The Fetch Blog

Curated reads and events for professionals

Interview: GovHack Perth Organiser Zane Prickett — May 28, 2013

Interview: GovHack Perth Organiser Zane Prickett

This week, The Fetch Perth’s Curator, Justin Strharsky spoke with Zane Prickett, one of the organisers of GovHack Perth.

ZanePrickett_web

What is GovHack?

GovHack is an event where Developers can make awesomeness in a weekend of hacking and Government can come to see the potential of open data and allowing access to their data. Oh and did we mention there is over $3.5k local prizes and $40k national prizes?

We fill a room with as many web and application developers, open data & visualisation gurus, user experience folk, accessibility peeps, augmented reality-ists, mobile maesters, user experience fanatics and anyone interested in open government as we can find and set them loose on government data sets to create new mashups, data visualisations and apps. Everything needed is provided to hack to your hearts content, for glory, or money, or both!

On hand will be:

  • Data “owners” and mentors from a range of technology backgrounds
  • Facilitators to help teams focus, and move forward throughout the event
  • Copious amounts of power, wifi, food and caffeine
  • A range of developer tools and support throughout the 48 hours

Governments collect and publish enormous amounts of data, but have limited resources to get it into the hands of their citizens in engaging ways. GovHack is an event to draw together people from government, industry, academia and of course, the general public to mashup, reuse, and remix government data. GovHack is about finding new ways to do great things and encouraging open government and open data.

GovHack runs over 48 hours starting with drinks and the competition announcements on the night of Friday 31st of May. On Saturday you will need to register your team by midday and you can attend technical workshops to help with your project. Mentors in a range of areas will be on hand to help out. Teams work through the weekend and then on Sunday afternoon you’ll have 5 minutes to present your prototype to everyone, including the judges.

This years’ event takes place at Spacecubed on the 31st of May to the 2nd of Jun. We are excited have Lyn Beazley, WA’s chief scientist, as the key note speaker. And the event is free to developers. Currently there are over 70 participants and 20 observers. There are a few more participant tickets available if any developers would like to join.

GovHack_final-final

What kinds of data is the government making available?

Currently there are over 2500 sets of data that will be available for the event. Most of these are already freely available via web services such as data.gov.au. A great resource to see what data is available and to come up with ideas for the event is http://www.govpond.org.

In addition to the 2500 freely available data sets there will be some additional data made available just for this event. This includes WA Public Transport and WA Treasury digital data. These are exciting data sets and should make for some interesting outcomes.

Can people really make anything useful in a weekend?

With the right team and the right focus, Yes, developers can make awesome outcomes in one weekend. Last year one of the winning teams,www.theopenbudget.org, had a fully interactive and live web application to dive into and explore the federal government. Excellent visual outcome for only one weekends work.

In addition this year at a national level there is a push to make sure the best ideas and applications do get finished. First Amazon has jumped on as an event sponsor to host any of the winners applications for up to one year free of charge. Second at a federal prize level there are additional funds available for projects that need a bit more work to finalize. This should allow another week or two of work for the teams to finish their applications.

What is the coolest hack or product that’s come out of a GovHack?

Last year there were lots of excellent applications to come out of GovHack with http://www.theopenbudget.org being a great example. With that said my personnel favorite was “A Day in the Life”. In this web application someone types a date in the past and it searches the national archives to show interesting information such as photos, weather, government, price of a loaf of bread,…

What does government get out of the event?

The government gets to see the outcomes of open data and the potential it holds. Currently government is collecting tons and tons of data from a range of sources. In general the government understands there is lots of potential in the data but they dont have all the resources to make it happen. Govhack is a way for government to see the potential and reasons for open data and to continue to move in that direction.

In addition government gets to see the talent of the developers working in Perth throughout Australia and the potential of new technology.

Did you face any challenges in bringing this event together?

