Rachel Slattery is a serial entrepreneur well known to the tech and innovation ecosystem as the creator of the seminal Tech23 and AgileAus showcase and conference.
Both of these events arrived ahead of their time in this country. Tech23 was running years before the term “deep tech” entered the entrepreneurial lexicon, and AgileAus when the agile ‘movement’ was falling on deaf ears in this country.
Ms Slattery set up her communications and event company in 2001. She does not like the term ‘chief executive officer’ and says ‘founder’ has connotations that do not fit her company – but both titles reflect her role nonetheless.
In this episode of the Commercial Disco, Rachel Slattery talks about the maturing entrepreneurial landscape in Australia, and outlines why she became so drawn to the really pointy end of deep tech science-based ventures.
She also discusses her newest project as director of Silver Futures, which is an attempt to reframe the mainstream conversation about ageing and longevity, and where technology and innovation will play an outsized role in managing wellness in our ageing population.
Rachel Slattery says in her early career she had been working at the “pretty” end of the tech sector through the dotcom era – but even through that period was always drawn to what she called “ugly tech.”
It was the unloved end of tech – the really hard science ventures which came to be known as “deep tech”. And that’s where the motivation for Tech23 came from.
“I kept being drawn to ugly tech. And it was just like a beacon. All of these people that were doing really amazing things that could change the world,” she said.
“And yet they didn’t have the time or perhaps didn’t have the skill to communicate what they were doing. So that’s where my passion for the deep tech arena came from, just realizing just how much it could transform how we live and work and play.”
Silver Futures is the next iteration of this long-standing interest in technology and areas of innovation that may not be immediately glamorous or quickly commercialised, but which nonetheless can be transformative for society.
Ageing is an area where technologies might not dazzle at first sight or promise immediate profitability. They are gamechangers in disguise, however, holding the latent power to radically reshape society.
Ms Slattery had already returned to university and was studying gerontology – or social gerontology to be precise – when COVID arrived. Coupled with her experience in the tech sector, it became clear that this was a sector ripe for innovation.
While technology had evolved to create new possibilities for society in many, many different areas, it had not yet targeted the older generation or people approaching old age. And that is about to change.
Right now, Silver Futures is mapping – as a collection of like-minded entrepreneurs – the current ecosystem for age-tech or longevity-tech in Australia.
Ms Slattery has surrounded herself with a “lovely group of advisors, mentors, and contractors,” each bringing unique perspectives and expertise.
“We’re still in the process of defining exactly how we’ll make our mark, but there’s room for us to truly make a difference both for tech innovators and everyday people,” she said.
As we look to the future, she believes the key to unlocking age tech’s potential lies in collaboration—between tech innovators, healthcare providers, and, crucially, the older adults themselves.
“If we’re going to make tech that truly enhances life at every stage, we need to listen to the voices of those living that experience,” she said.
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