One tech leader’s recent return from Silicon Valley to a base in Perth after 27 years has brought with it some fresh perspectives on what is working well in the current Australian tech space.
Co-founder of ASX-listed audio wearable tech firm Nuheara, David Cannington, says Australia’s high-quality talent pool of engineers and technologists – combined with the Australian government’s R&D tax incentive – makes Australia an appealing location to retain R&D in-country, rather than run things overseas.
“Half of our teams are specialists in technology and engineering. We invest a lot of money in our research and development, and the government’s R&D rebate has been extremely beneficial to hire people here and hire good people,” Mr Cannington told InnovationAus.com.
Aside from the R&D tax incentive, Mr Cannington also applauded the government’s introduction of the export development grant.
“The export development grant was beneficial for us because we were an exporter from day one. Exporting can be quite a burden for a lot of early stage companies, so I’m a big supporter of that. We strongly advocate for that to continue to exist,” he said.
Mr Cannington, who recently relocated back to Perth after living in California and working in Silicon Valley for the last 27 years, said the advantage Australians have over other engineering talent and innovators overseas can be found in our work ethic.
“There’s a culture of getting things done, breaking down walls, not accepting no, not overthinking things and getting things done is very much part of our innate DNA here in Australia,” he said.
Nuhera currently has 45 employees working across its Perth, Silicon Valley, New York and Glasgow offices. But what makes Perth unique, even though it’s one of the most isolated cities in the world, according to Mr Cannington, is that unlike Silicon Valley, the competition for good talent isn’t so cutthroat.
“No doubt Silicon Valley is the home of technology but it’s very expensive to setup a business, particularly now that I’ve seen the level of disloyalty and lack of loyalty,” he said.
“It’s so dynamic over there and engineering talent is so highly valued; there’s more demand than supply. It’s hard as a startup to attract really good people.”
It’s reasons like these that makes Australia a more appealing location to develop deep tech, Mr Cannington said, and for Australian talent to return home after spending time working overseas.
“What the ecosystem needs to do down here is to tap into those people who have worked and operated in the US and found success there and have come back and wanted to get involved in the industry,” he said.
“Larry Marshall is a classic example of that. He didn’t need to take the CEO of CSIRO job if he didn’t want to. But I know one of the main drivers for him to move back here and to work with CSIRO is because he wants to make a difference. He wanted a purpose behind a job he was going to have here and benefit to Australia-wide.
“There’s a lot of talent that comes back from Silicon Valley to Australia typically with the idea they want to have purpose and make a positive difference to what’s happening down here in the industry.
“It’s one thing you learn in Silicon Valley is the concept of paying it forward. Giving feedback, getting involved with no other motivation except you want to help someone,” said Mr Cannington.
For Cannington personally, he plans to get involved in Perth-based industry groups and encourage more Australian companies to compete on building deep tech companies locally that can compete globally.
“We’ve got a good story to tell, so if I can motivate and inspire other entrepreneurs to go down this path then that would be fantastic.”