Finisar Australia scores NSW ICT Entrepreneur of the Year

Company recognised for optical communications technologies

A Sydney-based technology startup which was born out of the dot com bust of the early 2000s took out the Pearcey Foundation's NSW ICT Entrepreneur of the Year award this week.

Finisar Australia founders Steve Frisken and Simon Poole were recognised for their work with optical communications technology.

In 2001 the pair founded Engana, which was acquired by US communications company Optium in 2006 for $43 million. Optium was then acquired back by Finisar in 2008. Frisken and Poole now employ 300 staff at manufacturing and development facilities in Waterloo, Sydney.

Frisken said it was “particularly satisfying” to receive the award as it was almost 10 years to the day that he and Poole made a decision to embark on a second start-up together.

“At that point we were looking down the abyss as the optical communications industry had been decimated globally and in Australia we suffered a second blow of being vulnerable to the tyranny of distance and corporate retreat,” he said.

The lesson the founders took from the bust was that there was opportunity, but Frsiken admitted that they “struggled” to try and imagine what the ICT industry might look like on the other side of the deep recession.

“The idea that tiny pipes of terabit information transmission could be connected into a dynamic network with transparent connections made using different wave lengths of light was what captivated our thinking at the time,” Frisken said.

“The next time you download from a distant website or make a cell phone call to anywhere in the world there is a pretty good chance that this information is being routed to you along the link through some Australian grown technology.”

Finisar Australia is now a finalist in the combined Pearcey, Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) and ACS Benson National Entrepreneurs iAward, which will be held in Melbourne next year. Last year’s NSW winners, Lars and Jens Rasmussen, who developed Google Wave, went on to the win the iAward.

Pearcey Foundation and NSW ICT recognition awards were also given to the other Entrepreneur of the Year finalists, including:

  • Webdirections founders John Allsopp and Maxine Sherrin

  • Jump On It chief executive, Colin Fabig

  • 99dresses.com founder, Nikki Durkin

  • Spreets.com.au founder, Dean McEvoy

  • Moshtix.com.au managing director, Hamish Petrie

  • The Wedding List Company managing director, Karaline Loiterton

  • BigAir chief executive officer, Jason Ashton

  • Julpan chief executive officer, Ori Allon.

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More about: ACS, AIIA, Australian Information Industry Association, BigAir, etwork, Finisar, Google, IIA, Jens, Optium
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