If you think large corporations get involved in the startup space in an effort to latch onto the next Facebook, Tesla, or Alibaba, then think again, at least in the case of Australia's incumbent telco. According to Telstra's former CEO David Thodey, the communications giant set up its Muru-D accelerator to drive change within the parent company. "People think we were trying to find the next great new thing, it wasn't, it was all about the cultural change," Thodey said in a wide-ranging speech at the Hitachi Social Innovation Forum in Sydney last week. "We got young, entrepreneurial startups coming in with great ideas -- we'd put our engineers with them, and next thing we knew we had great ideas everywhere -- so it was more cultural." Due to the roll out of the National Broadband Network across Australia, it has been estimated that Telstra has an earnings gap of between AU$2 billion to AU$3 billion annually.
After a string of departures in 2016 that saw the roles of CIO, CTO, COO, and CISO vacated, Telstra has said it will fill the chief operating officer role in early 2017 with the appointment of Robyn Denholm. Denholm joins Australia's incumbent telco after a 9-year stint as Juniper Networks chief financial and operations officer, and 11 years with Sun Microsystems before that. Denholm is also a board member of Tesla and Swiss robotics company ABB. Telstra CEO Andy Penn said the telco had made a world class appointment. "Robyn has a proven track record as a global COO in a business focused on telecommunications networks.
The Commonwealth government has launched its new Cyber Security Growth Centre in Melbourne on Monday, and announced the appointment of Craig Davies, head of security for Australian startup darling Atlassian, as its CEO. Davies will officially take up the role of chief in early 2017, joining former senior vice president and group executive for IBM Doug Elix and Data61 CEO Adrian Turner, who were appointed as joint chairs for the centre in April. The centre will operate as a not-for-profit company and will be known as the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network Ltd when it officially begins in early 2017. With the global cybersecurity market worth $74.5 billion in 2015, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Greg Hunt said the industry-led centre will be responsible for driving the development of a "vibrant and globally competitive" cybersecurity industry in Australia, as well as ensuring Australian businesses can take advantage of the growing market opportunity in cybersecurity. "It will bring together industry, researchers, and governments to create a national enterprise that will provide the foundation for the development of next generation products and services needed to live and work securely in our increasingly connected world," Hunt said.
A bill to compensate taxi drivers affected by the legalisation of ride-sharing companies like Uber has passed Queensland's hung parliament late Thursday evening. In August, the government announced a AU$100 million assistance package including payments of $20,000 per taxi license, capped at two per owner, and AU$10,000 per licence for existing limousine service licence holders. As part of the package, the government also said it would invest AU$26.7 million into a hardship fund for drivers negatively impacted by the reform, which came into effect on September 5. Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe announced changes to the assistance package which include allowing compensation payments to trusts and companies that own taxi licenses, as well as sole operators such as drivers who lease a taxi off the license holder. Drivers classified as employees are excluded in the scheme. "It is expected the government will be in a position to send invitations to eligible taxi and limousine licence holders regarding the transitional assistance in December to enable payments shortly thereafter," Hinchliffe said.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has announced the first companies to receive funding from its AU$200 million Main Sequence Ventures co-investment fund. Beneficiaries include Q-Ctrl, a startup led by professor Michael Biercuk from the University of Sydney that is developing the firmware framework for quantum computers to address the issue of error control; Morse Micro, a startup building "next generation" Wi-Fi chips that could allow IoT devices to last for years on a single coin cell battery; Maxwell MRI, a startup that is combining edge deep learning with medical imaging technologies for the early detection of prostate cancer; and Intersective, which delivers "experiential" learning programs through its cloud-based platform. The CSIRO was unwilling to disclose the amount that was invested in each of the companies, but said it expects the investments will create more than 60 new jobs. "This is some of the best and most exciting research from the Australian innovation sector, and we look forward to working with them to realise their potential in the commercial market," said Bill Bartee, the venture capitalist and co-founder of Blackbird Ventures who was selected to head up the Main Sequence Ventures fund. Main Sequence Ventures' partners include Phil Morle, who co-founded the now-closed startup incubator Pollenizer; Mike Zimmerman, formerly from Bondi Ventures and H2 Ventures; Martin Duursma, previously a mentor at CSIRO and the University of Sydney's Incubate program; and Mike Nicholls, resident entrepreneur at Incubate and founder of computer vision company VisiMagic.