20 years ago, ‘the future’ was happening soon, but not too soon. Something that would take time to work out and adapt to.
In 2019, ‘the future’ is here every single day. Thanks to technology, innovation and a global connectedness, ‘futuristic ideas’ are being acted upon with an immediacy not seen before.
Queensland is scaling-up, growing up and expanding faster than ever before — with both its products on offer and people ready to push for the next great development for man — and woman — kind.
Leanne Kemp is the type of person you’d meet a dinner party and never be any the wiser about her illustrious accomplishments or impact as a technology pioneer.
She’s genuinely as happy talking about her chooks as she is about raising venture capital and running her ground breaking blockchain start-up.
“I’m a Brissy girl through and through and I couldn’t be happier to be serving in a capacity that’s going to further help Queensland today and into the future,” she said.
When Leanne Kemp took a call in early 2018 to discuss the ‘ideal appointee’ to replace Queensland’s outgoing Chief Entrepreneur, Steve Baxter, she thought her opinion was being sought.
“I was in New York at the time and hurriedly took the call, and without really listening properly started rattling off names that I thought would be a great fit,” Ms Kemp remembered.
“It took a few minutes before I was politely interrupted, and I realised that it was actually me who was being asked to take on the role!
“I was so surprised. Genuinely surprised. It really took me aback to be honest. I had such little understanding of the impact I’d had at home and globally.”
It’s an incredibly humble statement.
After more than 20 years’ experience in the tech and entrepreneurial space, Leanne Kemp founded the company Everledger in 2015.
The company uses blockchain technology to track diamonds and follow their history from the ground to jewellery shop fronts and beyond, to maintain transparency in an historically murky market.
“It’s always been very clear to me that anything can become successful if it has purposeful innovation,” Ms Kemp said.
“You’ve got to ask, what’s the problem? Is it a problem that only exists in my suburb or is it global? Or, can the answer to solve my problem also be applied elsewhere?
“When you’re creative and ask the right questions, you’ll get the answers that will solve problems today and for generations to come.
“It’s a big statement but I can say I’ve walked that same path with Everledger. As a team we imagined how to bring transparency to a market with little to no provenance. We proved that the vision we had was founded and needed some new applications to make it work — and we went out and figured out how to make it happen.”
Leanne Kemp figured out how to make it happen — and along the way employed more than 70 people and set up offices in five countries, including Brisbane.
Today, she shares her time between London and South-East Queensland and says there’s no place she’d rather be.
“The depth of the technical capacity, the talent and mentorship and education opportunities that resides in Brisbane is so impressive.
“There really is no better place for me to selfishly grow Everledger — it’s incredibly grounding and brings so much in to focus for me,” she said.
“Queensland got it right 20 years ago when the Smart State initiative was brought in. Now we have to understand not only what the next generation of innovation looks like, we need a purpose it’s going to meet.
“AI and block chain and precision medicine are all coming together, and we need we need to rethink what we can create from the incredible innovation DNA that is already built in to the lifeblood of Queensland.
“We have and will continue to give birth to amazing businesses with purpose and meaning. Whether that’s protecting our natural resources or protecting the Great Barrier Reef or enabling kids with Autism access to better tools and innovation to create and build — it’s these big, audacious, hairy goals of tomorrow we need to build on, and deliver on.”
As the first female to take on the role of Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur, Leanne Kemp is eager to tap in to a pool of talent often overlooked when it comes to the start-up and tech sectors.
“There’s a lot said about the importance of encouraging more women into STEM, and it is important. But for me that doesn’t compute too much because I guess I’ve been living in the future for a long time. I’m an engineer and a digital developer — I’ve never been anything but a woman working in STEM.
“47% of my company are women and I’m really proud of that. There is an untapped resource in the talent of mature females in this industry. Female founders have life experience and understand the importance of balance in business.
“They can make pragmatic decisions and hold views that support a start-up business in a way we don’t see in male or female younger founders.
“We’re in an incredible time to be able to cast beyond the vision and actually create the thoughts.
“As the Chief Entrepreneur of Queensland in 2019, I want to showcase the realism that exists in the ecosystem here. I want there to be words and pictures that tell a true story about what Queensland is investing in to solve real issues that will eliminate problems we’re already able to foresee in the future. That is true innovation for the future.”
