HUNDREDS of entrepreneurs, investors and changemakers from San Francisco will board the special Qantas charter “Myriad Air” to attend Australia’s leading technology and innovation festival in Brisbane from May 16-18.

Myriad Air was created through a partnership with the Queensland Government and uses a chartered Qantas Boeing 747 to link Silicon Valley, the world’s epicentre for technology, startups and venture capital with Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, home of the 2018 Myriad Festival.

Myriad CEO Martin Talvari said some of Silicon Valley’s smartest thinkers and most connected people would be travelling on Myriad Air, coming to Australia for the first time in a professional capacity. Mr Talvari said before they even arrive, "they will have had 14 hours to connect with Australian entrepreneurs at 30,000 feet".

“There’s a real excitement in the San Francisco community and a bit of FOMO about Myriad,” Mr Talvari said. 

“The key here is about some of these heavy hitters discovering Australia as more than a holiday destination. Some of the best research and IP (intellectual property)  in the world comes out of Australia and there is so much unrealised potential here. I have been blown away by what I have found and I want other people to see it for themselves.”

Last year’s inaugural Myriad festival resulted in some life-changing experiences, whether it was a new career opportunity, a deal or a moment of epiphany. One delegate, Mikhara Ramsing, quit her job within days of attending and is now the founder of two social ventures. She will be returning this year as a speaker.

“We have heard of a dozen or so deals and start-ups happening from last year and cannot wait to see what brilliant ideas and connections this year’s mix of 2,000 delegates and 100 speakers will spark,” Mr Talvari said.

The themes speakers and panels will be tackling at Myriad 2018 include the future of food, health, culture, play, work, cities and money, with a focus on finding technological and other solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing the world today.

Visiting presenters include former Olympic ski champion Jeremy Bloom who founded marketing software company Integrate; Kelly Watkins the global marketing head of Slack; Tony Conrad, a partner at True and a board member of the Tony Hawk Foundation; Kara Ballard Williams is the CEO and founder of Ying; Jonathan Trent, a lead scientist at NASA; Vicki Suanders the founder of Canadian not-for-profit SheEO; Google AI specialist Anil Sabharwal; former CIA officer Yaël Eisentat; Vishal Vasishth the co-foudner of force-for-good technology company Obvious Ventures; and Naveen Jain, the founder of Viome and Moon Express.

The Queensland Government is a strategic partner of Myriad, with a three-year sponsorship agreement with Myriad Live to host annual events from 2017 to 2019. 

Myriad Air is supported by Qantas, Bank of Queensland, BlueSky Alternative Investments, Gadens, Greater Springfield and Bond University.


Jeremy Bloom is a two-time Olympian, three-time World Champion and 11-time World Cup Gold Medallist skier, pro-NFL player, philanthropist, founder and CEO of marketing software company Integrate, which raised US$42 million in venture capital. He is also a V host, and the author of Fueled by Failure: Using Detours and Defeats to Power Progress. To say he is a high achiever at the age 36, is a huge understatement but Mr Bloom also understands failure and will be bringing unique insights to Myriad.

Kelly Watkins is the Head of Global Marketing at Slack, where she oversees brand, product, platform, and growth marketing, as well as advertising, events, and editorial. Prior to Slack, Ms Watkins was the vice president of marketing at Bugsnag, where she established the company as a leader in a growing product category.

Tony Conrad, partner at True, co-founded both and Sphere. Mr Conrad is a board member of the Tony Hawk Foundation, an advisor to San Francisco-based Noise Pop and he was previously national co-chair of technology for US President Barack Obama. With a passion for good coffee that, he said, Australian coffee snobs would be proud of, Mr Conrad was the first investor to back the artisans at Blue Bottle Coffee through True. Investment by Fidelity Ventures, Google Ventures, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley followed and the company expanded internationally before being acquired by Nestlé last year.

Karla Ballard Williams is the CEO and founder of YING, which allows people to earn and exchange “time credits”. Members bank time helping each other and can spend the earned credits with others in the community for business resources, help at home, companionship, or any other service. Formerly a senirol vice president at Participant Media, Ms Ballard Williams is also an appointee to the United States Federal Communication Committee on Diversity in a Digital Age and managed the national Broadband Opportunity Coalition.

