The Australian technology industry is fighting above its weight. Isolated from the major technology hubs of the world, Australian cities are making a significant impact in Silicon Valley, London and Hong Kong. Female entrepreneurs, developers and creators are gaining reputations as leaders and innovators globally, and helping Australia solidify its place in the modern day version of the Industrial Revolution. Here are three women who, for different reasons, are representative of the forward-thinking courageousness that has come to represent the sector.
Melanie Perkins, Founder & CEO – Canva
Melanie Perkins is a problem solver. While studying in Western Australia, the 22-year-old would tutor other students on Adobe Creative Suite – still regarded as the go-to tool for graphic design. The problem was, her students took a long time to learn the intricate details of such powerful tools, and many just wanted to complete a single task rather than become advanced users.
The result was Canva, an easy to use solution for graphic design that is one of the most popular tools on the market. It takes minutes to learn and brings a sense of fun and enjoyment to its users. The company is now a ‘unicorn,’ valued at over $1billion. Perkins is one of the youngest female CEOs of a billion-dollar business, at just 30 years of age.
Christy Laurence, Founder – Plann
Christy Laurence was 28 when she was diagnosed with a rare strain of influenza that impacted her brain and left her unable to walk. Doctors warned her that she was unlikely to recover, ending her promising advertising career. Sitting at home in Sydney, wondering what to do with the rest of her life, Christy decided to enter one of the most competitive markets in the world, without any experience or expertise.
She created Plann, an Instagram scheduling application that allows users to build their profiles through clever design and intuitive strategy. Without any app development experience, she spent hours researching, making contacts and asking for help, culminating in a visit to Silicon Valley and meetings with experts and developers.
Now, Plann has nearly a million downloads and Christy has fully recovered and is leading her business into the next stage of its evolution. Importantly, Christy also actively mentors young entrepreneurs and business leaders, not forgetting those who helped her along the way.
Dr Catriona Wallace, CEO – Flamingo Ai
Dr Catriona Wallace is an important figure globally in the artificial intelligence world. Her company, Flamingo Ai, which is listed on the ASX, creates tailor-made virtual assistants that use machine learning to build better interactions and more harmonious communications.
Wallace got her PhD in Organizational Behavior: Human Technology Interaction, and her understanding of how artificial intelligence can communicate with humans in a natural way through machine learning is world-altering. She saw the opportunity to partner with financial institutions and create better customer experiences and thusly improved customer knowledge. Flamingo Ai is now working with major banks and financial institutions from around the world, and Wallace splits her time between Australia and the United States. She is also an advocate of “unconventional parenting,” which empowers parents to follow their dreams, and gives the children a sense of adventure.
This story is featured in the 1 February 2019 edition of The Warren Centre’s Prototype newsletter. Sign up for the Prototype here.