Forget Silicon Valley…

Silicon Valley may still be world HQ for all things tech. But thanks to heavy-hitters like Atlassian, Nearmap and Afterpay, the Aussie tech sector is snapping at the heels of our Californian cousins. And a new breed of start-ups with heart are showing the world how technology can be a force for good.

Investors in the giants of Australian tech have been rewarded in 2018. Since the beginning of the year, the 11 information technology companies listed on the ASX200 have added $10 billion in value to their shareholders. That’s more than double the rate of growth seen for the NASDAQ, the US index for listed tech companies. There has been a slow down, or correction, whichever way you see it in the last few months, but strength goes way beyond the share price.

But beyond pure tech innovation, what’s great to see in the new breed of Aussie tech stars, is a willingness to think about how technology can pay dividends back to the commmunity.

Here are three local tech businesses that are paving a way forward in the tech meets impact space:

1. Brighte – affordable renewables for all

Many Aussie households are already enjoying the budget benefits of residential solar power. But although prices are coming down, it still takes a fairly significant investment to get your home kitted out to harvest energy from the sun. Brighte is a start-up that’s stepped in to this space, offering interest-free finance for energy-efficient home improvements. From insulation to solar systems and storage batteries, they’re on a mission to make sustainable energy and cheaper power more accessible to everyday Australians.

“For families in Australia it just makes sense… it cuts energy bills dramatically,” says Brighte founder, Katherine McConnell. “We’re creating our own energy and storing it. It’s great to be able to live a sustainable life.”

2. Equal Reality – VR training for inclusive teams

A commitment to equal opportunity in hiring policies may be opening the door to work place diversity. But what tools will it take to break down unconscious biases and develop teams that are truly inclusive? Thanks to VR training tools from start-up Equal Reality, we could be seeing great leaps forward in workforce diversity right up to C-suite level.

Their approach promises to seriously disrupt the $8 billion global diversity and inclusion training sector. Instead of using role plays to explore actions and attitudes towards people of a different race, age group or gender, Equal Reality delivers a direct and immersive experience of discrimination. The team claim to deliver a 75% retention rate, compared with 10% for traditional training. The program also offers measurable results in behaviour change and empathy towards others, so organisations can check their progress towards a genuinely inclusive workplace culture.

3. Conpago – robot companions in aged care

Social isolation among our older population is a big gnarly problem. So much so political leaders have been calling for Australia to follow the UK in appointing a Minister for Loneliness. In a bid to bridge the gap in technology literacy between the generations, Brisbane start-up Conpago creates user-friendly tools to keep older people connected with their increasingly digital community. And now they’re harnessing AI to boost the capacity of overstretched aged care resources.

Semi-humanoid robot Pepper may be the invention of Japanese company SoftBank Robotics but it’s Aussie startup Conpago who have seen the potential of upgrading Pepper to be an emotionally literate robot. The company is integrating its software with the robot to offer enhanced companionship to Australians in residential care.

Silicon valley will always have a certain allure, but it’s encouraging to see our tech sector maturing downunder, solving some of the big social problems that will cut across borders in the future. Who knows, maybe one day Silicon Valley will be shorthand for the white, silcon sands of Bondi Beach…

Hey there, tech-head. Want to learn more about how you can back cutting-edge tech with your super? Check out our Tech Fund.

This article is general in nature, and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. You should consider if the information is appropriate and whether you need to speak to an accredited professional.

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Jon Holloway

Founder at Zuper, product guy. Snowboarder and wannabe futurist.

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