Jonathan Trent, the project lead scientist for OMEGA, NASA, works at NASA’s nanotechnology department, where he builds microscopic devices out of proteins from extremophiles -- bacteria that live in the world’s harshest environments. It isn’t the logical place to start a biofuel project. But in 2008, after watching enzymes chomp through plant cells, Mr Trent started thinking about biofuels. Because he has a background in marine biology, he started thinking about algae and the oceans. Thus was born OMEGA, or the Offshore Membrane Enclosure for Growing Algae. This technology aims at re-using the wastewater of coastal cities that is currently piped out and disposed into the seas.

Serial entrepreneur Vicki Saunders is the founder of Toronto-based non-profit SheEO, which raises funds to back women entrepreneurs, who often find it harder to raise capital.  Less than four percent of venture capital goes to women and 90 percent of funding decisions are made by men. Ms Saunders realised the extent of the issue when she launched NRG Group, a business incubator she took public 18 years ago. Of the first 400 funding applications they received, only three came from women. Since then she says the situation is even worse.

Anil Sabharwal, vice president of product for Google, lives at the intersection of AI and consumer products. He leads Google’s global engineering and product efforts across a wide range of consumer applications, reporting to the CEO. Most recently Mr Sabharwal launched Google Photos, heralded as one of Google finest examples of Machine Learning solving real world problems. It already has over half a billion active users. Now based in Sydney, rumour has it Mr Sabharwal could be making a big announcement at Myriad.

Yaël Eisentat is a former CIA officer, national security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden and diplomat turned public advocate. She has spent 17 years working at the intersection of political, social and security issues and focuses now on helping those outside of government contribute to solutions for many of the same kinds of challenges.

Vishal Vasishth is the co-founder of Obvious Ventures (the company behind Twitter and Medium with Evan Williams and James Joaquin). Obvious Ventures invests in world positive technology companies across three themes: Sustainable Systems, Healthy Living and People Power.

Naveen Jain is the founder of Viome and Moon Express, which is working to expand Earth’s economic and social sphere to “our 8th continent”, the Moon.


ATLASSIAN, the business collaboration software developer currently regarded as Australia’s most successful technology company, will feature its Atlassian Code Lab at CeBIT Australia 2018 in Sydney from May 15-17.

The Atlassian Code Lab will be run by Atlassian experts during CeBIT Australia, guiding attendees to learn the basics of coding. The showcase Code Lab will be working from Google's CS-First curriculum, which uses the block coding language Scratch to  manage 'conditional statements, loops and events'. 

In an exclusive event for CeBIT Australia 2018 attendees, Mike Cannon-Brookes, Atlassian co-founder and co-CEO, will lead a VIP ‘how to code’ class on May 15. A limited number of attendees at CeBIT Australia 2018 will have the chance to learn from Australia’s ‘tech master’ himself, with more details to be announced shortly.

The Code Lab will be open for all CeBIT attendees and classes are designed for participants with limited coding experience.

One of Australia’s most successful entrepreneurs, MrCannon-Brookes is a fierce advocate for a greater emphasis on STEM education in Australian schools.

“Technology is already the biggest industry in the world, and if we want to maintain and grow our slice of that pie we need to increase investment in STEM education at all levels.

“Every single company is becoming - or already is - a software company," Mr Cannon-Brookes said. "Which means more and more jobs are becoming technology jobs. We need more graduates with technology skills in almost every discipline, from computer science to medicine, to help us become a leading innovation nation.”

According to a recent study by Deloitte, by the year 2030, Australian workers will spend 77 percent more time using science and mathematical skills.

NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Skills, John Barilaro said NSW success stories, such as Atlassian, "perfectly demonstrate the incredible opportunities available to young people with the right skills".

“As Minister for Skills and Small Business, I want to do all I can to encourage more people and business owners to embrace the idea of up-skilling, especially in the areas of science, technology and engineering, because we know that’s where so many jobs of the future will be," Mr Barilaro said.

“The Atlassian Code Lab at CeBIT Australia will be a fantastic platform to promote the importance of skills, including coding, that today’s job-seekers will need to compete in our growing digital economy,” he said.

A volunteer initiative of the Atlassian employees, which is focused on teaching students aged 8-12 -- and teachers -- the basics of code using Google CS First, sees staff currently visit schools across NSW as part of a program called Comp Sci Kids.

The Atlassian Code Lab classes will each be one-hour long, on the show floor at CeBIT Australia 2018, with three classes on Tuesday May 15, and four classes on both the Wednesday and Thursday (May 16 and 17). Coding class allocations will be available for attendees who register before  May 1, 2018.

CeBIT Australia, the largest and longest running business technology conference in the Asia Pacific, will take place at the International Convention Centre Sydney, Darling Harbour.


