Building a tech bridge to the regions


Simone Eyles
Contributor

For years I have stamped my feet for Regional Australia to be included in the conversation about innovation investment. While I have made some progress, right now I feel like it’s time to get louder.

Regional Australia is an incredible resource for the nation. We punch well above our weight. Our farmers are the true innovators and entrepreneurs of Australia, battling drought, fires, floods and now COVID-19.

Startups, entrepreneurs and innovators will either grow, die or pivot in this crisis, as an entrepreneur I am always looking for an opportunity.

And right now, we have a huge opportunity to solve two problems that can have long-lasting positive impact for regional Australia as well as our metro mates. And it will help any developer that has found themselves out of work.

Simone Eyles
Simone Eyles: Building a tech bridge to the regions is critical

Tech Talent

Most startups will tell you access to capital is a pain point, and in the regions’ this is no different. However, it is access to talent that is a far greater challenge.

Each day as I check in on my Facebook groups. I see developer after developer listing their skills and talents as they are now looking for work.

I have proposed this a few times already but will propose it again right now. It would be amazing if the government could fund a tech talent pool and allow startups, innovators and entrepreneurs around the country access this talent subsidised or on a project basis to build out those MVPs or pivot and grow existing technology.

We can retain our tech talent, and support startups in creating what could be “the next big thing.” It also supports people working to create new jobs. And we are going to need a lot of new job creation post-COVID-19, and our startups should be front and centre in this.

Regional Innovation Hubs

As we all self-isolate, we have innovation hubs that have been built across regional Australia sitting idle. As most of these centres are founded and funded by passionate entrepreneurs – as we did in Wagga with Working Spaces HQ – and leaning towards Brad Feld’s model of Leaders and Feeders, we also have another unique opportunity to push further toward decentralisation into regional Australia. This has the added benefit of delivering greater regional economic diversity.

What I mean by this is if all these hubs are now empty, why can’t the government fund and facilitate some regional satellite offices? Or maybe teams would come and work in regional Australia on a project or a sprint, or how about a working retreat?

The real opportunity in the regions and all across Australia is in our kids. I have lost count of the text messages from friends, not asking for work at home and home-schooling tips but what YouTuber or program they should be using for their kids to learn how to code (I am suggesting, code club and Khan Academy).

Because we live in an hour-by-hour, day-by-day world, who knows what anything will look like after this crisis has passed? One thing is for sure though: A business that has technology and innovation at its core will survive and will thrive. This is what we are experiencing at 365cups.com

At 365cups, we have clients from the Western Australia coast to Wellington in New Zealand, from Rockhampton in Queensland to Smithton in Tasmania. Although our NZ clients are offline with their lockdown, we have been working around the clock supporting clients to swap over to a delivery service offering.

I have seen some creative solutions with our systems but cocktail delivery, well that is a thing that is happening now, our clients especially those clients that have been with us since the start (2011) are now reaping the rewards and with a majority of clients and over 100,000 users, I often say people in the regions are more tech savvy than most. We have to be – there’s no popping into H&M on our lunch break, but a coffee ordered by an App or shopping online 24/7 we can definitely do.

As an ex-marketer, I am fascinated with the marketing metaphor Scott Morrison is singing about “a bridge to get us all to the other side”. I would like to piggy-back that slogan and say the bridge must also extend to regional Australia to do the work that needs to be done to re-build the nation post COVID-19

One of my peers and a businesswoman I very much admire is Jane Cay, the founder of Birdsnest, the incredibly successful e-commerce company that has its foundations in regional Australia.

Jane has a saying about how “she works in the fast lane whilst living in the slow lane”. As we all scramble to survive this crisis, it is time to find more regional superstars to emerge.

We must back them and invest in them, to encourage get tech talent in the regions so they can have a crack at building Australia’s “next big thing”.

Simone Eyles is co-founder at 365cups.com, an online ordering business founded in Wagga Wagga in regional NSW and with customers across Australia and New Zealand (and the world). Simone now lives and works from Merimbula on the beautiful NSW south coast.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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