Geelong turns Mill into a co-located space of the future, complete with summits
Last Friday, some of us alumni from the Melbourne Accelerator Program headed down to Geelong for the Pivot Summit. Hosted at the old Geelong Mill, the City of Greater Geelong, along with a number of sponsors and supporters, came together to support the conference on the newly redevelopment site. Federal Mills Park, featuring iconic heritage buildings, is now home to Geelong’s fastest internet, a bunch of innovative companies, startups, and tech businesses. Their amazing events space was the perfect location to have Pivot Summit, a conference focusing on emerging technologies, game-changing ideas, and collaboration.
The Mayor opened with some great words on Australia innovation, saying that our future is no longer in the automotive industry, but in ICT. He said he and his team will be there to build and support the infrastructure needed for this new future. Followed by words from Minister Dalidakis on home-grown innovation and creativity, William Confalonieri from Deakin University gave us a talk on the “smart new world”. Highly relevant as he followed the mayor and the minister, William spoke about how we need to look at the future. Firstly, he says, he need to acknowledge that it’s changing, and changing so rapidly that William had to change the book he wrote on change!
William talked not the just about responding and developing ideas for the present, but looking to the future. Let’s look at some of the big William things thinks will change in future:
- Artificial Intelligence
- “It’s not a matter of if, but when”
- We need to take responsibility for it and work with machines
- Universities are rapidly changing the way they teach
- At Deakin alone, a quarter of the students are completing their degrees entirely online
- “We need to be ready for this new way of learning”
- Of course this is going to change but we need it to “help us be more human”
- How do we work with all the wonderful tools we have to make our world a better place
He bought these three areas together and introduced us to genie, an artificial intelligence digital assistant to help students with their studies. It has already won some major awards and is paving the way for the future of education.
William’s talk was followed by Marissa Senzaki who talked about the culture of the workplace, and how it needs to be inclusive of everyone. Following the theme, Caitlyn Iles spoke about the importance of women in our society and how they are the greatest commercial assets we posses. Cait didn’t just give us fancy ideals about women, but raw facts and figures. The lack of female participation in the workforce is costing the global economy 20 trillion dollars! That’s a tonne of cash!
Cait also believes that technology will enable women to do their jobs, either by helping with housework (robots), shopping online, or working from home. She highlighted the fact that when women earn money, this usually goes straight back into the community, by way of children, sporting activities, events, and more. She left us with the summary that women are disruptive, valuable, assets, and represent opportunities to benefit everyone.
Reality on display
During the breaks between talks, attendees were able to head out to the exhibition area and experience some of the amazing things Victoria is doing. From Virtual Reality firefighting, to drones, city plans, 3D printed eye washers, and augmented reality buildings, Pivot had it all! My favourite (and yes I’m bias!) was Phoria. They had three different types of reality, so cummon that’s hard to beat!
Phoria were showing off their Augmented Reality buildings, they had Google cardboards for some VR videos, and the Microsoft HoloLens bought static drawings to life. One of their coolest things was the floor plan of the Geelong “Power Station”. The map was stuck to the table and Augmented Reality showed the building laid out on top of the plan. You could switch between the original site and the newly developed buildings. This is super important for preserving heritage and it gives an awesome way to show the difference between the old and the new.
Woz in Oz
Back into conferencing and it was the man everyone was there to see – Steve Wozniak, the Co-Founder of Apple. Affectionately known as Woz, we were treated to a fantastic fireside chat with one of the men behind the creation of this crazy tech giant. What I really enjoyed about Woz was the fact that he told us stories. While he gave a few pieces of knowledge, the stuff he was talking about is the kind of thing you can’t really research. You can’t go online and search up what Woz and Steve Jobs got up to in their college days. Wikipedia articles don’t talk about the desires Woz and Steve had as they built their first computers, or showed off their ‘programs’. No one else can really recount the pranks they played or the feelings they had as Woz waited an hour for a message to be sent and received.
What he did talk about which was super interesting was the whole tech founder thing. Woz told how him and Steve met in college:
I’d build these amazing things, like computers and programs, and Steve would say “we can sell this”. Then he’d go off and make money for both of us
This was something that really resonated. Many startups have founders that are tech and non-tech, or even founders that are deemed to be both. What Woz’ point was that Woz just enjoyed building things, but it was Steve that came up with the way to market, sell, and make money from them. Later in the conversation Woz bought up that Steve “never understood computers, hardware or software, but he did understand people”. Whilst I copped a bit of negativity for this Tweet, what Woz meant is that Steve didn’t know how to write software programs or build computers. But he didn’t need to. What Steve understood was people, and how to market and sell to computers.
Originally Apple was build to sell computer parts. Steve realised that as computers they were much more valuable. Instead of marketing to people as everyone else did – selling the computer as a typewriter, a way to keep recipes and write notes – Steve understood that it needed to mean more to people than that. So they showed off a computer with a complex spreadsheet. They showed people how they could do financial projections on the spreadsheet and in a matter of hours, come up with multiple different business cases that normally would have taken people 10 years to calculate. This is the perfect example of where you don’t need to know how to build a product, you don’t need to know every specification and line of code, but what you need to understand (if you are a CEO, a product manager, a sales person, or even a marketing person) is what the product means to someone. What it means for a customer to use what you are trying to sell to them.