FOLLOWING months of preparation, Brisbane’s historic CBD riverside venue Customs House has witnessed a steady rise in enquires for same-sex marriages, accelerating since legislation late last year.

“The community is still cautious, however pent-up demand from the LGBTIQ community will certainly drive gains across hospitality, arts and recreation, retail and professional services in the first half of this year,” Customs House director Brian Roberts predicted. 

According to Mr Roberts, Customs House’s staging of the upcoming Wedding Showcase on February 7 is part of its celebration of LGBTIQ diversity in the wedding industry. 

“Customs House not only offers traditional charm but also creativity and flexibility as our point of difference with weddings for all committed couples,” Mr Roberts said.

 “We have seen a growing trend for individuality and creativity as an early trend with enquiries from same-sex weddings so far.

“Smaller guest lists, more intimate affairs – selective and spoilt – that is certainly a hot trend for 2018,” Mr Roberts said.

“The average guest list has been between 110 and 130 guests for a reception and we’re starting to see guest counts closer to 70-90 guests.

“Couples are opting to invite fewer guests and spend those extra dollars on more personal touches and unique experience for their guests,” Mr Roberts said.

Bracing for the demand in individuality and creativity for all couples considering an upcoming wedding, Customs House will stage The One – which he described as “a refreshing alternative to the traditional wedding expo” – showcasing a handpicked collection of sought-after vendors from the wedding industry participating in an exclusive bells-and-whistles soiree at Customs House.

The annual Wedding Showcase on February 7 from 5.30pm to 8pm, is designed to offer a unique opportunity for all wedding parties including brides, grooms and same-sex couples to celebrate marriage equality. Guests will be able to sample wines and canapes, meet experts of the industry and view current trends and styles of catering.

“The wedding industry needs to adjust to avoid putting off potential clients and coming across as an inclusive industry,” Mr Roberts said. 


CHINA is now Australia’s largest inbound tourism market – plus a major outbound and business travel market – so the rise of mobile payments platform Alipay cannot be understated. Alipay is now bigger than PayPal.

Alipay is now promoting what it calls ‘smart tourism’ with global partners and Australia is hardly in the mix, although this is expected to change with Jack Ma’s Alibaba Australia now established.

The Alipay smart tourism platform connects merchants and partners from across the world with Alipay users, allowing merchants to reach potential clients at lower cost with higher conversion rates. 

Already there have been agreements struck with official authorities in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Singapore.

Alipay, known as Zhifubao in Chinese and operated by Ant Financial, already claims to be the world’s largest online and mobile payment platform. The platform connects Chinese tourists with merchants, airports, travel agencies and other Alipay partners, giving users access to local offers and services, and merchants the ability to target potential clients.

“With 98 percent of outbound Chinese tourists owning a smartphone, there is a clear opportunity for a mobile-based ecosystem to deliver a truly 21st Century travel experience,” Ant Financial vice president Carl Su said at the recent 2017 Global Smart Tourism Ecosystem Summit in Beijing.

“Alipay’s smart tourist service platform connects all kinds of overseas merchants with the right Chinese tourists, even before they depart. Merchants find that our digital platform lowers marketing cost and improves conversion rate, while tourists find that access to local services and products is easier than ever before.”

Alipay’s outbound service platform allows users to download merchants’ coupons before or during their trip. Over 160,000 coupons are downloaded by users every day, among which 60 percent are redeemed when users pay via Alipay overseas.

Based on analysis of user preferences, Alipay recommends nearby merchants and even tips on itineraries. By paying with Alipay, users gain Alipay membership points that can access better exchange rates and discount rates – even VIP lounge access at the airport. 

The outbound tourism service platform also allows merchants and travel agencies to keep in touch with their customers online after the trip.


Alipay continues to expand its merchant network to provide better services for Chinese tourists wherever they travel. The payment platform is now accepted by more than 10 million merchants across China and by bricks-and-mortar shops in 33 countries and territories.

In September, Alipay signed Memorandums of Understanding with Finpro, Svensk Handel, and Scandinavian Tourist Board to promote Alipay’s smart tourism solutions to local merchants across the highly cashless Nordic countries.

Alipay and the Singapore Tourism Board have also started to cooperate in the areas of data, marketing, service and products, which will deliver benefits to both Chinese tourists and local merchants in the near future.

In Singapore and Finland, Chinese tourists can now enjoy local experiences by relying only on their smart phones. More than 80 percent of Singapore’s taxis provide Alipay as a payment option. Alipay is also accepted at more than 2,000 merchants, including Wildlife Reserves Singapore, Universal Studios Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore Zoo, department stores under Metro and Robinsons, and a series of hawker centres. Instant tax refunds via Alipay will soon also be available at Changi Airport.

