A Myriad Of Possibilities For The Future
They descended from the sky on board 4 luxurious choppers gilded in black, scarlet, white and gold with an air of anticipation. It was an opportunity too good to miss - some of the world’s best creative thinkers were here to inspire and enlighten for a willing audience looking for insights. Silicon Valley had come to the Gold Coast.
Seven of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs - Steve Jurvetson, Executive Board Member of Tesla (Space X) and Founder of Future Ventures; Jeremy Bloom, former Olympic Gold Medallist and NFL player – now founder of software company Integrate; Clementine Jacoby, Product Manager for Google Maps; Jacqueline Garavente, an AI specialist whose research includes machine learning – now with Union Square Ventures; Jody Medich, a Design Director specialising in human-centred design for Singular University Labs; Jayni Shah, a venture capitalist for Menlo Ventures; and Tony Conrad, Founder and Partner of True Ventures and a former T40 Co-Chair of Technology for President Obama.
You could call them the Magnificent Seven, although in my head all I could hear was Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. The question was: would they live up to their reputations and what wisdom, if any, would they impart?
On the ground amid the dignitaries, business figures, academics, politicians, media and would be game changers stood a very tangible cohort of the future – some of the city’s finest students in the shape of 20 Mayor's Student Ambassadors. Those Ambassadors would soon have the opportunity to engage with these entrepreneurs in a way that could shape and possibly change their outlook on the future.
The Ambassadors lined Bond University’s Princeton Room with a guard of honour, wildly cheering the city’s guests as they entered the room. It was a rock star welcome that impressed the 7, now it was their turn to do the same as they lined the stage for a Q & A – the first of a number of similar appearances for these disrupters and influencers on the Gold Coast across the day.
For prospective entrepreneurs Jeremy Bloom said the best advice he got when starting out was: “go lose somebody else’s money first.” As a champion athlete in 2 sporting disciplines and now a successful entrepreneur his unwavering self-confidence wasn’t surprising and those seeds for his mindset were planted at an early age: “my parents had a healthy disrespect for the impossible” he revealed.
With Google this week demonstrating some astonishing examples of natural conversation between computers and humans it was no surprise that AI was one of the hot topics of the day. The alarmists may hold grave reservations, but Jody Medich thinks it will be a more natural progression than many fear: “AI is not going to be a shock to your system, we will gradually embrace it over time.”
For Steve Jurvetson the real monumental shifts occur not when software is introduced to an industry, but when “the software becomes the industry itself.” As he pointed out, aerospace only became a realistic investment when technology made it affordable to do so; “ten years ago nobody wanted to know about it, now everybody’s getting on board.”
The keys to the future are firmly in the hands of our youth and how they embrace the technology, but the responsibility lies with the leaders of today. Tony Conrad said that “Obama really embraced tech and our youth in a way like no other President had before and his influence can’t be underestimated.”
So what of our youth and the future for the Gold Coast? The ideas they explored with these influencers and disruptors included education (teaching entrepreneurship in primary schools), creating a digital city and even cultural events – like a hipster festival for Australia’s recently crowned number one hipster destination.
The most exciting concept centred around the Gold Coast becoming a solar city complete with an autonomous driving system with rechargeable/conductive power stations on the roads, a vacuum transport tunnel constructed under the M1 (already owned by the government so no reclaimed land expenses) that would transport passengers between the 2 cities within just a few minutes and international transport courtesy of reusable rockets – Gold Coast to San Francisco in 30 minutes anyone? No prizes for guessing that Tesla’s Steve Jurvetson worked with that group.
By the end of the day people pondered whether the Gold Coast could become the next Silicon Valley? The answer might not be as improbable as you think. Clementine Jacoby said the real attraction for Millennials and Gen Z’s was lifestyle more than money: “they want to know what you can offer them that they can’t get elsewhere.” Jeremy Bloom says every Silicon Valley company needs a physical presence in the Asia Pacific: “I was considering Tokyo as a base, or maybe Sydney, but then after coming to the Gold Coast today I can see how much this city has to offer – I’ll definitely be considering it.”