Interesting question. From the developers side it has not been too challenging getting the event up and running, basically they have been on board from the word GO. But the government side was a bit more challenging. In the beginning we faced such questions as “Why are you hosting an event to HACK the Government?”. But once all the initial questions were cleared up the government has really jumped on board and is fully behind the event

As well thanks a ton to Spacecubed. They have made the organizers life much easier with their well run and well recognized space, cheers!

Any advice for participants?

Enjoy yourselves. This event is a great chance for developers to come together for a weekend, enjoy some coding, networking, show case some awesome applications to government, and potentially win some money!

Some links:

Curator Year in Review 2012: Justin in Perth — December 11, 2012

Curator Year in Review 2012: Justin in Perth

As the end of 2012 approaches, we thought it’d be nice to have an update from our beloved city curators. Justin Strharsky in Perth shares some of his most appreciated events, spaces and top moments of 2012.

perthPerth during Kate’s visit in August

Best event for meeting people?

Silicon Beach Perth. It’s the most informal of our regular meetups, and a great chance to meet new people.

Best event for content shared and learnings?

Morning Startup. But I’ll admit a bit of bias here…

Personal event stye preference (breakfast/conference/workshop/etc/etc)?

Pass. Don’t have one.

Favourite source of local community news?

I presume you mean, besides The Fetch? Really, in Perth there’s been a lack of a single source for news and events focussed on our digital/design/entrepreneur community. When it comes to news, I take a bit of a grazing approach – I try to consume the best bits from several different pastures.

Favourite coworking space?

Spacecubed. Sync Labs if it’s Friday night.

Favourite cafe with wifi?

Moore & Moore in Fremantle.

What’s been a personal highlight and not so high moment of the year?

This year I celebrated my fifth wedding anniversary. Definitely a highlight. Lowlights this year have predominantly been the kind of setbacks we’re all challenged with. Nothing to complain about, thankfully.

What have you enjoyed about being involved with The Fetch in 2012?

The Fetch has given me a great excuse to ask some detailed questions of people. I really have enjoyed learning about some of the characters that make up our community. I’d like to thank those who agreed to be interviewed for sharing with us – I really appreciate it.

What are you looking forward to in 2013?

There are a couple of projects in the works here that have the potential to give coherence and momentum to our community. I’m excited to see how they develop, and to contribute if I can.

Interview: Perth local, Larry Lopez — October 15, 2012

Interview: Perth local, Larry Lopez

This week, Perth curator Justin Strharsky interviews Larry Lopez, Partner, Australian Venture Consultants.

Larry Lopez

Twitter: @lopezjohnston

What brought you to Perth?

I came to Perth at the insistence of my Perth born wife, Janet Crossland. I was bored with the direction my life was taking in Silicon Valley, and I wanted a change. I certainly got that!

I’ve read in one of your bios that you been involved in several countries with the “development of investment models to enhance growth in emerging technology”. What does that mean?

Early on I spent a lot of time working with different communities outside Silicon Valley that wanted to expand the knowledge-based sectors of their economies. At the Bank, we believed if we could help create the market, we could own a large part of its banking business, so we spent a lot of time in markets we thought would become creators of new companies (the Bank now has successful operations in India, Israel, China and England). This meant understanding what their region’s strengths were, and how they could build upon those strengths.

I spent a lot of time in England, Sweden, Israel and Australia, and I got to follow my partners around Asia including India. So many regions wanted to be the next Silicon Valley. I always fought that idea, as the Valley has so many unique attributes that cannot be replicated. I am of the view that each community must build on its own strengths and then plan based on what it can learn from other successful models.

Israel is a great example of how a small agriculture based economy could turn itself into a global tech powerhouse. They initially built their aspirations around silicon and defense spinouts. This gave them the opportunity to play off existing competency and relationships. It was a natural transition to communications and security, and ultimately the internet.

Here are the two great lies communities convince themselves of:

  1. They can become the next Silicon Valley
  2. They have the unique opportunity to become global leaders in biotech

If you have been around enough different emerging regions, you can imagine how pathetic that sounds, but I still hear it all the time.

