THEIR aim is to put on the 'biggest, baddest and best' startup event in the Asia Pacific region and the founders of Myriad have declared if the event becomes 'just another tech conference', then they have failed.
Estonian Martin Talvari (pictured) and Australian entrepreneur Murray Galbraith will pull together the second edition of Myriad in Brisbane from May 16 to 18, 2018, and they're aiming to bring the best minds from the world's biggest brands to mix and collaborate with Australian startups and students.
Talvari helped turn the Slush conference around the world into what it is today, which is now the northern hemisphere's biggest startup event with 17,500 attending and millions streaming online.
Slush was initiated in 2008 with a group of entrepreneurs in Finland, creating meet-ups with like-minded inventors through professional "speed dates" and "inspirational talks."
Slush was handed over to the Aalto University student community in 2011 and it doubled in size every year until 2014, and featured industry heavyweights from the likes of Spotify, Tindr, LinkedIn, Flickr and Skype. In 2016 it reached its "critical mass" with 17,500 attendees, including 2336 start-ups, 1146 investors and 610 local and international journalists.
Named Slush because it took place after the Finnish snow had melted for the season, just 2,000 turned up for that first event which has since been replicated in more than 80 countries.
The first Myriad in 2017, backed by the Queensland Government, was held at the Powerhouse in Brisbane and pulled 2,500 people despite the devastation of Cyclone Debbie which led police to shut the event down.
However the internet remained operational in the city, and unplanned 'pop up' events took place across Brisbane as business leaders and tech entrepreneurs held impromptu sessions which defied the devastating weather.
Myriad 2018 was given something of a "lift off" recently with Qantas and the Queensland Government announcing they have partnered to charter a 747 aircraft to bring more than 200 execs and VC from San Francisco to the Brisbane event.
Business News Australia spoke with the two founders of Myriad and asked them about how they plan to put the Australian startup scene on the world stage.
First one, I mean, this is straight out of the barrel, can you name names about who is going to be on that plane out of San Francisco?
Martin: We can't say who just yet but I would say the best minds behind the biggest brands in the world, and it just happens to be a lot of them are from Silicon Valley. Really there's two groups of people, the amazing investors and executives and founders, but also bringing the Australians. The name 'Myriad' is meant to be indicative of the different groups coming together.
Murray: There will be infinite value unlocked throughout. It's about bringing multiple segments of the ecosystem together, and we try to do that not just at the event but at every opportunity we can.
"The plane will be the first time that a number of Queensland students and Australian startups will ever get to connect with some really big name VIP speakers and investors, so we'll be sending as many people as we can from Australia to San Francisco for the week, and set them up with meetings, and then they'll fly back on the plane."
But then the other opportunities to bring back some of 25 to 30,000 Australians currently residing in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. We're really excited to give them an opportunity to come back and share a lot of what they've learned. Some of them have succeeded and have sold their startups to enormous tech companies, and others are still out there having a go, but they're all valuable insights the Australian students can learn from.
Martin, let's just go back in time for a moment, talk us through Slush, how it started and how it evolved.
Martin: I am going back to 2008 with Slush in Finland. There, briefly, a lot of people came together understanding that we need to do something together. There wasn't a clear plan like, 'let's build an event with 20,000 people'. A lot of entrepreneurs came together with the idea to do something together and then the next big step was to hand it over to students. That, basically, was the beginning of what we know today as Slush. That's when I got involved, and at first it was smaller and it was a community nonprofit event with just 2,000 attending.
What are you looking to achieve with this year's Myriad? I've seen reference to the event that it's 'Burning Man meets Ted'.
Martin: That's right but we're trying to get away from that.
"We're probably going for something more like a 'Big Day Out for your brain'. It's like a music festival meets a technology festival, meets arts festival, meets the science festival."
Murray: I suppose it's really designed to be an interactive exploration of technology. Technology, ideas like Ted and innovation, they're too ambiguous, too cerebral, that most people can't touch them and connect with them. But we're trying to design an experience so that people actually get to get up close to startups and the investments and people deciding ideas like technology and innovation so that they can get involved and actually participate.
Martin: Where we believe that the magic happens is at the intersection of different disciplines. It's not just technology, it's the design, it's the technology, it's the art, it's music, science, and then all these people under one roof. That's where the magic is.
How is Myriad different from tech conferences, which seem to be springing up all over the place?
Martin: Well our mantra is that we're trying to catalyse a movement. That's what we were breathing when we were building Slush. We knew it was bigger than us, bigger than each of individuals. "If we're just building an event thing, we have already failed. We are building a movement here in Australia and we also want to break the boundaries.Australia is a very unique market. We want to break those boundaries and really work together. I think the (Myriad) project has been a good start, a good example, of how the different key stakeholders in the state can work together, but also it's going to be a great national collaboration.
Any idea why it's taken for an event like Myriad to hit Australia? Is it because we're behind?
Martin: Why has this not happened before? I don't know. I've been in Australia just two years, so I don't have a lot of experience here. I've also seen fantastic events here.
"The main thing is that if we are seen as building just an event, then it's a fail. It's much, much bigger than just an event. It's a great, great vehicle to get us somewhere. What we're catalysing is a movement."
Murray: There's lots of really great things happening all over the country. We're only doing one event each year because we want it to be the biggest, baddest and best event in Asia-Pacific, and that's what we're building. That requires a very, very longterm, very disciplined strategy from us.
Martin: We collaborate with events. We love to work together with other events, regardless of where they are and what they're focusing on, as long as it's not the same day across the road. We're not competitors. A lot of people are mentioning it's a big competition, but we believe, no, if we invite a lot of people from Silicon Valley here, then they're welcome and we want to support them and any other events as well. That's it.
What are your long term goals here in Australia?
Martin: I didn't come just to build another event just to have fun. I came here after travelling for four years in 80 countries, having built events in third-world countries. When I came here and met Murray, I knew that this is going to be a 10-year project at least. I recognise this country here has great education, great history, science, scholarship, early adopter mindset, willing to invest in research and really look to the future. We can fix the collaboration vehicle here, it's going to be one of the greatest parts in the world.
To me, personally, what this means, I believe I can make a difference here. I believe I can bring an experience that meets with Murray's experience with the local understanding and a national understanding from Australia. I can come in from the world to Australia. That thing together is Myriad. We're the biggest local event. We're the most international local event. Only Australia. We're not looking to open chapters outside and all that stuff.
"Myriad is an Australian event, built for Australians and by Australians, with a little infection of myself who wants to be an Australian."
Murray: Look, I think, just to really underline that point, the long term goal is to help Australia level up and really take its place on the world stage. The CSIRO sits on $2 billion to $3 billion in intellectual property. We invented Wi-Fi. The issue is not ingenuity, it's not resources, it is none of the things, none of these excuses, that we've been telling ourselves for a long time. It's culture.
Cultural change, cultural shifts, happen when you get people together with different objectives and discuss and explore them together. That is all we need to do, to try and get those different perspectives up on stage, and explore it and discuss in one place, and to build a community of like-minded progressive individuals who are excited about tomorrow. Rather than to react to technology, they really want to build their own future and build something special for their groups.
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