In Finland, Chinese tourists can use Alipay to shop in-flight, on cruises, and pay for saunas. The payment convenience starts when a Chinese tourist books his or her flight ticket and hotel room online, and continues with shopping on Finnair flights between China and Helsinki. On the ground in Finland, Chinese tourists can access everything from bus trips and sightseeing in Helsinki to shopping, dining, and even meet the Moomin in Naantali or Santa Claus up in Lapland. In-cabin sales on Finnair flights between China and Helsinki have doubled since Alipay’s service was launched in January 2017.

Launched in 2004, Alipay currently has more than 520 million active users and over 450 financial institution partners globally. Operated by ant Financial Services, Alipay has evolved from a digital wallet to a lifestyle enabler.

Users can hail a taxi, book a hotel, buy movie tickets, pay utility bills, make appointments with doctors, or purchase wealth management products directly from within the app. In addition to online payments, Alipay is expanding to in-store offline payments both inside and outside of China.

Alipay’s in-store payment service is covering more than 30 countries across the world, and tax reimbursement via Alipay is supported in 24 countries and regions. Alipay works with more than 250 overseas financial institutions and payment solution providers to enable cross-border payments for Chinese travelling overseas and overseas customers who purchase products from Chinese e-commerce sites. Alipay currently supports 27 currencies.


MANTRA GROUP it has entered into an agreement with the Deague Group to acquire the Australian-owned Art Series Hotel Group for $52.5 million.

The acquisition will see seven luxury hotels – representing more than 1,000 guest rooms and including a number of conference and event facilities, restaurants and luxury hotel-style amenities – added to Mantra Group’s portfolio of 128 properties.

The seven hotels are: The Cullen, Prahran, Melbourne; The Larwill Studio, North Melbourne; The Olsen, South Yarra, Melbourne; The Blackman, St Kilda Road, Melbourne; The Chen, Box Hill, Melbourne; which is currently in the final stages of construction and is set to open in November 2017; The Johnson, Spring Hill, Brisbane; and The Watson, Walkerville, Adelaide. 

Each hotel is inspired and dedicated to Australian contemporary artists, infusing the namesake artist’s works and personality throughout the hotel to create unique art-inspired experiences. 

Mantra Group Chief Executive Officer Bob East said recognising the strength of the brand in the market, each business would continue to operate under the Art Series brand.

“These boutique properties are well suited to both leisure and corporate travellers and are located in some of Australia’s hottest art and cultural hubs, most of which Mantra Group already has a long-standing and high performing presence,” Mr East said.

“This acquisition enhances our existing portfolio and presents a unique opportunity for Mantra Group to increase its footprint across three key locations (Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide) in a single transaction.

“This is a rare opportunity to acquire a collection of exceptional hotels and one which is expected to make a significant contribution to Mantra Group’s business.

“These hotels have been operated to the highest standards by a passionate and dedicated team, and we are delighted to welcome such iconic and favoured properties to our growing network of hotels and resorts.

“We look forward to working with the owners, team members and guests to ensure a smooth transition.”

Settlement of the ‘Art Series Acquisition’ is expected to be completed in late 2017, subject to closing conditions customary for an acquisition of this nature, Mr East said,.

Mantra already has more than 21,500 rooms in properties under management across Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Hawaii.

Arts Series Hotel Group transformed the Australian hotel market when it launched in 2009. Inspired by and dedicated to Australian contemporary artists, each hotel takes design inspiration from the namesake artist.

With original artworks and prints adorning the walls and halls, the multifaceted art inspired experience is complete with dedicated art channels, art libraries, art tours and art utensils on supply. Glass bottomed pools, private outdoor decking areas, state of the art gymnasiums, massive communal spaces and boutique conference and events spaces complete the picture.


A TOURISM INDUSTRY accelerator backed by some of Queensland’s biggest corporates, Amadeus and Brisbane Airport Corporation, has officially opened.

Named Horizons and facilitated by corporate accelerator program Slingshot, the program is designed to help travel and tourism start-ups secure the traction, viability, investment and partnership opportunities needed to succeed. 

Start-ups accepted into Horizons will receive bespoke training and resources, a support team of mentors, access to co-working space and $30,000 of initial seed investment with the potential for a further $100,000 of follow-on funding. 

They will also be able to tap into the expertise of some of the best travel business minds in the region with support from Amadeus – the travel industry global distribution system – and Brisbane Airport Corporation. 

