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Richie

Richie

Looking back, it seems odd that an Aussie would be anchoring live cricket on TV in England from the 1960s onwards. 50 years and 500 test matches in all. Could the old dart not find a homegrown talent to front the game? (I doubt it would happen in any other sport.) Richie Benaud’s professionalism seemed to personify the coverage way back before T20, pajama cricket and IPL took over. These days, it’s all superlatives, laddish laughter and mass exaggeration. You have keep the ratings up, so whatever game you are ‘calling’, it has to be incredible, brilliant and tragic all at the same time. Not for Richie. Richie’s tone was measured, informed and educational. His golden rule – ‘don’t talk unless you can add to the pictures.

Perhaps only John Arlott was in his class, although John was a radio man, all rasping poetry laced with red wine (“the field is spreading like missionaries”). Richie was a TV man, pressed jackets and perfectly groomed hair (which in itself was a piece of work, in the Donald Trump vein of carefully crimped ear comb over). My Dad would call him ‘frog face’ (mainly to wind up my Mum, who adored him), and my Mum would reply ‘Oh he’s lovely’. My wife thought he looked a bit like a Chinese Auntie.

But we could all listen to Richie all day. From his crisp welcome (‘Morning everyone‘) to his well chosen phrases (‘he’s hit that into the confectionery stand and out again‘) and signature ‘Marrrrvelous‘. The sideways glance (was his deaf in one ear?), the curled bottom lip (did the top one ever move?) Richie was the first to eschew convention and look directly into the camera when answering a question made by a fellow commentator (he never forget the audience at home mattered the most). He was a pro from head to toe, unruffled, and could fill 6 minutes or 6 hours keeping the viewers engaged and educated. He knew when the detailed exposition of the LBW law was required, and when it was not. He knew when words were needed and were not. Often, they were not. He was the master of the pause. The well timed punchline.

After 1985 Ashes series, the British commentators were up in the open air toasting the English victory. Richie was there as the only Aussie. As the English buffoons gloated, Richie sipped his champagne. ‘How does it taste Richie?’ asked an English colleague. ‘Of Ashes’ replied Richie. After that Australia would win series after series for almost 20 years, and never once would Richie become partisan. His commentary was always straight down the middle. No one seems capable of doing that these days.

I never got to meet him, but I did once see him in person. In the mid 80s he and his wife Daphne were on holiday in Italy. I was there too, at the end of a long summer. I did a second take as I spotted the great man queuing (like me) at a museum or somewhere. He looked back at me and half smiled. I did not want to interrupt the great man, and his lady wife, while on holiday, and he half nodded perhaps in recognition of the fact. I doubt many in Italy would have recognised them, perhaps that is why they were there.

I doubt the world will see his like again, and for that, the world is a little poorer.

Richie’s last appearance – for Aussie Day lamb… a classic

Richie Benaud highlights

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Trad media got prosh

Prosh

Last week the PROSH students were out and about in their fancy dress, collecting money for charity ($150,000 all told) and distributing their newspapers at almost every intersection into and out of the city.

Every year this gives me flash backs to the time I first noticed PROSH, Easter 2000, and the accompanying tech wreck that had happened the day before. I was on a bus going to my dotcom company, and the dotcom bubble had well and truly burst that week. I had shareholders on my tail, a rapidly declining company bank balance, and I wondered if the business would survive the next few months.

As I reached for a regular newspaper that day, I read all about the doom and gloom of the global stock markets. Most commentators seemed to be revelling in the destruction all around them. “No more stupid ibusiness this and ebusiness that,” they crowed, “we’ve seen the last of these ridiculous companies with silly names and even sillier business models. Let’s get back to reality, and real business.” In the weekend papers that week, some real estate agent poured scorn on dotcoms, advertising properties that rise in value, unlike shares.

Ho hum.

Well, we made it through that time, as did many others. Still others were to form a few years later and sweep all before them. No doubt many of the late 90s’ dotcoms had no realistic business model and were doomed at the start (just like most businesses in fact). But the shift to the internet economy was only just getting going, and 15 years on, we still have ebusinesses and ibusinesses with silly names (Apple, iTunes, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, Uber…), and many have multi-billion valuations. Most of these businesses had not been born in 2000, or even 2005. Today, most have piles and piles of cash and are amassing fortunes the size of a mid-sized country’s GDP.

