You grew up in France. Who influenced your career?
It’s not who but what influenced me. I wanted to avoid unemployment at all cost – youth unemployment rate was at a staggering 27% in the 1990s in France. I worked hard to obtain a Masters of Business and to improve my chances to get a decent job.
In 1993 you did a Masters of Business. What were your business goals?
Once I got my business qualifications, I was able to secure a marketing position with Canon Inc. Working for a Japanese company gave me my first taste of international business affairs. I started to plan for an overseas posting because I wanted to work and live outside France. I started to read in English to improve my languages skills.
What led you to Australia?
My second job, as a marketing manager in building, took me to Hong Kong in late 1999. With the 2000 Olympics, Sydney was the multicultural, polyethnic place to be. So, I came to Australia to research the market. My France-based management team soon gave me the opportunity to move to Sydney to set-up the Australia/NZ subsidiary.
Since then, you have worked in the building industry (BlueScope), biotechnology (Regeneus) and management consulting. How do those roles reflect your interests?
Once in Australia, my business interests revolved around market disruption and innovation. My love of the Australian way of life and the “give it a go” attitude gave me the confidence to start new ventures, especially in the context of the Australian market with early adopters, smaller size compared to the US and Europe and clear regulations.
You co-founded Smart Sports Solutions, which developed the StatsOne app to track football data. Was that your first start-up?
Umicore (building products), BlueScope (roofing solutions), Regeneus (regenerative medicine) were all about disrupting an established market. With StatsOne I was able, as CEO, to combine my personal passion for sports and the latest advancements in technology: big data, algorithms and wearable devices to develop a new concept from scratch.
You recently became CEO of The Business Centre in Newcastle. What attracted you to the role?
I have been living in the Hunter for more than 13 years and I was looking for an organisation fostering not only innovation and small business but also supporting grass roots entrepreneurs: women and men thinking laterally, creating value and employment for our region.
How is The Business Centre moving with the times?
It’s all about integrating innovation. It starts with improving customers’ experience. Our new offices are designed to make our visitors feel welcome and comfortable to share their ideas with our business advisors. The new programs combined with bespoke training also enable genuine interactions and learning opportunities. The Business Centre’s main innovation is its role as a one-stop shop providing both business education and tailored advice.
How do you aid that?
Business advisers, trainers and administration staff are experienced professionals and true experts. My job is to give them the best conditions to thrive and allow them to be innovative. Our relocation to new premises enabling modern collaboration between my team and customers is just the start.
How much has the Hunter start-up community changed in the time that you have been involved?
The Hunter start-up scene has mirrored Newcastle’s changes, in a way. For a long time, we have seen ourselves as too “small”, too “regional” to compete with Sydney. Now, in a globalised world with near universal access to technology, the Hunter start-up can compete with anyone, including the Silicon Valley. We are more confident and more ambitious.
In a globalised world the Hunter start-up can compete with anyone, including Silicon Valley.
What are barriers for Hunter entrepreneurs?
Funding and skills. So many local start-ups have amazing ideas but lack the money to accelerate their development and/or the talent to roll it out. Software developers and coders are in huge demand in Sydney and overseas, our region needs more of them.
What can alleviate that?
Supporting current students at Uni or TAFE and looking at what services such students will need in the future is a good start but we need to strongly encourage young people towards STEM careers. The jobs and companies of tomorrow in artificial intelligence, machine learning and more are so exciting.
What are your goals for The Business Centre?
Business Advisory services are evolving fast. Entrepreneurs are expecting a blend of technical support, business training and also funding. Our centre is well positioned to be innovative and help small business operators improve their outcomes whilst learning business skills.
What can a Frenchman take from the "Aussie" way of business and vice versa?
I only worked a couple of years in France compared to more than 16 years in Australia, so I am totally biased now! But I have fond memories of the long lunch with wine and cheese. Maybe we should do the same with beer and prawns on the barbecue.