Startup Catalyst Female Founders recap

Startup Catalyst Female Founders recap

I’ve come back with bang – let’s go. I have to go faster. I have to go harder.

The participants in the Startup Catalyst Female Founders trip to London gave their panel sessions recap yesterday.  Similar to what was shared in the Future Founders panel the day before, common themes emerged of confidence, connections, and urgency.

The panel shared how the growth in confidence came from hearing shared stories in the cohort, pitch practice through the week, and seeing examples of successful communities. The scale is larger, but the opportunities are similar.

The immersion impact of a Startup Catalyst trip is designed to rapidly shift perspective. As one participant stated, it’s like “Disneyland on steroids for startups“. You can read more details on what goes into the trip in a recap by Peta Ellis on The Catalyst Effect.

Trips like Startup Catalyst are valuable for anyone working on a business that has global customers. As stated by one of the cohort, “Go to where people are actually socialising. Don’t wait for an invitation. Buy a ticket and go. If you don’t promote yourself no one else is going to.”

Particularly in London, we heard that “The UK responds well to brand Australia and brand Queensland.” The support provided by UK International Trade and Investment is significant, with everyone from banks, government, corporations sharing that the UK is open for business.

Female focus


After the panel sessions, I had lunch with one of the previous Future Founder Startup Catalyst alumni. He raised an interesting point that an area that was not explored in the conversation was the “female” aspect of cohort. What was the value in having an all female trip? What was the benefit? What was missing?

The panel session felt like a standard Startup Catalyst recap with a panel that just happened to be female. And to me this speaks to the need. For years, we have seen countless technology-related sessions where the panel members just happened to be male and no one gave it a thought. Except this was not by design, but by embedded structural biases.

I attended an awards program for a management association last year. The nominations of the “emerging leaders” were all female.  The male MC made sure to make a point of the fact and congratulate the women for their efforts. We then had the nominations for the “successful entrepreneur”. The candidates were all male. Gender was not mentioned.

If you are running a panel session, looking for speakers, or holding an awards program, the participants and their networks on the Startup Catalyst Female Founders mission would be a good place to start. If you are a guy on a panel, ask who else is on the panel.  If you look to either side and it’s all male, consider a female you might recommend as additional panel speaker or to take your place.

Focused trips like Female Founders missions intentionally build capability in leaders, create a support network, and raise awareness. This needs to continue.

Feature image credit Tiah Gold’s Twitter feed.



Startup Catalyst Future Founders challenge and hope

Startup Catalyst Future Founders: Challenge and hope

This trip changed me. I have been going around in circles in my life. This trip grounded me.

The participants of the Startup Catalyst Future Founders trip shared their lessons on a panel last night. Their feedback gives hope and challenge for Australian entrepreneurship.

Startup Catalyst is a program that takes groups of young future founders, investors, community leaders, and industry-specific entrepreneurs overseas to experience other startup environments. My own Startup Catalyst trip early 2017 was instrumental in setting my current direction.

The participants all shared similar experiences.  Some of their responses when asked about what surprised them about the trip include:

  • The tech was not as advanced as I thought it would have been. I was expecting to be blown away, but we have some amazing people in Australia. What we are missing is culture and a give first mentality.
  • I had skills I was not aware of.
  • Ideas coming out of Silicon Valley are similar to those coming out of Brisbane.
  • Amount of Australians in Silicon Valley.
  • Comparing $100k rounds in Australia to $1m rounds in Silicon Valley. The exit strategy of IPO in Australia versus getting acquired by a corporate in Silicon Valley.
  • How nice everyone was, and how much time they gave up to hang out and give back.

There is a thought that Silicon Valley is so much further ahead of Australia in terms of technology.  The high caliber of existing Australian technical capability came through in the panel responses.  This was also a factor of the selection process for the trip that picked out some of the brightest minds in Australia from an increasingly large pool of high-caliber applicants.

My favorite part of the evening was when the panel and audience which included previous alumni briefly segued into a discussion about the impact of artificial intelligence on the mental health industry. With the capability in the room, I expect we could have locked the door and had a good crack at some practical solutions in a short period of time.

Missions such as Startup Catalyst expose people to opportunities and new perspectives, show them what they are capable of, and build strong networks within the cohort, past alumni, and the global entrepreneur community. It also sets the expectation that they will be able to apply themselves and make a difference in their local area.

I have seen this first hand as I bump into Startup Catalyst alumni in my Australian travels exploring what is happening in different innovation regions. These young leaders will have an exponential effect as they influence other leaders and build incredible businesses.


Accelerator failure and leaving communities behind

Accelerator failure and the need to measure

Every few weeks someone sends me a new link talking about why innovation hubs, accelerators, and labs don’t work.  Some recent highlights include:

The question of “Is this whole ‘innovation ecosystem’ thing really working?” should be asked. Anyone in a new field should ask:

Are we making a difference or are we making noise?

The criticism we all seek to avoid is that of “innovation theater”.

These articles and this line of thought underscores my focus on measurement. My own question for my PhD is “What is the role of the innovation hub in building community resilience?”

To get to the answer and address questions in the post above and have a conversation beyond opinion, we need better ways measure.

Technology challenges from chatting with my dad on Skype

One of the other driving thoughts behind my research and the need to measure is on how to not leave communities behind in technology advances.

My folks and I tried to video call this weekend. First we tried Skype, but the call would not connect.  Then we tried Google Hangout, and they got a message about outdated software. I was in the process of trying Zoom when they decided to call it a night and give it a shot later.

Apart from my highlighting my own limitations as remote tech support, I was again reminded that our technology advances can continue to leave segments of the community behind who are not actively involved in the space on a day to day basis.

At the risk of seeing the world through a single lens, the need again comes to measure the impacts of innovation on everyone, not just the few who create the value.

Returning to a new experiment at

“An unreflected experience is a lost experience.”

I began blogging in 2010 on a WordPress site at I quickly migrated to Sideways Thoughts with the intent to capture what I felt was a different perspective and create a brand outside of myself.

I have had a crack at a few platforms over the years, using bloggr for personal journals, keeping a running commentary on articles in the Financial Review called a Fin Review Review, and various expressions on Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Medium. I captured some of this journey signing up for over 70 social media sites as part of a three year annual review ending in 2013.

Sideways Thoughts served a purpose, but it has been a year since I posted on the platform. The platform helped me explore a range of topics on social impact, personal development, leadership, and innovation.  I now find I post predominately on LinkedIn with a copy-and-paste into Medium as my writing becomes focused on applying innovation measurement towards social impact and community resilience.

But focus can come at a cost. Creative expression and personal opinion can be lost in 2,500 word dissertations on innovation ecosystems and social impact. Thought processes can become constrained by second guessing and ensuring messages are always on-topic.

There is a balance. One extreme is to remove all filters on a real-time inner monologue. The other end of the spectrum is a sanitised contribution to the echo chamber where personality gets consumed by group think. I take a page from bloggers such as Hunter Walk and Brad Feld on where the middle ground can be positioned.

My intent with is to find that balance and experiment with a discipline of daily-ish dissertations like a public thought whiteboard. I will continue to post on LinkedIn and Medium for thought leadership in my chosen vocation, whatever that may be at the time.

This is a playground. It is a public experiment.  It is intentionally messy and unpolished.  Feedback and comments are welcome.