As I read those papers back in Easter 2000, I was infuriated by the hubris and arrogance of the traditional media. In many ways, I still am. Ever year, I watch the PROSH students in their crazy costumes, and I smile to myself (not just due to their silliness). Great change happens slowly, so slowly that you can ignore it for years, putting your head in the sand and carrying on as before. The true visionaries jump on the trend and build the future. The sad Luddites throw spanners in the works and decry and rail against progress.

In which camp are you?

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Why walking is the right thing to do

Interestingly, one of the most famous 'walkers' was Adam Gilchrist, the Aussie keeper-batsman (he even called his memoirs 'Walking to Victory')

WALKER: One of the most famous ‘walkers’ was Adam Gilchrist, the Aussie keeper-batsman (he even called his memoirs ‘Walking to Victory’)

It’s not the cheating that got me, it was the feeling I had got away with it.” I’m not sure what movie that’s from (do please tell), but when I heard it I understood the meaning. The guilt, the knowledge that your victory had been sullied, that you had not played fair was all consuming.

I know many of my posts are about cricket, but it’s the world cup final tomorrow, and as the season draws to a close (mine as cricket coach, backyard player and avid watcher), I get to thinking about the old game and it’s life parallels.

For those who do not know all the ins and outs of the game, over the centuries cricket developed it’s own ‘spirit‘, as embodied by the great Sir Don Bradman (Aussie, best player ever) who had this to say on cricketers’ virtues:

“When considering the stature of an athlete or for that matter any person, I set great store in certain qualities which I believe to be essential in addition to skill. They are that the person conducts his or her life with dignity, with integrity, courage, and perhaps most of all, with modesty. These virtues are totally compatible with pride, ambition, and competitiveness. “

He also said:

‘It is the responsibility of all those that play the game (the custodians) to leave the game in a better state than when they first became involved’.

Bradman was by all accounts a genius, extremely argumentative and loved nothing more than “grinding the English into the dust”. He was not the most likable chap, he was very competitive. He ended up with a test batting average of almost 100, way above all over players (the next best are in the low 60s; a ‘great’ batsman is considered such if their average tops 50.) But to him conduct, integrity and leaving the game ‘in a better state’ was the most important thing.

I have played cricket in England, Singapore and Australia, and one thing that sets your average weekend English social cricketer apart from their Aussie counterpart is the issue of ‘walking‘.

Imagine you’ve just nicked the ball off your bat’s edge (you’ve heard it, everyone has) and it goes through to be caught by the keeper. Most Englishmen will walk, knowing they are out, just as if their stumps had been knocked over or if the ball had been cleanly caught by an outfielder. It’s clearly out. Why hang around like a goose? You just look stupid. To wait around and hope the umpire might somehow miss the edge (knowing you’re out) is tantamount to cheating. In fact, it is cheating. In the rules, you’re out, fair and square. Walk off.

To an Aussie though, this last paragraph is pure heresy. “Umpire’s got a job to do mate,” they say, “they make mistakes, so do we as players, often I’ve been given out when I wasn’t so I’m not moving if I know I’m out; I’m waiting for the umpire to give me out.”

OK, I get the logic, but you wouldn’t wait around if you were clean bowled, run out by a mile, played on, or had been caught out by an outfielder, or even a slip or gully would you … so what’s the difference between a clear nick to the keeper, that you know is out?

The difference is that you’re trying to get away it. You’re trying to cheat. By the rules you are out, but you are hoping to stay. You felt the ball snick the edge of your bat (believe me, batsmen know 99% of the time). So go. Umpires usually give the batsman the benefit of the doubt anyway, and it’s this that the non-walker is preying (praying!) on. It’s out and out cheating.

If the situation was reversed, and you heard the nick, you’d be giving the batsman all sorts of abuse if they stayed around. So you’re being two-faced as well.

The same goes for appealing for catches, run outs or LBWs that you know are not out, in the hope the umpire might get it wrong.

If you walk every time, you are not going to be given out as much by umpires (after all, when you nick it, you walk). I walked, and I can’t remember ever being given out incorrectly for a nick behind. A few dodgy LBWs perhaps (edged into the pads) but then again how many were given not out when they may have been? No one walks on LBWs, but on everything else bar a mighty close run out when you’re not sure as you’re diving your ground, get out of there.

I also quite liked the abrupt turn and move off the pitch, as if to say “Yep, good ball, I got that wrong, I’m out of here”. I played hard, I played fair. (I could get annoyed with myself in the sanctity of the changing rooms, but I would be dignified in my public exit!)

Afterwards, you know you’ve done the right thing. You’ve set the right example. To yourself, the team, opposition, spectators and your children. Winning fairly is a great feeling, when you’ve played well. Winning on a cheat is not winning. Losing on a cheat is utterly galling, but never lower yourself to those standards.