“With more than 30 start-ups and 60 partners on board Amadeus Next, we continue to grow our start-up community in Asia Pacific,” Amadeus Asia Pacific  vice president for corporate strategy and business development Simon Akeroyd said.

“We look for like-minded partners and organisations that share our passion for innovation and travel technology to pilot with start-ups and validate their solutions and business models. Combining its people, vision and approach, Slingshot is a perfect example of this.”

Amadeus established Amadeus Next in 2015, a travel tech community to unite travel tech start-ups with companies and organisations who are equally excited about travel technology and looking to support, accelerate and scale Startups into leading companies.

Brisbane Airport Corporation CEO and managing director Julieanne Alroe said, “The growth and development of Queensland’s travel and tourism industry is inextricably linked to the future of Brisbane Airport Corporation. While our investment in infrastructure and partnerships are an important foundation, we’re looking to support new and innovative ideas that will drive further growth. Queensland is the obvious choice for Australia’s first travel and tourism accelerator and we can’t wait to see what emerges.” 

Start-ups can apply for the 12-week Horizons program, kicking off on October 3. Slingshot will operate two cohorts simultaneously, one based in Brisbane and a regional accelerator based in one of the world’s great tourism destinations - Cairns.

Slingshot CEO Karen Lawson said every industry faced disruption and the tourism industry was no exception. 

“We’ve already seen the impact of collaborative consumption business models like Airbnb and now we’re excited to invest in up and coming start-ups and scaling businesses as they shift the dial,” Ms Lawson said.

“With the tourism industry employing nearly 10 percent of people in Queensland, there is a huge opportunity to cross pollinate a range of products and services, like accommodation, leisure, retail, recreation services, transport and hospitality, with cutting edge technological developments like AI, big data, AR, VR and frictionless payments, to drive commercial outcomes.”

The 12-week program is led by start-up specialist and Queensland local, Colin Kinner, who has more than 20 years experience working with high-growth technology-based companies.

The Queensland Government’s $420 million Advance Queensland initiative is supporting the Slingshot-run Horizons accelerator. 

Queensland Innovation Minister Leeanne Enoch said, “Horizons provides start-up entrepreneurs and business innovators with the support they need to thrive in the Queensland tourism industry. Not only does Slingshot cultivate local talent through first-class mentoring assistance, they also connect them to investors and potential business partners.”


THE International Convention Centre Sydney (ICC Sydney), has been awarded a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating, recognising its all-encompassing approach to sustainability.

The LEED ratings system, developed by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), is the foremost program for buildings that are designed, constructed, maintained and operated for improved environmental and human health performance. Its status is also expected to attract more business events.  

NSW Minister for Finance, Services and Property, Victor Dominello, said the $1.5 billion venue, delivered by Darling Harbour Live, is the centrepiece of the $3.5 billion rejuvenation of the Darling Harbour precinct, and an important part of the NSW Government’s focus on sustainability.

“ICC Sydney is recognised as a leader in sustainable building design. The integrated venue has been cleverly designed to minimise energy and water consumption, whilst still delivering world class amenities for business events and live entertainment.”

ICC Sydney CEO Geoff Donaghy, CEO said the LEED Gold certification would help attract more business events to the venue.

“Today, the business events industry is more focused than ever before on ensuring we act in an environmentally sustainable and responsible way, and this is something we are seeing translate into client requirements,” Mr Donaghty said.

“ICC Sydney has secured over 850 bookings to date and we expect this accreditation will help us increase our competitive advantage on the global stage and continue to foster the NSW visitor economy. It also backs our commitment to providing world class facilities and experiences for our guests, alongside the ultimate in quality, choice and flexibility for the world’s leaders and thinkers, to meet, collaborate and innovate.”

The LEED Gold certification recognises ICC Sydney’s work in sustainability including: Reuse of 100,000 cubic metres of concrete from the original brownfield site; use of 96 percent recycled steel in its Exhibition Halls; highly efficient central energy plant and building management systems; Australia’s largest electric car charging station for 25 vehicles; and a community funded solar array, the nation’s largest in a CBD, providing 5 percent of the venue’s energy – or enough to power 100 homes.

Darling Harbour Live general manager Peter Robertson said the accolade further strengthened the precinct’s environmental credentials, with the broader revitalisation project having recently received an outstanding 6-Star Green Star Communities rating from the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA).

“Since its opening in December 2016, ICC Sydney has transformed Darling Harbour. We now have 30 percent more public space and greater connectivity through the creation of pedestrian and cyclist links in the precinct.”


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