Qantas's 'Myriad Air' 747 flies in world-leading investors, scientists and entrepreneurs

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.


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