Another interesting point I wanted to talk about is Woz’s take on when the first computers were invented and started to come more widely into use. He said that “computers changed learning, a lot, but it didn’t make people smarter”. This is something very important to consider. Computers (like any technology) is a tool. In this instance it’s a tool for learning. You can make learning more accessible, but you can’t make people ‘smarter’ through them. To be smart, you must work hard, and use the knowledge you have gained to make a difference. It’s the application of knowledge that makes you smart or not.
Final point I wanted to bring to light is the “team”. Woz said the most important thing is your team. It’s key. You need a well rounded team with skills in people (marketing), someone who understands business, and an engineer that knows how to build what you want to sell (whether it’s hardware or software, or something else). If you don’t have these skills covered off you don’t have a full team. It’d be like having a soccer team without a goalie or striker. And make sure you all work well together!
Be curious, and help!
Kate Eriksson from PwC had a hard act to follow, but she did an amazing job. Kate talked about disruption and being curious. She talked about how we, people in privileged positions, need to help others in need and move society forward. Think. Wonder. Be curious. Her main tips for startups are:
- Have a goal
- Find good talent
- Work out how to make money
- Think about using emerging technology
- Are you going to be a global business or local
Next we heard from Elliot of YGAP and how they are working towards enabling people to do what they do best. Rather than throwing money everywhere, YGAP puts money into leaders in the community. This is important in all aspects of our society. More often than not, the locals understand the problems and know how to fix them; we just need to help them do so.
Disruption and Innovation
After looking at these amazing initiatives and what’s happening in our communities, Jeff Cole took the stage to tell us what he thinks the future will be. The future is disruption! Disruption in every industry. Jeff has three big things he think will change as we move into a new age.
We’ve seen lots of disruption happening in shopping (online), and transport (Uber), and even the shared economy. He also believes that disruption and innovation will happen everywhere; in garages, in coffee shops, in pools, or the even the beach. However it will happen, Jeff thinks these are the two biggest areas next on the list:
- Banking – not just bitcoin but the whole customer facing aspect of the industry. But Jeff doesn’t think they’ll do anything about it, so… next!
- Driverless cars – this is Jeff’s favourite. He believes driverless cars will solve most of our problems. They will basically eliminate the death toll on our roads, remove road rage, decrease expenses (from petrol to maintenance, parking, ownership, insurance. and more), it will reduce drink driving, and free up most of our parking lots. In his words “there’s no burden. It just shows up when you need it and then just drivers away, you don’t need to think about it. There’s no responsibility.” He also thinks cars will become mobile hotels or meeting places.
A new take on reality
Well after a taste of the future, it was back to the building we were sitting in. The guys from Federal Mills Park gave us some insights into what they are doing on the site and how they are enabling innovation. They showed off some of the 3D imaging that Phoria had completed before Trent took the stage to continue on the path of new realities.
Trent talked about their collaboration project with the Geelong Power Station and how excited they were to preserve the integrity and heritage of the site. He also talked about some of the other projects they are working on. In Melbourne, they are working on immersive therapy at The Royal Children’s Hospital. Their virtual reality devices bring experiences to kids in hospital beds who wouldn’t otherwise be able to leave. Doctors and nurses have been astonished at the results this yields. From increased responsiveness to medication, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved overall well-being, it’s no wonder Phoria received a grant to continue this amazing work.
Phoria and the team are leading the charge in virtual and augmented reality. In addition to the Royal Children’s Hospital, they are continuing their work in 3D space scanning (for both retail and commercial applications), producing 3D video content, and working further to break the boundaries of reality. One of the coolest things is their new app, Santa’s Lil Helper. This collaboration bought Phoria (MAP alumni), IBM Bluemix (big industry/tech giant), Telstra (teleco) and the City of Melbourne (local government) together to produce this amazing augmented reality Christmas experience. If you haven’t already, you have to try it out! Download it and then walk the streets of Melbourne, discovering a whole new world.
To wrap up the final talk of the day, Dr Krystal Evans spoke about the future of the MedTech industry. She believes it’s in the combination between technology and health. Here’s her big three for what’s going to change:
- Wearables – to help monitor and track people’s health, providing a personal profile
- Personalised medicine – which includes DNA sequencing
- Bionics and augmented – mainly in the areas of enabling people; helping people walk who have been paralysed etc
She finished by saying that it’s no one thing that will help health in future. It’s a combination of things, and only working together can we achieve the impossible.
Speaking of working together, Leighton closed out the amazing PivotSummit2017 by thanking everyone involved. All the speakers, all the organisers, and everyone who came to experience a new way of thinking. Thanks again to everyone and hope to see you all back for the next one.