What’s true in sport is the same in business, love and life generally.

I’m as competitive as the next bloke, but I see ‘not walking’ as clear cheating. Always have, always will. I lose respect for anyone who does not walk (they look ridiculous when DRS proves them wrong), and I think less of them. I’m a walker, are you ..?

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Lessons from history – part two (the conclusion)

Rainy Singapore

In my previous post I related the story of my history teacher Peter Sibley, who we suspected was not exactly reading every (any?) word of our essays, over 30 years ago.

15 years pass. I am now a teacher myself, in far flung Singapore, and have helped organise a cricket tour back in the old country, including a game against the MCC (no, not them, but the Monkton Combe Cavaliers), a team of teachers and friends, played at my old school pitch. Picture the scene – a tricking stream running past a thatched pavilion, proud chestnut trees waving in the breeze, a viaduct tramping across the valley, and (typical for England) the threat of rain. We batted first, were in trouble, and somehow managed a half decent score. Which was immaterial as the threatened rain duly arrived and we repaired to the nearest pub.

Over a few pints, Peter then asked me if I might make contact with a visiting hockey tour he was organising for a nearby school. ‘They’re a bit high maintenance,’ he said, ‘but if you could maybe meet them or say ‘Hi’ it will allay their fears. Everything – hotels, games, flights, transport, meals… – is organised, so there’s nothing to do.’ Sure, I’d be happy to, I said.

And so it was a few weeks later, back in the tropics, I got a call from one of their teachers, and said I would be happy to meet them for a drink in a local pub to see how they were travelling. ‘Oh, you’re just an ex teacher of Pete’s then?’ they said, ‘we thought you were his ‘man on the ground’, a member of his staff over here …’.

‘Err, not exactly’ I said, ‘but if I can help in any way, do let me know.’

‘Well, there is something you can help us with – we have to get from our hotel to the railway station on Saturday evening because we are taking the night train up to Malaysia for our game on Sunday afternoon.’

‘I can arrange that, I’ll get permission for our school bus company to drop you guys off,’ I said. By amazing coincidence, our deputy head had taught with one of their teachers many years ago, so he was happy to oblige.

That Saturday evening, I am sitting down for a drink on the balcony with my parents, who are out for a visit, watching the evening tropical downpur. I receive an agitated call from the school’s teacher, ‘The bus never arrived! So we have now missed our train, and now have nowhere to stay the night. We’re stuck! Peter Sibley better pull something out of his hat right now, or there will be hell to pay.’

Hardly Peter’s fault I thought; what on earth had happened? I rang the bus company. No reply. I had to get the team into a hotel somehow (not easy on a rainy Saturday night in Singapore, when you are talking about 30 staff and students). On about the 12th attempt I find somewhere that will take them; they pile into taxis and get the train in the next morning. I contact the place they are going to saying they will be half a day later than planned. I find out our bus company had got the timing wrong, had turned up at 8am in the morning, not the evening as it should have been, found no hockey team and thought they were not needed. Huge apologies all round on Monday when I went into school.

Karma for Mr Sibley not reading my essays? You be the judge.

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Lessons from history – part one

the same old marking

When I was training to be a teacher back in the mid 80s, I remember marking my first set of (Economics) essays. I was excited to see what my first batch of students had written – had they understood the concepts, could they apply it, what original ideas could they come up with..? Sadly, I was to be less than overwhelmed (underwhelmed?). As time went on, I found marking a drudgery, something that went with the job, about as interesting as invigilating an exam (which, believe me, is mindbogglingly tedious). No doubt this was all my fault.

Over time I developed a system of speed reading scripts, and when I analysed my marking comparing grades given when I read every word, deliberated long about the marks, to when I sped read, there was no difference. After a few years, I was speed reading, maybe going back and picking apart more intricate and interesting paragraphs, but I found the human brain could actually read very fast, keep alert and do a better job than when you painstakingly went over things line by line, word by word and became distracted. Get through it fast, in one sitting, and keep the standard consistent. In the end, that is the job of marking. I suspect most seasoned teachers and academics do likewise. There are just not enough hours in the day otherwise. You have all this prep to do, and a million other admin tasks.

