there are tangible benefits to industry from this sort of commercialisation.
Adam Osseiran of EMAPS gave an engaging talk (thankfully minus powerpoint but plagued by lighting problems) about how he ended up knowing far too much about insects despite being a micro-electronics expert. From a startup point of view the problems of dealing with an academic culture that prizes publication and penalises people for trying to commercialise their own inventions is fascinating. It seems that while being an academic lends credibility and provides the support of the university’s commercialisation unit, it causes all sorts of problems in terms of career progression and peer relevance, in addition to the commercialisation unit’s preference for licensing innovations rather then building businesses. So it was fascinating to hear how they were overcoming these hurdles (or ignoring them!) and building their businesses.
The ICWA are pitching these talks at students, and I can see the relevance and interest of these stories to innovation-minded students. However, even from a general startup point of view the evening as a whole was fascinating and very informative, and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in the subject (this session was about marketing in particular).
On another note, and risking getting on my particular hobby horse again, it was a real pleasure to attend a session where almost half the audience was female, and the women on the podium outnumbered the men. Well done!