Optus Business and the Irish start-up connection

Optus Business taps into early stage tech companies to unearth and commercialise new technologies for itself and its clients
David Caspari - Vice president of enterprise and government, Optus Business

David Caspari - Vice president of enterprise and government, Optus Business

On 18 October, Optus Business partnered up with financial technology start-up hub, Stone & Chalk, to host more than 50 Irish technology companies at a pitch event in Sydney.

The event was attended by the likes of Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald, and Optus Business’ enterprise and government vice president, David Caspari, among others.

The Irish technology companies were in Australia as part of the latest trade mission to Australia by Irish Prime Minister, Michael Higgins.

Indeed, his deputy, Fitzgerald, represented the trade mission at the event as part of her continued mission to double Irish exports to Australia by 2020.

According to Optus Business, the gathering in Sydney was intended to provide a platform for the company and its customers to come face-to-face with leading innovative technology solutions from Ireland, with a focus on fintech, health and education.

“Today’s event provides us with an opportunity to see the innovative technology that is driving overseas economies forward," Caspari said. "Being able to share these insights with our customers demonstrates Optus’ commitment to game changing technology."

Supported by Enterprise Ireland, a government organisation responsible for the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world markets, the Sydney event offered a glimpse into Optus Business’ efforts to tap into early stage tech companies to unearth and commercialise new technologies that may be, or become, useful to its enterprise clients locally and further afield.

Casperi told ARN that Optus Business is already in the process of integrating the capabilities of a start-up to which it was introduced by Enterprise Ireland. More information about the new deal will become publicly-available in the coming weeks, according to Caspari.

The agreement with the as-yet unnamed start-up comes off the back of a mutually-beneficial relationship with Stone & Chalk, and a lengthy history of delving into the local start-up community for new opportunities.

“Without access and the relationships with the likes of Stone & Chalk, we wouldn’t have access to as much agility as we do,” Caspari told ARN. “Large corporates…they don’t innovate at the same pace as some of the start-ups that are incubating in Stone & Chalk and the like, and that gives us a real benefit and advantage.”

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For Caspari, Optus Business, Optus, and indeed its parent company, Singtel, investing in start-ups provides a much-needed innovative edge in a market that can be top-heavy with large, often slow-moving enterprises.

Fellow telco, Telstra, is similarly invested in its own start-up activities, including its in-house accelerator, muru-D.

“Being part of the innovation community through Stone & Chalk allows us to look further over the horizon, get involved in, and understand, the pace and change that’s going on in the various different industries,” Caspari said. “So we learn, as an organisation, a lot about the industry through our relationship with Stone & Chalk.”

While part of this investment in start-ups can be attributed to Optus Business’ role in facilitating innovation in the local business community, it is also about the development of technology that Optus Business, and its clients, can benefit from.

“Our place in the market is as a strategic partner to enterprise and government, they think about their telecommunications and technology needs, as they move to a more digitally-oriented world,” Caspari said. "As their partner, they expect that we can bring capabilities, knowledge, organisations, assets, and partnerships to the table.

“As part of that role, in some ways it’s about us introducing great technology, in some ways it will be about us incorporating that technology into a solution that we deliver, and in some cases we might go as far as productising an offering and taking it to market more broadly."

This stance not only benefits Optus Business, it also looks set to be a good thing for start-up hubs and the early stage companies that populate them.

“Working alongside large technology companies such as Optus, has allowed us and our start-ups to reach unprecedented milestones,” Stone & Chalk CEO, Alex Scandurra, said.

“In the past two years, we’ve more than doubled the number of local start-ups that have been able to engage commercially with corporates and helped our start-ups raise over $180 million in capital investment.

“The Enterprise Ireland event is testament to industry collaboration and partnership to accelerate innovative ideas,” he said.