And so I arrive at the story of my former History teacher, Peter Sibley. A legend in his own time, he had played a good standard of rugby in England (captaining the Bath team in the 1960s: “Peter Sibley was the first to develop the ethos for fast, attacking rugby – an ethos that still lives on in today’s team.” says the Bath Rugby club website). He was also the school 1st XI cricket coach, international sports tour guy and Housemaster. Back in the late 70s, he was probably in his early 40s, wore a cool leather jacket, had a nice manner about him, and turned up to every lesson about 5 minutes late. He was entertaining, things were not too high pressure and everyone enjoyed his classes. I saw him lose his cool only once, after a boarder went around smashing various windows in a fit of what must have been post punk teenage rage. Peter took the lad by the scruff of the neck, his own face turning a brilliant shade of purple as he marched the boy off to the Headmaster’s office.

Around this time, we students suspected Mr Sibley was not exactly reading every word of our essays. The clue was in the fact that as we compared each other’s scripts, every one of us had a neat little red tick on the bottom of each page, with no comments made whatsoever throughout the pieces of work. At the end was a simple comment and a mark. We got to wondering if our history teacher was actually reading the work at all. One of us braver types decided to test the theory. He would put in inappropriate words in the middle of the odd paragraph. We waited with baited breath as to the outcome. Would these be spotted, crossed out, and the poor student made a fool of in next history class?

Nope. A simple red tick at the bottom of each page and a plain mark at the end resulted, as always. OK, maybe he just missed that occasional word, we surmised? Let’s put in some things that are plainly obvious to anyone (who is at least scanning the work). They were not picked up either. Eventually, we started putting in whole paragraphs such as “you’re not really reading this are you sir” and “old man Sibley is asleep” and other entirely non historical elements to our essays. Nothing was spotted.

And so, we lost our faith in the academic validity of our history scores. But we did not turn him in, or complain (as perhaps the modern competitive parent may have done). It did not put us off, we worked away and all got good grades, and we turned out OK. I look back on this and smile, but when I became a teacher about 10 years later, I made sure I read every paragraph (if not every word), and although I may have sped read (and still do, to this day), I do look out for the odd silly phrase, lest someone is trying one on. Working at a media business now, I can proof read with the best of them and spot a careless error at 10 paces.

For now, this little history lesson ends here. However, in a follow up post, I will tell you what happened 15 years later when I ended up helping out Mr Sibley with a hockey tour to Singapore, which may provide karma to the above.

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Willing on the minnows

minnows
Like many, I have been willing on the ‘minnows’ in the current World Cup of cricket.
Of the 14 nations participating, 8 have full test playing status and so half the initial pool games involve an ‘Associations’ nation playing against their ilk or a much better resourced and experienced full time professional team. Already we’ve seen Ireland beat the West Indies (who seem to blow hot and cold almost at will). Afghanistan played a close game against Sri Lanka. My bet is England will be downed by either Bangladesh or Afghanistan, having lost all their 3 games so far to test playing nations.
18 years ago, I played for the Singapore team in the ICC Trophy 1997. Back then, the Association playing nations were all grouped together in their own competition (with Bangladesh, Ireland, Scotland, Holland, Canada, USA, etc…) with the top 2 teams then gaining a berth to the 1999 World Cup in England.
I was but a very average league cricketer, and only sneaked into the team by virtue of an ICC ruling – players had to be either born nationals or residents of 5+ years standing. (Allegedly, in a previous competition, UAE had stacked their team with former Pakistan test players, having given them PR status only weeks before.) Not many cricketers in Singapore had been there 5 years or more.
We were all amateurs (in the truest sense of the word) and in game 2, we were up against a well trained, athletic Kenyan team who had beaten West Indies the year before, were to be runners up in this tournament and go on to play in that 1999 World Cup in England.

We batted first, and I was in at number 3 in the first over. Somehow I clung on and made a very ugly 13 in an hour (I did not know it at the time but my bat was breaking – in the next but one game against Ireland it completely snapped), and we were bowled out for a hopeless 89. Our opening bowlers then tore into the top order and at one stage we had them 52 for 7, only for them to crawl over the line with 2 wickets left. Almost an upset.

We even made it onto the sports broadcast of that night’s BBC World Service sports roundup. What might have been.  2 years later I’m watching Alec Stewart smash Kenyan opener Martin Suji all over Taunton, making him look like a medium pace trundler. To me he was searing pace and could make it move late almost at will.

The gulf between professional sport and amateur is a chasm, but for a moment we glimpsed into the light… go the minnows! 

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English cricket sinks to another low

Rooted

The long English suffering cricket fan had another reason to shake their head and shrug a saddening smile yesterday as their one day side subsided to their equal worst ever defeat, and in an important World Cup game, against New Zealand (population 3 million, lest we forget England & Wales’ combined population of 56 million, plus a few imported Irish and South African players).