It’s a virtual reality (VR) realism that exists within the team at Immersive Robotics — a Brisbane tech company that is revolutionising the world of VR.
Like Leanne Kemp, Immersive Robotics’ co-founder Tim Lucas identified a problem and set out to fix it.
“In 2014, I started looking into how to connect VR head-mounted display sets to other things like robotics and more remote computing,” Mr Lucas said.
“The headsets have always been supplied with an annoying cable that tethers you to a computer and really doesn’t allow for the freedom you would ideally expect from an immersive VR experience.
“Identifying there were no other video codecs that had the required properties for wireless VR, I realised this was an entirely new problem that really needed to have first principal thinking applied to it.
“No available codec was fast enough to compress the data and without compression it was too big to fit through a wireless link.”
Tim Lucas set about brainstorming what properties an ideal VR or Real-Time streaming codec would have and how that might work. He concluded, not only was there a potential product in this, but it seemed like an almost completely un-explored niche at the time.
“With trends of Wi-Fi and mobile networks constantly increasing in bandwidth and latency reduction, it was only a matter of time before there was broader demand for more real-time connectivity across, not only VR and AR but other verticals too,” Mr Lucas said.
Immersive Robotics (IMR) was subsequently founded to commercialize the original IP and has gained international attention for its leading solution to streaming.
“I believe we will see many examples of interactive streaming in the near future, over networks like 5G and High Bandwidth Wi-Fi, to TV’s, Cloud computing and immersive display technology,” he said.
“The future is trending toward interactive content delivery. We don’t often want to be viewers, we want to be participants and we want to customise and interact!”
In 2016, IMR was awarded a $100,000 grant from the Advance Queensland Ignite Ideas Fund.
“Advance Queensland’s funding programs cut a balance between providing funding to companies who satisfy a reasonable criterion while allowing flexibility of operation,” Mr Lucas said.
“It was useful to receive this grant when we were building the company and trying not to give away too much equity. It helped us get to a point of securing further funding, gaining overseas traction and even securing larger grants later-on.”
Since then, the company has been developing and commercialising a world leading compression algorithm and streaming solution.
“We have applied our technology to current off the shelf VR headsets and made them wireless — something that is in high-demand in VR / AR,” Tim Lucas said.
“We find the more people try to leverage AR/VR for new applications the restriction of cables becomes an exponential limiting factor which has generated demand for a wireless solution.
“We have also developed solutions for low latency streaming to 4K television and are looking at interactive streaming applications over 5G for monetised content, interactive cloud computing and TV entertainment.”
The achievements of IMR in two short years are nothing less than impressive — but their plans for the future are even bolder.
“My vision for IMR’s technology over the next 10 years would be for it to become a key enabler for all real-time and interactive streaming applications,” Tim Lucas said.
“To have it running on phones, VR/AR head mount display sets, laptops and TV’s. Combined with strategic 5G network rollout and placement of edge computing throughout an urban environment, we could provide real-time computing, monetised content and spatial computing on demand to everyone with scalable cloud compute plans.
“All devices would become low-cost terminals used to interact with digital twin like content wherever you go — this is my future vision for how the internet will function.
“Over the same time period, I hope the Queensland startup scene continues to accelerate along its current trajectory. We have great local talent, great universities, great living conditions.
“We do fall short in investment into early-stage STEM startups. Our investors need access to information that allows them to transition from more traditional opportunities to being able to conduct due diligence on, and find good technology investments in QLD and Australia.
“Steve Baxter (the 2017–2018 Chief Entrepreneur of Queensland) started US delegation programs in Queensland that aim to provide this needed education, which is a great start.
“I would like to see a stronger eco-system develop where we attract people from overseas because it’s “the place” to be doing STEM.
“Brisbane is a great city to start a company overall and we have good talent coming out of our universities and a growing access to innovation hubs and support.
“There are pros and cons wherever you are, but complacency is an all too common trait to have when things are going great — and that is never good for business! Conversely the Queensland Government seems very receptive to feedback and even admitting where improvements could be made to make our state and start-up scene better.
“These are important considerations when you are planning to start a company — government support and backing of the right ideas and start-ups is great for everyone. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to grow. That is happening every day here in Queensland.”
Future focused: building the Queensland of tomorrow was originally published in Advance Queensland on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.