Dr Richard Seymour on the Australian entrepreneurial landscape

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BIOGRAPHY

Richard Seymour is a Senior Lecturer and Program Director of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at The University of Sydney Business School, Australia. He holds two undergraduate degrees in finance and German, and a Masters of Commerce in marketing from The University of New South Wales. He was awarded his PhD at The University of Sydney, advancing our understanding of innovation in the creative industries.

Before joining the University in 2006 he worked in the corporate, NGO and consulting sectors.  As well as having run his own business, he has over 5 years experience advising small and medium-sized enterprises on corporate divestments, capital raisings and cross-border transactions.  He also has over 10 years experience with a number of European, Asian and Australian organizations in the financial, property, and environmental sectors.

Richard’s research program focuses on the creative industries, innovation and entrepreneurship (both social and business).  Major projects have been undertaken across Australia and SE Asia, including work with and for the OECD.  With a focus on action-research, his program seeks to build strong links to industry and entrepreneurship.  Richard is the founder of the group of scholars and practitioners known as the Entrepreneurship Development Network Asia (EDNA), and has led multiple education and research initiatives across the region including in Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia.

Richard teaches primarily at the post-graduate level, with classes including entrepreneurship modules for Sydney’s award-winning Global Executive MBA, the Master of Commerce specialization in Strategy, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, and numerous master classes across Australia and Asia.  As well as having his Program Director responsibilities, he is responsible for the Remote & Rural Enterprise (RARE) and Sydney Genesis StartUp program, and takes a strong interest in developing the teaching of entrepreneurship throughout the region.

Why are women entrepreneurs important for social and economic impact in Australia?

Research shows that barriers to entrepreneurship are reducing across most countries in the OECD (i.e. including in Australia), that most businesses are micro-enterprises (those with fewer than 10 employees), and that it is the relatively small number of high-growth enterprises that provide a high proportion of employment and value creation.  Sadly, in most countries including Australia, it is women who are challenged to scale their businesses (with respect of employees, international markets, and capital), and the environmental conditions and constraints are the factors that continue to weigh heavily on women.

With that background, addressing the question – the short answer is “Because we all benefit from her successes”.  Successful start-ups and high-growth enterprises will help us maintain our relatively high standards of living and continue to grow our wealth and wellbeing.  They potentially also help us face and address challenging social, cultural and environmental problems.

The longer answer to your question recognises that women have the potential to lead different businesses and change the standard rules of the game.  This is not about gender equality or levelling any playing fields.  This is tapping into new insights, new ways of thinking, new ways of managing and leading, and new ways of engaging with customers and society.  This diversity creates value differently, and it shares it more broadly and collaboratively.

Why is what Rare Birds important to this? And what do you see the role of Rare Birds as in this ecosystem?

One could segment entrepreneurs into those who become so out of necessity, or become so through the desire to seize opportunity.  We need more of the latter – We need more women to grasp opportunity and lead their own futures through their own passions and foresights.   It can be a tough journey, and even tougher if it is done alone.  Our entrepreneurship programs are motivated by the belief that there can be no learning without action, and no action without learning however we can only do so much.  A community of entrepreneurs can do far more.  Rare Bird’s mission plays a key role in building the required entrepreneurial communities of practice, care and interest.  Community is the key feature of the ecosystem.

As an educator, academic what systemic changes and building blocks do all entrepreneurs need to be successful?

From my perspective, education is key.  We know from our teaching and research that successful entrepreneurs master a multitude of ‘learning by doing’: They develop their functional skills such as marketing, strategy and finance; They polish their social skills including negotiation, team building and leadership; And they mature their curiosity, passion and wisdom.  This learning cannot be done alone; it cannot be done solely in a classroom, or from just copying others, it is done together.  Women entrepreneurs can change the rules of the game by being more aware, more collaborative, more inclusive, and I think more creative.  Seeing these attributes being applied would give me more confidence in the future success of Australian businesses here, and globally.

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