I had this post half ready to go last week, in which I predicted a loss to the Kiwis (but even I could not imagine the annihilation they were to suffer), and further probable losses to Bangladesh, a close scare against Scotland, a win against Afghanistan and a possible win against Sri Lanka (… now I’m not so sure). The week got away with me, so here I sit with another anemic performance. Let’s not forget England are one of the highest paid, best supported teams in history. Legions of support staff, thousands of lines of computer code and a 7 month diet of one dayers in the lead up to this World Cup were all designed to prepare the team for their best chance in decades. An Ashes test series was cleared away to give the one day team the chance to concentrate on this format. After non performances in all world cups since 1992 (where they made the final, as they did in 1987), this was going to be their best chance to shine.

Instead, we witness a shattered team lumbering about 10 years behind other sides in thought and deed, despite having some exciting new players in Ali, Buttler, Taylor and Root. It’s all come to naught, and by my reckoning they will do extremely well from here to even qualify for the quarter finals, where they will probably lose to South Africa anyway. Last week I had them as 3 or maybe 4 wins from their 8 pool matches, now it looks like 2 or 3 wins and that won’t be good enough to make progress.

None of this need be the case. So much cricket is played by England now (around 300 playing/travelling days a year) that coaching and playing squads are simply worn out. In the chase for the almighty Indian and Australian TV dollar, Ashes series are now run every 2 years, rather than 4, and even back to back. India, England and Australia have carved up the game to take the spoils, but the impact is (for England, the only northern hemisphere test team) of all year round cricket, and players not coping. They don’t have any chance to go back to country cricket to repair, or take any time off. It’s a continuous merry go round in the gold fish bowl (to mix my metaphors).

The solution is fairly simple, but probably a stretch for the ECB to imagine. Just as rugby players do not play the sevens format as well as the full XV game (it’s a different game!), so cricketers should specialise in the full or one day format. Different players, different coaches, different formats. Split it down the middle and never the twain shall meet.

Simple.

You still have all the TV spoils, still have wall to wall cricket, but the test players take a break when the one dayers and T20s are on, and vice versa. Importantly, the one day players are all automatically available for the Indian Premier League (where the best one day players learn their trade in the ultimate T20 cauldron). As Adam Smith once said (in 1776!), “division and specialisation of labour” is key.

T20 has revolutionised one day cricket in the last few years. Teams now think nothing to hitting (or chasing down) 120 in the last 10 overs. 180 off the last 20 is a doddle (it’s just a reasonable T20 score). They simply take the batting power play from 15 overs out and then ride it all the way home to the finish at 10+ an over. They have effectively put at T20 game inside a 50 over format in the last 40% of the innings. Just as Sri Lankan openers and then Adam Gilchrist revolutionised the first 15 overs in the 1990s regularly blasting 100+, now teams are playing cautiously in the first 30 knowing they can get almost anything in the last 20 because that is the format they all know (and come from).

While England looks at one dayers from the test team down, all other teams look at it from T20 up, which is the right approach.

It means teams can be 160 off 30 overs (just over 5 an over) and chase down (or post) 340. 300 is no longer the Rubicon. It’s the new minimum, and not easily defendable. The plucky Irish chased down 300 on Monday against the once all conquering West Indies (who are now almost as shambolic as the English and will probably join them in leaving this tournament early).

Imagine having 2 coaches, 2 teams and complete separation of test from one dayers/T20s. Imagine the specialisation and increase in quality that will go on. Tell Cook, Ballance, Bell, Anderson and Broad to play test cricket only and let them go and score 10,000 runs each and take 500 wickets. Give them huge swathes of time off. Even with this idea, England play no less than 17 tests in the next 10 months. Yes, 17!

How on earth can Ali, Buttler, Root et al play all this and the one dayers? Get Carberry (playing in one of the most successful T20 sides ever, the Perth Scorchers) and KP into the one day format. They have 3 years left in them. Make KP captain.

The one day game is now far removed from the test cricket as you can imagine, and that’s due to T20 and the IPL. We can bemoan it (I don’t actually), or we can just live with it and adapt. Be innovative, “think different” as Apple one said. The crusty old establishment that is the English Cricket Board will not do this of course. Or maybe they will, sometime in 2025, but by then the world would have moved on… again.

