Home Innovators The Woman at the Helm of the Startup State: Leanne Kemp
The Woman at the Helm of the Startup State: Leanne Kemp

The Woman at the Helm of the Startup State: Leanne Kemp

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Queenslands own internationally renowned digital pioneer, Leanne Kemp, is proving the sentiment ‘the future is female’ as the state’s newest – and first female – Chief Entrepreneur.

Leanne Kemp has taken over the reigns as Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur from investor, entrepreneur and television ‘shark’, Steve Baxter, who praised Leanne’s achievements saying they have “put her at the cutting edge of innovative technology and this appointment reinforces that with a global mindset, Queensland entrepreneurs can take on the world.”

Following studies at James Cook University here in Townsville, Leanne has spent over 20 successful years in the tech sector, from RFID to Supply Chain and Advertising (adtech) and admits that she is a self-confessed ‘serial entrepreneur’.

“No one would ever give me a ‘real job’ because I think about things differently. I ask the question ‘why’ rather than ‘what’ or ‘how’ first. When I was starting my first business, the only thing that was afforded to me was borrowing some money off my Dad’s credit card and moving the car out of our garage which became my first office,”  Leanne recalls.

“The only one I had to share my thoughts with was my dog. Now, there’s a whole environment for co-working innovation and likeminded people which has really escalated, and elevates not only people’s thinking but also the time to market”.

The advantages of today’s collaborative hubs were foreign to those who, like Leanne, were building the foundations of their business in the 1990’s. But there are elements of the traditional blood, sweat and tears approach that Leanne says should still be instilled in today’s startups.

“When Dad won’t lend you any more money, you have to make it work”

“When Dad won’t lend you any more money, you have to make it work,” she said. “That’s an important set of learnings that we should instill in our entrepreneurs and founders. That the run to revenue, the proof in the market, the ability to field the product fast and iterate with customer centricity, all of this should not be lost in the spoils that have been created in today’s working environments.”

While North Queensland is certainly one enjoying the spoils of our new innovative ecosystems, Leanne acknowledges that our regional areas are the ones who have seen the real challenges and the need to adapt. “Our regions aren’t spoilt like the big cities when it comes to the challenges that come to your doorstep, be it environmental, industrial or changes to the economic landscape. There’s no such thing as an economic umbrella that you can just put up in these towns and smaller cities when times are tough. To re-form innovation to be that regional economic umbrella is really interesting and strengthens the state in more ways than ever.”

The Office of the Queensland Chief Entrepreneur is an Advance Queensland initiative, and is the first of its kind vin Australia. Funded by the Queensland Government and driven by the state’s entrepreneurial community, it serves to support the development of Queensland’s startup economy.

“The government has awakened to the importance of infrastructure in the perspective of how we work and where we work. As Chief Entrepreneur, I’m incredibly passionate about what we should be doing to advance Queensland in its innovation efforts. It’s really the whole idea of giving back,” explains Leanne.

“One of my aims in taking up this role is guiding Queensland entrepreneurs and passing on my experience of running a company with global reach.”

As CEO of Everledger – a leading emerging technology enterprise that tracks the provenance of high-value assets (diamonds) on a global digital ledger – Leanne built the company from a new startup in 2016 into an international powerhouse with offices in five countries. The company raised more than $10 million in venture capital earlier this year, and currently employs 72 people – with women in many key technical and managerial roles.

“Everledger uses blockchain technology to connect all the suppliers and intermediaries in the industry so that diamonds can be tracked as they are moved from point to point around the world.”

Since its inception, Everledger has tracked 2.2 million diamonds from the mine to the retail outlet and by 2020, it’s anticipated to be tracking up to four million of the precious stones annually.

“My own personal driver is a sense of understanding self. I’ve never really wanted to have my own personal and financial wellbeing in the hands of anyone else. To drive characteristics that build successful entrepreneurs, there has to be an element of risk taking. If you are comfortable being able to operate in the unknown, take risks and be persistent, then over time you will make your own luck,” says Leanne.

“If you have the ability to learn across certain disciplines of technology and business models, how better to ensure your own future than by being able to create the future that you want for yourself.”

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