Uncertainty can be a huge factor for start-ups. There’s investor risk to assess, market viability to consider, and many tricky decisions to be made. As the Founder and CEO of Sydney-based start-up accelerator BlueChilli, Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin knows this all too well. He is trying to make the process easier for the newest crop of Aussie entrepreneurs by providing them with the help they need to navigate this complex territory, so that ultimately they can conquer their chosen industry. The CEO Magazine spoke to Sebastien about the current start-up landscape, what Australians can learn from the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Israel, and why thinking with the mindset of military personnel can be beneficial.
The CEO Magazine: You’ve previously stated that Australia has already fallen behind other countries as a start-up economy. Do you believe we will be able to catch up to countries like Britain and Israel in the near future?
No, if we’re trying to catch up we’ll always be second. We need to form our own identity and our own focus. We have a history of resources and energy, and some of the most progressive solar research is done in Australian universities, so why aren’t we the global leader in clean technologies? I think we need to think more broadly than a single-industry focus like clean-tech or fin-tech or insert-vertical-here-tech. Technology affects all industries and we as a country need to own the next evolution of technology innovation, which is the Internet of Things.
Can you tell us a little bit about your relationship with the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce?
A few years ago, I was invited to attend one of the Chamber’s trade missions to Israel. Led by Roger Allen AM, the mission explored the venture capital landscape in Israel and answered the question of ‘how’ Israel has helped foster an innovation culture. Being ex-military, with 10 years’ service in the Royal Australian Navy, I was able to see parallels with the two cultures, and formed some views on what Australia’s ecosystem could do to support innovation, technology, and investment. Since then, I’ve been back again, and have been a proud supporter of the Chamber. Technology and innovation are my religions, and I think everyone in this space needs to do a pilgrimage to the tech hubs of the world, including Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv, and Waterloo. It opens your mind to big-picture thinking.