Archive for May, 2012

Sydney’s new entrepreneurial hub

May 30, 2012

The City of Sydney opened a creative and cultural hub for entrepreneurs at 66 Oxford Street in February 2012.

Sixteen tenants including tech start-up AroundYou moved in and the co-working space has been such a success that Moore is converting two other buildings on William Street to create more space for start-ups.

“People started collaborating almost as soon as they moved in, it was quite remarkable to walk around the building and hear their stories,” said Mayor Clover Moore, adding she was taking expressions of interest for the William Street property.

She said start-ups needed affordable space, advice, encouragement and support, but the biggest challenge was finance. A lack of venture capital is forcing Australian talent to go offshore.

To that end Moore said she had asked her staff to “look at ways the city could act as a broker or blind date some of these venture capitalists with start-ups”.

City of Sydney is following the lead of other co-working spaces such as Fishburners, which opened in April last year in a building in Ultimo and filled up with 60 entrepreneurs within six weeks.

“There’s a real groundswell of start-up activity in the tech sector at the moment and that’s attributed partly to just how cheap it is to start a tech business these days,” said Fishburners director David Vandenberg.

Cockatoo’s view is that there’s nothing new here – it is a business incubator pure and simple. Indeed Sydney entrepreneur Peter Fritz AO established a similar facility two decades ago in a former warehouse in Chippendale, an inner Sydney suburb. He wrote a book about it, called the Honey Pot or similar. His best known book is The Possible Dream. Peter is a true collaborator and visionary, and chairs an OECD group promoting SME development.

However we applaud Sydney City Council for its vision. The CBD is a natural place for such incubators, and we trust it works. The critical factor could well be finding a venture capitalist, or some outfit with patient capital, to join the collaborative effort.

This article draws on material supplied by the Sydney Morning Herald

Grace Kelly features in Bendigo

May 29, 2012

Did you notice that the regional city of Bendigo (Vic. Australia) has a three month exhibition ‘Grace Kelly – style icon’? What an extraordinary coup!

It’s also a very good example of the benefits of brand building. So I chased up the Sharon Wells at the Bendigo Art Gallery for the good oil for our loyal readers.
The factors underlying this exhibition appear to be six-fold.
1. Bendigo has longstanding expertise in fashion and textiles. This dates back more than a century.
2. A continuum of top notch gallery directors, the latest of which is Karen Quinlan who has been in residence for seventeen years. Karen had been tracking the Grace Kelly collection in Monaco for some time, and she harnessed Bendigo’s collaborative strengths to bid to host the exhibition.
3. A bevy of champions – Andrew Cannon (Honorary Consul for Monaco in Melbourne), Victorian Major Events Corporation (its first investment in a regional gallery), Vic Tourism, Regional Development Victoria, Bendigo City Council, Premier Baillieu etc.
4. State, local and philanthropic funding for the upgrading of the Gallery building – some $14 million over 15 years. This now provides a quality venue.
5. Very good and committed staff.
6. Bendigo is a marginal seat!

Visitor traffic has been huge. Based on entry fees of $20/head ($5 for primary schoolers, $10 for secondary schoolers), I guess that revenues might nudge $4 million.

A great aspect of this project is the spin-off business it has created for other art and tourism facilities, hotels, motels, restaurants in and around Bendigo. It has given Melburnians an additional reason to take a weekend trip.

This article appears in the Good Oil column of LG Focus (June 2012)

Chile is pretty hot

May 18, 2012

Ms. K Brown (Cockatoo member) is currently touring South America, and has filed this illuminating report on Chile’s economy and lifestyle.

“Tourism is becoming increasingly important, just behind copper, forestry and fisheries in terms of its contribution to Chile’s GDP as well as being the biggest employer. And the eco-tourism segment is very important in conserving Chile’s natural heritage.

I recently visited Huilo Huilo, a biological reserve in the middle of the Patagonian Andes in southern Chile. It is basically a cluster of hotels, cabins, lodges and camping grounds. Montana Magica has 40 rooms embedded in a man-made mountain, complete with a waterfall rising out the top, trickling down the windows. Hotel Baobab is more modern, consisting of 55 rooms in a futuristic looking, wooden pyramid. A new section, shaped like a mushroom, will have another 50 rooms. The hotels are interconnected by a myriad of walkways.

The lodges and cabins are set further from the main hotels to provide privacy. Golf carts are available to deliver those lodgers to the hotels’ main facilities. Add to this a couple of restaurants and bars, and more relaxation areas than anyone can find time to visit, and you have a 4 star hotel hidden away in the forest, surrounded by lakes, volcanoes and waterfalls.

Good things

Tourism is a great provider of employment – for example, Huilo Huilo has 80 hotel employees and 30 tour guides. This doubles in summer when the hotel is full every day. Graduates from non-tourism fields are flocking to this industry.