So, how do you feel the investment climate in emerging technology differs here in Australia from other places you’ve worked?

There are too many pretenders in Australia.

Most of the companies I meet here are about getting people rich (unsuccessfully, I might add), not about building great companies. That formula doesn’t work.

Companies need to be built around great people identifying and solving market needs, that once the solutions are articulated, they seem OBVIOUS. I just don’t see that here as much as in some of the other markets I am involved in.

Also here people expect the government to play a role. WTF? I don’t’ buy into that baloney! The last folks I would want to rely upon for the success of my startup would be the government.

That is not meant as a criticism, it is a fact. Governments are not meant to be entrepreneurial, and generally don’t attract entrepreneurs. They are here as the umpires not the players.

I find that Aussie investors are too nice to management teams. If a company is underperforming, it probably needs new leadership not just more money. It is ok to switch out management.

Also many crap companies here survive much too long. In the Valley, dud companies usually die a fast death. There are some absolutely crappy companies around Perth that should have been shut down years ago, yet they stagger on, burning capital and wasting time and other valuable resources.

How would you characterize the investment landscape in Australia? In Perth?

I think there are some great entrepreneurs and deals around town right now. I was at the Perth Startup Weekend not too long ago, and I met some great young and passionate entrepreneurs including the organisers of the event. I feel really good about the future. I just hope some of the old guard doesn’t fuck things up.

What trends in emerging technology excite you?

I am excited by projects that are easy to move around geographically and are capital efficient. Mobile apps are a good example. You can make a lot of mistakes and not burn all of your capital. If you get it wrong at first, which is the most likely outcome, it is easy to re-focus, and get back on track.

I also love technology that has applications in the resources sector. I love disruptive technology. Ironically that may not work when it comes to solving needs in the resources industry. Perhaps, we’ll save that discussion for another day.

Are there any opportunities or trends that Australia/Perth are particularly suited to tackling?

In terms of mining and petroleum, we are the biggest users and therefore buyers of mining and petroleum technology in the universe. While we are leaders in implementing and using cutting edge technology, most of the invention comes from overseas. It would be great to become exporters of technology over time. I beleive WA Universities are becoming more engaged with industry in looking at future technology needs. The key will be to enable researchers to access commercial opportunities. There are a number of new programs around Perth addressing this. Hopefully there can be a shift in mindsets that will produce positive outcomes. If you think about some of the great companies of our times, HP, Cisco, Yahoo, Google and Apple, they came from academic and corporate cultures that made it easy to spinout. Sometimes I think people here try too hard to add value. Maybe they just need to let go.

The building of the SKA should also produce some derivative benefits in terms of access to computing power and also innovation. The danger is in not having the foresight to take advantage of the opportunities, or even worse, getting in the way.

We see a lot of “not enough access to capital” vs. “not enough quality deal flow” debate in the Australian start-up press. Do you have a take on this? Are there enough quality early stage investment opportunities here? Do start-ups here have enough access to capital?

I think this is a catch-22. If there were enough successful deals, there would be a lot more risk capital in Australia available for startups. The reality is, Australia has not produced very many big exits relative to the amount of capital that has been available over the last 15 years. So investors aren’t that excited about the market.

That being said, I have never seen a good deal that didn’t get funded. The other day, a friend in the Valley was telling me about a company he met from Perth that couldn’t get funded here because local investors didn’t understand the value proposition. I happened to know the company. The issue was that it had a terrible value proposition and a sub par team. I think some of the local investors are world class.

In addition, current Commonwealth Government policy and is not well suited for attracting capital. Capital markets want clarity, not broken promises and misleading policy. One of the positive government initiatives over the last few years has been the Commercialisation Australia grants program. This allowed a certain amount of risk mitigation for investors in the form of low cost or free capital from the Commonwealth. Now I am not saying I like that kind of policy, but hey it was good for startup companies and their investors. Without warning the government hit the pause button. Investors hate that kind of behavior.