For the record, here are my 2 teams:

England One Day and T20 team         

1. Hales
2. Carberry
3. Taylor
4. Pietersen
5. Morgan
6. Bopara
7. Kieswetter
8. Jordan
9. Woakes
10. Tredwell
11. Rankin

Test side

1. Cook
2. Robson
3. Ballance
4. Bell
5. Root
6. Ali
7. Buttler
8. Stokes
9. Broad
10. Finn
11. Anderson

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Perth’s startup scene

start ups in perth I’ve met a few people this year interested in getting into Perth’s startup scene… so here’s a humble overview as I see it. Go to a few of the events below, meet some of the folks and quite quickly you’ll be at the centre of the action. Why not help out and get involved?

Perth Morning Startup (meet up)
http://www.meetup.com/Morning-Startup-Perth/
– run by Justin Strharsky (@JustinStrharsky) and Stef Pienaar (@sfpienaar)
– set up 4 years ago, a free fortnightly meetup held at Spacecubed, Weds 7.30am-9am, now with over 1000 members. The beating heart of Perth’s startup community. Many sessions have been video’d.

Spacecubed (co-working space)
– founder Brodie McCulloch (@brodiemcculloch) http://spacecubed.com/
– the first, and largest co-working space in Perth, now on two floors at 45 St George’s Terrace in the city
– the place where entrepreneurs and coders meet, hire deskspace; and where most startup events take place. Head down here to get right into Perth’s startup community.

Startup Weekend (event/hackathon)
http://spacecubed.com/2014/08/26/startup-weekend-perth-announcement/
– held 2x a year, leader is Sam Birmingham (@sambirmingham)
– the essence of startupland; 100 attendees, 40 one-minute pitches on a Friday night begets 15 or so teams with products (and even revenue) by Sunday afternoon. Triplify, Simply Wall St and others have been born at one of the 5 weekends held so far.

Founder Institute (course)
http://www.fi.co
– intensive silicon valley startup course in Perth, with Claire McGregor (@clairesayshi) as Director
– in 2013 and 2014 eight companies were formed (from 20 that started each year); not for the faint hearted, it provides 2 years of learning crammed into 13 weeks. Will it run a course in 2015?

Venture Capital (money)
– Yuuwa Capital http://yuuwa.com.au/
– run by Matt McFarlane (@nullarki) and others
– there are other investors around, but at $40m this fund has been the largest and most active with investments in iCetana, Discovr and Agworld among others. Awaiting its first significant exit, the fund is fully committed mixing IT and health/biotech investments.

eGroup (forum) http://www.egroup.org.au
– internet entrepreneurs club (small fee), Evan Cunningham-Dunlop (@EvanCunninghamD), Rob Nathan, Greg Riebe are some of the current organisers
– been going the longest (since 2003, and in 2010 formally became incorporated as a not for profit association), a unique feature is its ‘what’s said in the room stays in the room‘ forum.
– meets at law firm Wrays in West Perth, first Tuesday of the month 6-8pm.

Atomic Sky / Tech Hub (incubator, investor / space)
– Andy Lamb (@andymlamb) http://atomicsky.com.au/
– part co working space, part incubator and investor, and also event space for startup launches. pitch nights (“Snap”) and gatherings, a funky new building (http://www.techhub.io) on the aptly named Money Street in Northbridge.

WA Angels Association (money)
– Greg Riebe http://www.waai.net.au/
– quarterly pitch nights are held at the BDO offices in Subiaco (invitation only) where startups go for money in front of high net worth individuals interested in investing in new businesses. No shark tank this, it’s a wholly supportive environment, and deals usually do happen.

Sync Labs (co-working)
– Leederville version of Spacecubed, mainly for techies http://synclabs.com.au/
– established by Marcus Tan (@drmarcustan) of Health Engine fame, and others

Silicon Beach (meet up)
– free techie meetup, Friday nights at Synch Labs http://www.meetup.com/Silicon-Beach-Perth/ – bring some beers

Sixty27 (co-working)
– Joondalup version of Spacecubed, although much smaller http://www.sixty27.com.au/
– run by Phil Kemp’s Business Foundations, and supported by the City of Joondalup 

//Startupnews.com.au (media)
http://www.startupnews.com.au/
– central blog, news and events site that maps the startup scene, run by Patrick Green and Marcus Holmes (@GentlemanTech),
– itself a startup, was launched just over a year ago and keeps everyone up to date with goings on.

Business News (media) http://www.businessnews.com.au/list/startups
– independent business media (disclaimer: I work here so this is a shameless plug!) that tries to cover tech sector regularly with an ‘app/tech business of the week’, a Startups List and regular startup/tech stories.