Environmental conservation – Huilo Hulio was declared a UNESCO Biological Reserve in 2007, enabling local hotels to leverage this into their designs, and marketing themselves to nature lovers. In return, the hotels are funding various conservation projects in the local community.

Friendly staff – Chile is known for its friendly locals. Even with a language barrier, they will always try to help or at least offer a greeting and a smile. As in other countries in South America, it’s wise to take directional advice with a grain of salt – because locals are so friendly, they will give very convincing directions without a clue of how to get there.

Pisco and wine – Chile is renowned for its pisco (grape brandy) and vineyards. Chileans are quick to offer tours and tastings, and work closely with hotels to provide transfers and information to lure you in.

Internet – Chile has the highest level of Internet penetration and computer ownership in Latin America.

Atmosphere – As with most SA countries, it’s common to see locals dancing on the spot in stores, restaurants and in the street. The local music can be either great or terrible, and you’ll hear a surprising amount of English-speaking songs. The locals will happily sing away to every lyric, without any understanding of what it means. The bigger cities feature big name acts – Roxette, Bob Dylan and Duran Duran all played during my 5 days in Santiago.

English – is now part of the curriculum at most Chilean schools. Chilean kids sing out “Hello, good afternoon, bye” to typical looking Gringos, such as me. It’s probably the current extent of their vocabulary, but it’s humbling.

Not so good things

Sewage systems – Chile, like many SA countries, doesn’t have the sewage systems to handle many of the objects that folk in developed countries put down the toilet. It’s quite daunting when asked to place used toilet paper in the bin. It reminds you that you’re in a developing country.

Gringo pricing and tip assumptions – Chileans are very quick to make judgement about your financial status and they adapt their pricing structures to suit. One tour operator quoted me an obviously inflated tour price and without missing a beat, quickly chimed “You’re a rich Australian though, so you can afford it”. I was not impressed! This disparity in pricing is apparent everywhere. The airlines will offer a price for local Chileans and almost double the price for non-residents.

Corruption – while less of a problem than in other SA countries, it’s still an issue. The owners of a Ma and Pa pizza shop in one regional city (they lived in Canberra for 12 years) explained that certain forms of corruption are still very apparent. For this reason they’re returning to Australia within the year. As the husband explained, “if you apply to the local Town Hall for a licence permit, unless you have a lot of money or know someone at the top, you will be waiting a very long time.”

Natural Disasters – Chile has 36 of the world’s active volcanoes. While this may boost its tourism attractiveness, it also means you must be on high alert. Towns such as Pucon have volcano eruption lights around town – red, yellow and green. Add to this the fact that Chile is the boundary between two tectonic plates and you have good reason to sleep with one eye open. The last significant earthquake (2010) measured 8.8 on the Richter Scale. It killed 525 people in the city of Conception – hardly in keeping with the city’s name!”

Sweden has a huge fan Downunder

May 13, 2012

Sweden doubtlessly has its problems but as far as I could see, it is a good example of how the world would be if the world was a much, much better place.

It seems a deeply civilised country, which cares about its people and its land.

There’s little graffiti or rubbish; it feels safe.

If you are under 18, you don’t get a fine if your library book is late.

The members of parliament overlook a massive tapestry of the archipelago done in restful blues and greys and green, so they feel calm and peaceful when they make important decisions. It’s that sort of country.

I love and revere Sweden.

Sonya Hartnett, Sydney Morning Herald

Houston and Norway working together

May 9, 2012

The Cockatoo Network is currently devoting considerable resources to identifying mechanisms to encourage cross-border collaboration. Here is an interesting example involving two world-class nodes. It appears that one of the triggers for the relationship was Paul “Red” Adair, a great Houstonian, who made his name in Norway by resolving the Bravo Oilwell Blowout of 1977.

The Houston Chronicle recently ran an article as follows.

Norway and Houston have long-established and strong ties. Business is, and has always been, at the heart of our relationship. More than anything else, our relations have been influenced by shipping and oil.

Houston is a global maritime and offshore oil powerhouse and Norway’s third-largest U.S. gateway for seaborne trade. Last year, 579 Norwegian ships called at Houston, representing some $760.4 million worth of seaborne trade. Many Texas-based companies, such as Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, National Oilwell Varco, Marathon Oil and FMC Technologies, have made major investments and built up significant operations in Norway. Moreover, technology transfer from Texas was essential to the Norwegian oil industry in the 1970s. The experienced oilmen who laid the foundations of the Norwegian offshore adventure were, to a large extent, Texans.

Houston is home to the largest concentration of Norwegian energy companies outside Norway. Furthermore, about 7,000 Norwegians today live and work in the Houston region, mostly in the energy, maritime, space and medical fields, as well as in higher education and research. Some 140 Norwegian companies have a presence in Houston, creating a number of workplaces.