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New age exporters

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I always think the export awards become a barometer for what’s happening out there in the world of export activity and this year has been no different. Exporting is constantly changing, the key players are different from 10 years ago and the products and services produced here are continually evolving. The thing that stands out is the number of companies run by young entrepreneurs, particularly those engaged in IT that tend, because of the nature of their business, to fly under the radar and then emerge as an export award entrant and often a very successful one at that. I was recently at a meeting in Adelaide with the SA Minister for Trade Tom Koutsantonis and this very subject came up. The question was asked: "How do we ensure in the future our support continues to be relevant to assist this new breed in their export pursuits?" It’s a very good question because some of the traditional export assistance programs don’t always fit with their dynamic business model and more often than not the world is their market from day one. What differentiates them though in terms of their competitive advantage is technology, the application of that technology and their drive to build a modern international business in many cases from the start. Being limited to the domestic market is simply not a consideration. So what sort of companies are these new age exporters? Let me give you some examples of companies that I’ve come into contact with through the export awards program that I find simply fascinating. The first is Atlassian Corporation. This very successful company didn’t exist 10 years ago. Today it employs 225 people and markets to 20 thousand customers across 134 countries. Atlassian was founded in 2001 by university colleagues Mike Cannon-Brooks and Scott Farquhar, both aged 22. They make development and collaboration tools that enable customer companies to deliver quality software products faster, from concept to launch. Atlassian describes themselves as different kind of software company, one that has rewritten the rules of enterprise software development and sales. What also makes them different is the fact that they encourage customers to download products from their website with a credit card at a fraction of the cost of competitors’ products. And it works, in 2010 their revenue is forecast to be $59 milllion. Another example is the SMARTS Company. The SMARTS products began life in the research labs of the University of Sydney at a time when the Australian Securities market became one of the first in the world to automate and integrate six regional stock exchanges into one national trading platform. SMARTS market surveillance software is the unrivalled market leader with over 30 national exchange and regulatory customers as well as 50 national and multinational broking clients across 30 markets. As I understand it, in the world of stockbroking there are five major software providers. Three of them came out of Australia, and SMARTS is of course one of them. Nuix also falls into the category of a new age exporter. Created in 2000, Nuix's focus has always been on developing the world’s most advanced eDiscovery and electronic investigation software. The core of Nuix is an advanced processing engine which interrogates virtually any data set (emails, hard disks and disk images), indexing the results and making them available for immediate analysis. Nuix commenced actively commercialising its software in Australia in 2006 and over the next 12 months quickly expanded its Australian customer base to include a large number of major corporate and government, forensic and security, law enforcement, legal and regulatory organisations. In 2007 Nuix began to participate in other markets and now has customers in over 26 countries, including the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, China and Japan, and offices in the UK, Europe and USA. These three companies are but examples of what an increasing number of our exporters look like. They don’t put things in boxes and ship them around the world, they use technology, they are often young well qualified people who don’t see borders as a challenge. All of us involved in export, including government, need to sit up and take note of this changing picture. I’m certainly not promoting interference but what I am promoting is doing research to understand them better so that programs can be put in place to build this capability and get more Atlassian, SMARTS and Nuixes across the export line. You may wish to follow us on Twitter, using the handle @aussieexport

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