Why Unearthed Is So Important For Perth

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Unearthed is a simple hackathon based on mining problems and supplied with mining data. What’s the big deal?

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Justin Strharsky and Zane Prickett – the brains behind Unearthed and the startup community’s two most prominent resource industry experts.

Well, the Big Deal is the future of Perth. Here’s what Unearthed is about for the uninitiated.

Unearthed is a unique 54-hour long event focused on the mining sector. Software developers, designers, and industry insiders will come together to develop prototype solutions to mining sector problems. Unearthed participants will have a chance to work on proprietary industry data as well as data from our government partners.

The mining boom is nearing its close, or already over, depending on who you talk to. In the last twenty years of resource-based good times, Perth has managed to become a “centre of excellence” for the global resource industry, providing the head offices, research centres and software development teams for a large part of the global industry.

If Perth wants to continue as a vibrant economy and not become an economic smoking crater in the ground (see Dublin, Detroit for examples) then we either need to pivot fast to a completely different industry, or retain the head offices and innovation centres of the global resource industry while they go and dig up someone else’s minerals.

The danger is that the resource industry moves on somewhere else, that some other desert town at the edge of a mineral-rich continent has its turn being the boom town and everyone moves there. If we, as a city, don’t persuade the industry that this is a good place to stay, it’ll move. If you think it can’t happen like that then talk to anyone from Ireland who watched their “Celtic Tiger” IT industry move almost overnight. It should be pretty easy to find someone from Ireland round here, they all had to leave because there was no work for them. It can happen here.

So far, the startup community has generally been going for the pivot option, trying to get mining money interested in investing in tech startups. But Perth has no intrinsic advantage in tech startups (except our proximity to SE Asia, but I don’t know of many Perth startups that are actually using that as a feature), and we have quite a few disadvantages (high wages, huge travel costs, bureaucracy, no investment infrastructure, very remote from our main markets, etc).

But we do have a mammoth, huge, advantage in resource-based startups. The HQ’s of the world’s largest resource organisations are right here. Our potential customers are on the terrace, and getting a meeting with them is a simple matter of knowing someone whose kids go to school with theirs.

As Zane Prickett put it last night: “If you’re doing a consumer tech startup in Perth, you’re doing it wrong. You’d have an easier, better time doing that in Silicon Valley. But doing a resource startup? There’s nowhere better in the world to do that than right here”

Of course, as the founder of a consumer startup, I have a couple of personal objections to this, but he’s right.

So, Unearthed is A BIG DEAL to us. For two reasons:

1. It allows a bunch of startup folk to try looking at resource solutions and exploring the space. I doubt many of us have had much to do with the resource industry, so none of us know the subject well or what the problems are.

2. It allows the resource industry to see how quickly solutions can be built. In the same way that GovHack was a surprise to government organisations because they had been lead to believe that solutions were expensive and time-consuming, I’m sure we can change the perspective of a few people in the resource industry and start some collaboration.

If this works, and it may not, there is a risk that we can’t spot solutions because we don’t know the problem domain well enough, but if it works, it could be the start of a whole new future for the startup community and for Perth.

So if you haven’t signed up for it yet, do it now… here

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