Optus to tap SMBs’ disruptive power with Sydney Innovation Hub

Dedicated workspace within Sydney Start Up Hub

Optus has launched the Optus Innovation Hub, a dedicated workspace within the Sydney Start Up Hub to enable its small and medium business arm to tap the creativity and disruptive power of small businesses for the creation of future Optus SMB products.

The workspace will operate as an extension of the Optus SMB Yes Business community hub for SMBs, launched in November 2017 and described as “a place for [Optus] to share knowledge from other SMB owners and trusted partners on communications, culture, teamwork and networking to specifically help [SMBs] navigate the complex world of business.” It now has 32,00 SMB members, according to Optus.

Opening the Innovation Hub, the vice president of Optus SMB, Matthew Ball, said: “We seek through this partnership and this presence in the Optus Innovation Hub to transform the Optus small business proposition. We want our customers to help develop the products of the future for small business. We want our customers to tell us how we can improve.”

Disruption, he said, no longer came from large corporates. “Big businesses are not transforming the world. Small businesses are transforming the world. … Big corporates have realised that the best ideas don’t come from big corporates. The best ideas on digital disruption, how to do things for small businesses are coming from small businesses.”

Ball told Computerworld: “It is my intention to have a significant part of the Optus small business product roadmap coming out of this innovation hub: defining small business solutions; small business products for small businesses by small businesses.

“Our presence [in the Sydney Startup Hub] is one that we expect to bear significant fruit for small businesses.  What better way to develop products and solutions than to have our customers develop those products and solutions?”

To help SMBs develop new products for Optus, users of the Innovation Hub will be given access to Optus network APIs. Ball was not able to provide details on how this might work, but said: “The goal is to give small business the opportunity to develop product, write code and extrapolate their ideas using the Optus network, because we want them to be able to do it in real time.

“Giving them the ability to plug into our network APIs gives them the ability to plug into a multitude of technical and networking resources, and if you think about the advent of 5G early next year, that presents the opportunity for further magic.”

(Optus announced in April that it would launch a fixed 5G broadband access services in limited areas in January 2019)

Ball said there were no hard and fast rules on commercial arrangements with users of the hub.

“We will certainly welcome any customers that want to partner with us or with others in [the Sydney Startup Hub]. In terms of any commercial partnerships that may ensue, it is a bit of a blank canvass. My expectation is that, as we start to evolve our vision of developing products for small business by small business we will at some point need to strike a commercial arrangement. That might be in the form of a partnership, or an investment.”

He said the Innovation Hub represented a significant investment for Optus, and its expectations for the venture were high. “We expect huge amounts of success out of this investment and this partnership with the small business community.

“We will have workshops on relevant topics, we will help small businesses when they seek information, we will offer partnerships with Optus, we will encourage and foster innovation, we will encourage and foster disruption. We will completely re-orient the propositions we bring to market based on the needs of small businesses.”

The first event in the new hub will be launched on July 9, an innovation challenge in partnership with Macquarie University. It will ask participants “How can we support small to medium businesses to grow digitally?” and will cover a broad range of topics, from digital currencies, through to cross border expansion and digital marketing.

Also, Optus says it will invite corporate partners, customers and “innovation leaders across the wider Optus and Singtel network” to contribute to hub through collaboration and sharing of their expertise that could include providing a wide and varied support network, and further developing ideas via the user experience test lab and R&D sessions.  

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