Great expectations: 2017 as envisioned by four start-up founders and innovation leaders


Innovation was the key word in 2016, supported by a bipartisan government agenda and highlighted through much success in the space, such as RedBubble’s $288 million IPO.

In 2017, we should expect to see a new maturity coming to the market, with start-ups moving into scale-up territory, and – due to the government’s late-2016 commitment to ICT procurement – more enterprises buying from start-ups and emerging businesses. Here, some of Australia’s start-up and innovation leaders offer their industry predictions for 2017.

Joe Hoolahan, co-founder & CEO, JESI
  1. More global expansion from start-ups: Technology is enabling business to be conducted from anywhere on the globe, due to the increase in cloud and other innovations that allow the business world to stay connected in real time. The impact of globalisation means that start-ups can develop a product market fit for most regions, yet keep operations within Australia. JESI, for example, has scaled out its platform across the US, Europe, APAC and the Middle East all from its humble Townsville HQ.
  2. Mobile workforce trends: The mobile workforce is fast gaining ground, with IDC predicting this will encompass 73 per cent of the workforce by 2020. This is fueling many start-ups to build products to support this new way of working, which has never been needed before now. Suddenly, we’re faced with the prospect of a hugely transient workforce that needs supporting with new tools, including the rise in organisations that integrate travel into their central business model, like Remote Year. Emerging businesses are much more able to support this new market than older businesses with already defined product suites.
  3. The rise of regional start-ups: Recent government support for regional start-ups – such as the Queensland Government’s Advance Queensland scheme – is helping start-ups operate and pursue growth from their original locale, rather than having to uproot to the nearest state capital in order to succeed. Local innovation fosters a long-term effect that we should start to see the results of in 2017, due to the increase in resources and infrastructure to support local entrepreneurs, such as co-working spaces and access to technology.
Wayne Gerard, co-founder & CEO, RedEye and board member at StartupAUS
  1. Enterprise & the cloud: In 2017, enterprise will begin to fully immerse itself into the cloud. The majority (67 per cent) of enterprises now operate at least partially within the cloud, but only 13 per cent of businesses believe they have an optimised approach to cloud.
  2. Platforms will be the new black: In 2017, we will see more enterprises working with start-ups that are developing Platform as a Service (PaaS) products. This will save a lot of cost, pain and risk over the next ten years. If we look back to ten years previously, organisations learnt a lot of lessons from implementing ERP and best of breed software. The next cycle is about to begin with PaaS at its core.
  3. Enterprise will truly embrace mobility and mobile apps: Next year the global mobile workforce will account for 42 per cent of all workers. This trend is being driven by a combination of the declining costs of mobile technology (tablets, laptops, smart phones), a growing demand for real time accurate data and emerging technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning and drones. Mobility delivers efficiency, improves safety and provides real time insight into work progress and performance. Those businesses that aren’t working in a mobile way by next year can expect to find themselves on the back foot and missing business opportunities.
Anna Rooke, CEO of QUT Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA)
  1. Creative-tech will be on the radar: Creative-tech will go mainstream as more creative entrepreneurs use technology as a central component of their business model to disrupt their industry, which is currently worth around $90 billion in Australia. In 2016, we witnessed Redbubble’s $288 million IPO, Canva’s second $20 million raise, and Envato reaching $400 million in transaction volume with 300 employees and seven million users spread across 150 countries. In 2017 we will see even more investment in this space as these success stories continue to highlight the potential in creative tech.
  2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) in start-ups: As technology continues to advance and start-ups are developing more unique ways to corner a market, in 2017 we should expect to see AI hit its stride. Machine learning is fast gaining traction off the back of the recent move into data analytics. With more data accessible than ever before, we will see more innovators building their platforms with an AI focus, such as Romanian start-up Eterni.me heading to CEA in 2017 to scale its AI social platform.
  3. Start-ups will change the way we shop: In 2017, we will see more start-ups arise in the fashion space as the way we shop becomes more refined. An omnichannel approach has been utilised by the biggest industry players over recent years, which has made way for a variety of different platforms to emerge, such as the rise in m-commerce for smart device browsing, and the influx of online custom fashion brands such as Shoes of Prey, Mon Purse and Fame & Partners.  
Peter Bradd, Co-founder & CEO of The Beanstalk Factory and Founding Director of StartupAUS
  1. Increasingly, workers will have a portfolio of interests rather than one fixed role: Once upon a time, people trained for a single career. In 2017, work will increasingly become “piecemeal’, with more part-time jobs and a focus on project-based work. It’s tapping into the concept of the solopreneur where you work for yourself or in a small collective, work from a shared office space, and work for multiple companies a week rather than just one. It’s very exciting for workers but this will need an increased emphasis on education and staying up to date with skills.
  2. Enterprise will collaborate more with SMEs to achieve innovation outcomes: Currently, emerging innovative companies are often seen as competition for corporations. However, more often than not they offer complementary products and services and a unique way of thinking which larger corporations can vastly benefit from. For example, emerging, innovative companies can actually help their acquirers power up their growth and tap into new markets that they would not have been able to before.
  3. Demand will grow for innovation skills and roles: New occupations recorded in the 2016 Census reflected just how much rapid advances in technology are reshaping the Australian workforce. One US researcher has predicted that 65% of children who entered primary school in 2011 will end up working in careers that have not yet been invented. In 2017 we’ll see new jobs added to the list such as Chief Innovation Officer, Innovation Strategist, Innovation Engineer and Innovation Catalyst.
  4. Innovation will become more of a core focus (shifting from a ‘nice box to be ticked’ to part of our operational DNA within enterprise): Innovation is undoubtedly changing the business landscape so in order to survive it’s imperative companies shift the way they operate. As Prime Minister Turnbull said in a recent opinion piece, ‘a culture of innovation must run through the economy’. The same is true within enterprise operations.  Companies that were able to prosper by moving at a deliberate and slow pace will be extinct within as little as five years if they don’t innovate. Those companies that stay on the cutting edge of innovation will direct where we are going.