Universities

~ UWA : Tim Mazzarol (https://theconversation.com/profiles/tim-mazzarol-1526) professor at UWA Business School, leader in research and teaching in innovation and new ventures
~ Curtin : annual ‘Ignition’ week, intensive course, not to be confused with a 10-week incubator course (‘Incubate’, now called ‘Accelerate’) run by Jeremy Lu (@lu_jeremy)

Schools
~ CoderDoJo
: a wonderful innovation, bringing coding to school children, free of charge, supported by the Fogarty Foundation (https://zen.coderdojo.com/dojo/412)
~ Just StartIT
:  established in 2014, a dozen schools formed startup teams, have mentors and then pitch to a judging panel after a few months’ hard work in their own time. Run by Curtin’s School of Information Studies Lainey Weiser and others.  (http://juststartit.com.au/)

Award Programs
~ OzApps
: Feb every year, $100k up for grabs, includes apps from around Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. Perth has had finalists in each of past 3 years. West Tech Festival. http://ozapp.com.au/ – there are a few other awards programs that feature emerging businesses or IT, such as Incite (WAITTA Awards), Rising Stars, Pinnacle Awards and others.

Tech Accelerators
~ RAC Seedspark : established in late 2014, 3 startups were selected to share in $50k in non equity money, and have access to mentors
~ KPMG Energise : announced Feb 2015, a free tech accelerator focusing on the resources industry, with no equity commitment, but access to mentors
~ Unearthed (RIIT) : announced late in 2014 a resource focused tech accelerator with ambitions to hold events around Australia and deliver over 50 funded startups over the next few years (http://unearthed.solutions)
~ Amcom Upstart : announced Feb 10th 2015, this looks like being Perth’s first pure tech accelerator, with $40k seed money in 8 successful startup applicants in return for a small equity stake, and access to a 3-month mentoring program starting 1st June 2015.
(http://www.amcomupstart.com.au)

An Overview of Perth’s Startup scene (Report)
In late 2013 there was a report done into Perth’s startup scene – some of the info is now out of date, but it is still interesting reading > http://www.boundlss.com/blog/perth-startup-ecosystem-report and full report here> http://48yo.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/5b756-perthstartupecosystem2013-infographic.pdf

There are many other meetups, some more active than others, some more techie than others, and various events. So I’m not trying to claim the above is an exhaustive list – however I can vouch for all the above, having been personally involved or having attended every one of them, and I know the people doing all the work. I don’t believe the community needs more events, but it needs more volunteers to help ‘do the heavy lifting‘. The ecosystem is alive and flourishing, but funding for startups is still hard to come by. Maybe 2015 will be a watershed year for deals?

0

In praise of the Big Bash

Perth Scorchers celebrating their back to back BBL win

Perth Scorchers celebrating their back to back BBL win

Many of us were on the edge of our seat last Wednesday when the Perth Scorchers won the 4th Big Bash Trophy off the last ball of the game, to successfully defend the league title they won last year, in what was their 4th successive grand final.

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Me and the son at the BBL semi vs the Stars

Being a Scorchers fan, you would assume I would get all warm and fuzzy over Australia’s T20 (20 over) cricket competition. In fact, I had no expectation that the team I support would even make it to the final. A week ago I trundled along to the semi at the WACA with my 11 year old son. Perth were playing the much vaunted Melbourne Stars, laden with international players, who were on a 5-game winning streak having beaten the Scorchers the previous week. Somehow Perth got over the line, despite not scoring a single run in their last over and lurching to 144 (160 is seem as a bare minimum score at the WACA, where the average winning score is over 170.)

To be honest I did not care all that much about who won, I was just loving the tournament and everything about it. Even my 13 year old daughter was into the Big Bash, as was my wife, and we watched almost every game, no matter who was playing, throughout the summer holidays, even when we were on holiday. We went to three T20 games at the WACA, one game all 4 of us went along, and we all loved it.

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Perth win the semi so go onto the final where #back2back cup wins results

The Big Bash League was invented in 2010, after research showed that Australian cricket was in danger of losing an entire generation to the game. The young ones, and females of all ages, were simply not interested. Despite a T20 comp already in place, Cricket Australia, the governors the game, decided a major revamp was required and a franchised city-based T20 comp was designed, with the specific aims of bringing in spectators and fans who would otherwise not give cricket any attention at all. And boy how it has worked. This year, the 4th iteration of the BBL, has seen crowd attendances at games rise 20% year on year. Adelaide famously had 50,000 at its home games, in Sydney records were broken for all domestic game attendances with over 40,000 attending at the SCG (this beats the crowds that turned up to watch Don Bradman back in his heyday, well before TV made it easier to watch from home). Even over in Perth, the WACA creaked to 19,000+ in attendance last Sunday night, far more than turned out to see quality international teams like England play against India at the same ground 5 days later (the crowd there was a little over 7,000).

