A small group of the Bugherd team attended the inaugural Melbourne ‘Above All Human’ Conference, presented by Startup Victoria in 2015. We left the event feeling inspired, passionate about being involved in the startup community and positive about the fact that we can play a part in improving business culture. Waleed Aly’s show stopping speech on integrity hit a homerun with everyone in the crowd. ‘Above All Human’ 2016 would have big shoes to fill …
This year, almost the entire Bugherd team were in attendance. Due to popularity, the attendee list had swelled from a few hundred to just over one-thousand. The team had some trepidation that the event would lose what made ‘Above All Human’ (AAH) unique in the first place, that special touch of personality and intimacy that made it a standout over other tech conferences.
The organisers should be applauded for finding a venue to fit a 1000 pax capacity, without having a soulless conference centre feel. ‘Planetshakers Church’ in South Melbourne fit the bill perfectly, with a large auditorium to seat everyone, and multiple, smaller areas off the main room, housing various points of interest to explore. There were crowding issues through some bottlenecks, at lunch and break times, otherwise there was plenty of room to mingle and chat. Personal touches, such as boxes packed full of fresh fruit, local cuisine available (like infamous South Melbourne Dim Sims) and multiple coffee stations helped alleviate the usual conference ‘cattle syndrome’ of feeling herded into the foyer.
The most important difference between AAH and other tech conferences is in the quality and diversity of the speakers. Many would want to applaud a conference for having the forethought to ensure a 50/50 gender representation for both the speakers and attendee ratios, but as Susan Wu and Bronwen Clune, Conference Co-founders, stated “It would be ludicrous to have anything else.”
There were many important themes to the day, touched on by each of the speakers, in their own way. It would take a novel to write them all, so instead, keeping with the theme of AAH, this is what resonated most with our Bugherd humans:
“The giants of today’s innovation … are walking among us right now.”– Leni Mayo, Startup Victoria Chairman
It’s pretty cool to think that the Newtons and Einsteins of today are amongst the crowds at events such as AAH. It’s inspiring to listen to speakers who genuinely want to harness this melting pot of innovation and collaborate on ideas to make a brighter future. Susan Wu so aptly said “We are here at the moment of creation. 10 or 20 years from now when our graduates are recognised as the world’s best, when our children have the freedom to define their own futures on their terms, each of us here can say we were pioneers at the tipping point of Australia’s innovation boom.” That’s pretty amazing.
“Government are pledging to keep the conversation going and on the agenda for the long term.” – Hon. Wyatt Roy MP (Asst. Minister for Innovation)
How fantastic that startups are being recognised as contributors to a large portion of national and local business growth. Finally, recognition that more effort is required in terms of education, especially in tertiary. Acknowledgement that our number 1 export earner in Victoria is education, and appreciating that this is how we’re going to stay competitive in the global market place were well received.
The concern that this would be a ‘flavour of the month’ type issue on the agenda was raised. There was robust discussion about whether or not we would be to be a flash in the pan type fad that government inevitably drops into the too hard basket. It was heartening to hear that “Government itself never creates jobs the way real people and real businesses do, at the end of the day you are what drives growth forward.” from The Hon. Philip Dalidakis, Minister for Small Business, Innovation & Trade. Recognition that Australian Startup founders “need access to experienced mentors” by Hon. Ed Husic, hopefully paves an excellent road to the future of funding and education.
“So many startups are solving problems for the top 5% of the population.” – Mike Monteiro, Co-founder of Mule
Several of the talks discussed the importance of designing and creating for people. Not just for money. To think about the problems that actually need solving, and not just how to make rich people’s lives easier. Crowd favourite Mike Monteiro, who’s presenting style is more like a pub talk than a TED talk gave a very generous talk. He reflected on the thought that design has finally taken it’s rightful place alongside suits and businesses. That the business of good design now makes money and people are convinced that design is important. That it can be the difference between success and failure and because of this … we are utterly screwed. He said it best in his closing comment – “We need to learn how to design to stop this stuff from seeing the light of day. Designers can influence these sorts of things.”
“We need to be people centric not just customer centric.” – Didier Elzinga, CEO of CultureAmp
We are in the unique position of being able to direct the way a company’s’ culture is defined, right from the get go. One of the key themes that also applied to AAH 15 was that startups need to ensure they improve life for other human beings. Not just customers, but everyone they touch. Rod Drury – CEO of Xero said they had learned that “Hiring people while you’re small and then hiring great people at scale is difficult” That, having great people in the business from day 1 was by far the most important key to great culture. In quoting George Bernard Shaw, Drury hammered home this truth, “People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”
The most engaging talks were definitely from those that drew from their own personal experiences. The unique feel of chatting rather than presenting to the audience, that drew the AAH 15 crowd was present in the majority of this year’s’ talks. Once again it was a comedian, who was a bit of a surprise dark horse. Corey White hit the nail on the head when he stated, “Tech is driving us apart not together. Each one of us is going to have to challenge the powerful otherwise the powerless can’t succeed. Not everything can be solved with an app.”
This is Above all, Human.