AUSSIE STARTUPS: 'DON'T ACT LIKE GOOGLE'

AUSSIE STARTUPS: 'DON'T ACT LIKE GOOGLE'

"IF you want to act like Google, become a Google first" - performance comes before workplace culture for Steve Baxter.

Ditto that a "cool workplace doesn't make up for a boring and frustrating job".

In other words, incentivising work with fun presents no real opportunity for the employee, employer and workforce in general.

Baxter cautioned a Brisbane Business News Breakfast Series audience against this at Brisbane City Hall. 

Baxter spent a year working at the Google headquarters in California in 2009, returning home enlightened in more ways than one.

"The lesson to learn from Google which is very important for people wanting to go on the startup journey is that everyone looks to Google as some beacon of righteousness and goodness, the right way to do things - but Google has more money than God," he says.

"If you're a startup, please don't follow the way Google does business - they can afford to do that and lose money on ventures.

"You can do everything Google does when you have tens of billions of dollars coming from IP-protected ventures just churning out money.

"Firstly, you need to give people work that values their performance and abilities and allows them to succeed, and then you will have a far more engaged workforce."

Baxter says we have a 'fundamental problem' when people care more about job add-ons free gym membership, childcare services, food - than actual job content and their performance.

Speaking of job content, Baxter believes the brains of too many Australian workers are being wasted in jobs that aren't moving the nation forward.

He says too much of Australian industry is focused on what's under the ground at the expense of what's above the ground, citing the 2015 StartupAUS Crossroads report which shows our nation's economic complexity is quickly falling behind other developed nations.

"Last year when this report was released we were 53rd in economic complexity in the developed world and this year we are actually 74th - and you want a lower number," says Baxter.

"Economic complexity ranks and reveals the exports of a nation and there is a lot of brown in our complexity chart - we all know this - we dig stuff out of the ground in Australia and send it somewhere else and do very little else.

"We're doing things really wrongly in Australia and I think we are starting to see the results of that now."

Baxter rejects trends - "I don't follow trends, I'm 44, I couldn't give a stuff about them to be honest" - but he is still hoping Shark Tank will do for startups and entrepreneurship what MasterChef has done for culinary arts in Australia.

He is all too aware of the gap that exists in Australia's workforce and is underwriting STEM ventures such as StartupAUS, River City Labs, Startup Catalyst and Hackathon for that reason.

"What future do we want for our kids and grandkids? We have great ingenuity in Australia, we see it in Shark Tank where we are just scratching the surface," says Baxter.

"Our biggest problem is the industry we seem to care about, mining and resources, means that we are a price taker. It's a strategy based on hope and luck. And we really have to take control to try and change that."

Interested in hearing more from Brisbane's thought leaders? Attend the next Brisbane Business News Breakfast Series event in September.
 

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