Aside from the performance, another major issue facing venture capital as an asset class is that the primary target investors, superannuation funds, have been scared off by an over awareness of the management expense ratios which are biased against venture capital managers when compared

Clearly there are a lot more investors concentrated in some other markets like Silicon Valley and Israel when compared to Australia. That being said, there are large startup ecosystems in those regions that can support a vibrant investment community, we just don’t have the volume.

So what is the solution? I believe you can only fix what you can control (duh!). We need to start from the ground up. The local startup community needs to abandon its greedy nature and embrace a more constructive future. People need to focus on building great teams around great ideas. They need to spend every dollar like it was their last. They need to learn to walk away from failure without shame. There are a lot of new faces around town going in the right direction, we need to support them and help them embrace a new paradigm that is about building great companies not promoting deals. When this happens the wealth will come, but if folks want to create wealth with hype and over promotion, we will be doomed to more of the same old same old, as the saying goes.

Hello Justin – our Perth fetcher — April 22, 2012

Hello Justin – our Perth fetcher

Go West, this is what we’re gonna do, Go West!

Perth! Booming Perth. We’re heading there too and I’m pleased to welcome Justin Strharsky as our city curator. Justin is active within the WA startup space and is the managing director at Synaptor – a platform where you can manage health, safety, and environmental risk in real time. You can follow him on Twitter here or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Justin will be sharing the best events, meetups, community news, jobs and more in each fortnight’s fetch. You can submit items to him via email here, via @thefetchperFB and don’t forget to subscribe on http://thefetch.com so we’ll arrive straight to your box. Our first navy/purple-themed fetch (cough West Coast Eagles FC) will be sent shortly. As part of Justin’s welcome, we put a few questions to him:

Justin Strharsky

How did you end up where you are today?

I flew South from Russia. I spent three and a half years on Sakhalin island working with an Australian consultancy. We helped to manage health, safety, and environmental risks on what was at the time the world’s largest integrated oil and gas development project. When that project transitioned from construction to operations, and the GFC hit, I closed our Russian office and relocated to Perth.

In 2011 a client asked us to build yet another mind-numbingly boring and inadequate paper-based safety tool. We decided that we had had enough and could do better. We launched Synaptor in order to free workers from the tedium of safety paperwork and to enable companies to manage risk in real time.

Before moving to Russia, I had a few other ‘character-building’ experiences. I helped manage a family medicine clinic in Alaska, owned a cafe-bar in Prague, and worked for several years in Silicon Valley, primarily for Sun Microsystems.

What makes you tick? What makes you ick?

Most days it seems that coffee makes me tick. One cup too many and it also makes me ick. I get excited by big ideas, big plans. I dislike talking to people when they’re not really present. Hello, are you in there?

Why do you love ‘fetchin?

I’m convinced that culture – the ideas, attitudes, and habits of those around you – affects what you believe is possible. I want to contribute to a local culture that encourages people to believe that they can make good things happen.

What things excite you about our community right now?

I think it’s a fantastic time to be an entrepreneur in Australia. There are so many big, exciting problems to get after, and so many resources at our disposal. The community is relatively small and approachable, and while we are learning from the way things are done elsewhere, there is an invigorating freedom to make our our own way.

What’s your favourite thing about your city?

I think Perth is wonderful – don’t tell anyone, okay? I’ve found Goldilocks’ bowl of porridge here – it’s just right.

Today my favorite thing is the first rain of the season.

Where can we find you in Perth?

Hopefully I’m in King’s Park, enjoying a famous sunset. If I’m not there, check my desk.

How can we connect with you?

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/JustinStrharsky
https://twitter.com/thefetchper

Email:
justin@synaptor.com.au
justin@thefetch.com

Come out to one of the entrepreneur meetups.

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