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Screw the mining boom, let's create a tech boom

In recent weeks Australian politicians have been bickering about the mining boom. "It's over, it's half-over, it ended last week (China put the kibosh on it)." Who knows? The only thing that is certain is that one day it will end.

It's time Australia started planning for its future. It's time to start planning our next boom and, in my opinion, it's time to create a technology boom.

23 September 2011.  AFR.  Generic Gold Mining.  Castlemaine Goldfield Ballarat.   Gold, gold mining, gold rush, ...
23 September 2011. AFR. Generic Gold Mining. Castlemaine Goldfield Ballarat. Gold, gold mining, gold rush, Ballarat, gold prices, gold field. Photography by Arsineh Houspian. arsineh@arsineh.com +61401320173 Ballarat Gold Mine140.jpg Photo: Arsineh Houspian

Technology, without doubt, is where Australia should place its next bet. While the mining boom splutters and fracks Australia up, technology is gaining momentum. Aussie geeks from Sydney to San Franscisco are cooking up world-changing start-ups and Australia is experiencing a mini tech-boom.

Australian start-up events (such as Sydstart and the Unconvention) and technology incubators (such as Fishburners and the York Butter Factory) have exploded in the past 12 months.

Atlassian. Afr. 091009. Pic by Michel O Sullivan. Pic shows portrait of  left  Scott Farquhar and  right  Mike Cannon ...
Atlassian. Afr. 091009. Pic by Michel O Sullivan. Pic shows portrait of left Scott Farquhar and right Mike Cannon Brookes, CEO and Co Founders of Atlassian SPECIAL 115109 Photo: Michel O'Sullivan

Almost 1000 people attended Sydstart last month, and speakers included Australia's latest mining technology magnate, Mike Cannon-Brookes of Atlassian (who built a billion-dollar business with a friend from uni), and the founders of Bigcommerce (which is widely earmarked as "the next Atlassian" and last month received a $20 million investment from a US venture capital firm).

BRW's 2012 Young Rich list published last month — dominated by tech upstarts, with 24 of the 100 connected to tech businesses — is another indicator that technology Down Under is on fire.

Atlassian's founders have toppled Nathan Tinkler to take the No.1 spot, while the founders of Bigcommerce have rocketed into the top 10. The result is a win for technology in Australia and underscores that technology is a current and future source of prosperity for the nation.

Australian entrepreneurs and technology ventures like these are showing young Australians what can be achieved. Industry rumours suggest there are at least 10 Australian tech companies valued at more than $100 million.

These Australian-grown tech businesses employ thousands of people around the world, turn over hundreds of millions of dollars and attract investment to Australia. They are sustainable, fast-growing companies built on innovation and hard work, not luck. They represent Australia's future, not the past.

So, here are Seven Reasons Australia Should Create, Support and Foster a Technology Boom (and stop worrying about the mining boom):

1 - The mining boom is out of our control

Most of us have nothing to do with the mining boom (the mining industry employs 2.2 per cent of Australia) and none of us can influence it. Prime Minister Julia Gillard can't control it and neither can Twiggy Forrest. Let's focus on an industry we can control (technology) with assets we possess (our minds and our ingenuity).

2 - Technology is the future

Technology is a growing and sustainable industry while mining is not. Australia should invest in technology. Places smaller than Australia, such as Israel and Singapore, have figured this out and are reaping the rewards.

3 - Young Australians want to be entrepreneurs

Young Australians do not dream about creating mining companies or discovering large, offshore gas deposits. Young Australians dream about launching internet start-ups, making their first million online and working on "the next Facebook".

4 - Technology grows the economy

Successful technology ventures create hundreds of jobs, export their services around the world and attract investment to our shores.

5 - Technology is open to everyone

You can start a website today from your bedroom with a laptop, a credit card and some Vegemite toast.

6 - The opportunity is huge

With 2.3 billion internet users worldwide (and 67 per cent of the world still to join the internet), the opportunity for aspiring Australian technology entrepreneurs is a global one.

7 - Mining magnates suck

Let's be honest, mining magnates are uninspiring. We want inspiring innovators, not cranky billionaires. It's time for Australia to deliver a home-grown Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates - some self-made billionaires we can be proud of - created through innovation and dressed in nerdy clothes.

In summary, young Australians do not want to make their fortune by drilling the ground, selling minerals to China and taxing fat-cat mining magnates. Young Australians want to make their own fortunes and the best way for them to do this is through entrepreneurship and technology.

If you are thinking about launching a technology venture - there's never been a better time (so start today), and if you're going to launch it from Australia then you should take on the world (this would be good for you and good for Australia).

So screw the mining boom. We need to make plans for life after Twiggy. Let's create a boom of our own making. Let's create a technology boom.

Alec Lynch is the founder and chief executive of DesignCrowd.

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