Australian Computer Society president Yohan Ramasundara launches new accelerator
New Australian Computer Society president Yohan Ramasundara has pledged to refresh the stuffy image of the technology industry body, and will launch its first accelerator program.
In his first interview since starting in the role this month, Mr Ramasundara said ACS’ main purpose was to make Australia a world leader for technology talent and said it must do more to help foster innovation and create new forms of value for the economy.
“We’re a nation that is comfortable and easy-going and that has meant that while we have continued the pace of innovation, other countries have picked theirs up and played to their advantages, while we haven’t,” he said.
“I’m a believer that we don’t have to be doing everything to be relevant. But we do need to be the facilitator of collaboration to ensure we’re helping build the ecosystem.”
Mr Ramasundara, who is also the director of business futures at IP Australia and has been a Cricket Australia umpire, said one of his first initiatives is the launch of a new accelerator program targeting small businesses that want to scale up.
The program will be run out of the ACS’s new headquarters in Barangaroo, which is set to open in April, and will be run in conjunction with two accelerator providers out of Silicon Valley. It will be open to non-members, but ACS members will receive priority placements in the program.
Mr Ramasundara said negotiations were still being finalised with its US partner, but promised the quality of the program would be on par with those being run in Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv.
“While we have some big exceptions, people who go through the Silicon Valley accelerators are a lot more polished and can articulate their products better at the conclusion of the programs,” he said.
“It feels like we have been one step behind the times. We don’t just want a US product, we want it to be tailored to the needs of Australian entrepreneurs.”
The program will target small businesses rather than early stage start-ups because Mr Ramasundara said there was a gap in the ecosystem in providing support for companies that were looking to scale up, rather than start a business.
Mr Ramasundara is the youngest ACS president in two decades at the age of 39, and he believes his relative youth could be an advantage.
He first became involved with the ACS in 1999 while studying IT at the University of Canberra, saying he spent his discretional “beer money” on an ACS membership.
However, he was disappointed with the lack of services and events targeted at young people, until a coffee meeting was arranged with some of the younger members.
From this point, Mr Ramasundara said, he became more involved in improving the organisation, eventually becoming ACS national treasurer in 2012.
“Being young has its benefits,” he said. “It means you can relate more to the members of today and tomorrow and you can shape the ACS to their needs. But we can’t abandon the more mature practitioners.
“In Australia the tide is changing … but there is still an expectation that the c-suite will be more mature and probably male with grey hair and wearing a tie.”
From a policy perspective, Mr Ramasundara said the most pressing issue was the need to create a long-term strategy for the future of Australia which has bipartisan support.
“There’s been a lot of efforts done in isolation,” he said. “There’s the National Innovation and Science Agenda and then the national strategic plan for innovation to 2030, but we need to better understand as a nation what Australia wants to be.
“I’m tired of the election-cycle-based approaches and strategies where largely you have two to three-year initiatives timed for success for the next election. In contrast, Singapore has a 15-year urban development plan.”
Source: Australian financial Review 29 January 2018