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Me with the Big Bash Trophy

This all reminds me of what Channel 9 and Packer did back in the 1970s – they took the game by the scruff of the neck, invented day/night cricket, coloured clothing, white balls and wall to wall marketing. 40 years on, if cricket is to survive, it simply has to make the most of the 20 over 3-hour format. It packs grounds out (a full house but with only 4 hours to serve rather than all day), brings in new spectators, new investors, new sponsors and a whole new audience. You can get down to the ground after work (they typically start around 7pm) and watch the game. It’s pumped out on free to air TV at prime time. There are colourful characters, great catches, huge sixes, frenetic running, skillful bowling. Even the commentators are more youthful, with open neck shirts and howls of laughter, a mile away from the besuitted Ch9 crew, who now look old and creaky in comparison. How the world turns.

I am a cricket tragic, a traditionalist (Test matches are still the thing for me) and yet absolutely love the T20 format. Invented by the British to revitalise the game over in the UK over 10 years ago, it’s been India and Australia (followed by South Africa, West Indies and New Zealand) who have developed their own leagues that attract players from around the world, showcasing yesterday’s heros and today’s up and comers. In the meantime, as is their wont, England have dropped the ball and put their T20 on successive Friday nights over a 3-month period. Guess what? 7,000 people show up at best (average attendances across Australia, with a far smaller population was three times this per game). England need to rethink things quickly, or become an afterthought.

So, all hail Cricket Australia, and Big Bash league, all power to you.

6

Digital disruption – bring it on!

Digital Disruption

I did a talk on digital disruption last year, and I asked those in the audience to raise their hands if they thought their industry had experienced, or will experience digital disruption (as in – a new digital solution enters their market and makes their products less worthwhile and/or totally shakes up the product offerings). Maybe 10 or 20% of hands went up.

I have news for you – you are ALL being (or have already been) digitally disrupted; no one is immune !” I said. A few people came up to me afterwards and agreed. A few probably went away thinking I was a nutter.

Digital disruption does not necessarily bring bad news; new digital platforms and services offer the ability to grow faster, enter new markets that would have been too expensive otherwise, save costs, build in efficiencies, etc. It’s not just about someone new coming in and eating your lunch. It could be about new opportunities for your business.

I think the people who should worry most are those who are not worrying. (My dad’s brain tumour 20 years ago is a strong analogy here – it was at its most dangerous when none of us, including Dad, knew it was there; once we knew what was there, it could be dealt with, and was).

Hence my advice would be:

  • Stay close to your customers – their needs are shifting (right now) – are you sure you know what they want, why they use you, how these needs are changing?
  • Always be on the lookout for new ways of getting to market, gaining efficiencies, growing new services… using digital (example – could you now offer services over east where before you needed a physical office there? Or even into SE Asia or Europe, but do it from Perth?)
  • Never assume you are safe from new entrants; assume your cash cow is under attack right now. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Industries are littered with players who were in seemingly impregnable positions, and fell over quite quickly (Kodak, Blockbuster, Post Offices, …)
  • How to do this? Get out to events and talk to those doing the disrupting; go to startup events, talk with programmers, talk with Gen Ys and even younger – there are many such things around Perth
  • Read, read, read – there’s no excuse these days; get an Audible.com account (first month is free, then it’s only $15/mth) and download business books so you can listen to them in the car, doing the gardening, sitting in the dentists’ waiting room, whatever…
  • Experiment with new tech, but on a small scale; learn by doing; encourage an innovative and ‘hackathons’ culture internally to get new solutions up quickly – don’t worry about the perfect product, have a ‘hackathon day’ when people attack a problem, and see what creativity ensues
    follow blogs, learn to comment and maybe start a blog yourself (wordpress is free); open a twitter account (meet loads of people that way, see what they are saying); great way to spread your message, listen and learn
  • As a leader, set the best example; present ideas to the team, encourage them to bring them forward and discuss them. Encourage them to do the above points as well.

This year, and for many more besides, may I wish you the best of fortune as you navigate the paths, travails and pitfalls of digital disruption…

Photo Credit: Attila Csaszar of Business News