10 daring thinkers who defied the rules

Tim Fung, founder and CEO Airtasker

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10. Start me up

Tim Fung
Founder and CEO Airtasker

Innovation may be on many people’s agenda, but Tim Fung says Australia needs to lift its game and encourage people to “get out there and do stuff”. He says the US and Israel do this well – their governments are constantly talking about innovation, making it OK to fail and talking to business about investing in small companies.

“Basically, it’s a bit of a gee-up. Australia needs that gee-up culture to get people out there and doing stuff,” says Fung, founder and chief executive of Airtasker, a website that matches people with small tasks. 

“We have a lot of programs that are good – the R&D tax incentive where you get 45 cents back for every dollar you spend on innovation. That’s a pretty good program. And there’s a lot of people connected to the internet here … with revenue to spend. It’s actually a great environment here.” 

So, how do we drive the innovation culture in Australia? We need to attract more foreign investment to boost competition and fund education, says Fung. As for education, he believes that we need to be skilling up for the next big thing “in a proactive way”.

“The internet is the big thing now, building websites. But robots, AI [artificial intelligence], nanotechnology … people need to be skilled up,” he says.

Fung predicts that the sharing economy will continue to evolve and will increasingly impact on the way people do business. 

“What I think we’ll see via UberX and Airbnb is your reputation coming online, and that’s going to get consolidated into your reputation passport and that has impact on how you could have commerce between people,” he explains. 

“Suddenly, you know this guy, he’s legit, therefore you don’t mind lending him your surfboard.”