2016 Pearcey Medal

1 December 2016 Sydney

Wayne Fitzsimmons, Steve Baxter, Adrian TurnerWayne Fitzsimmons, Steve Baxter, Adrian Turner

At a gala dinner held on Thursday 1 December 2016 at Sydney's Star in Pyrmont, Stephen (Steve) Baxter was presented the 2016 Pearcey Medal by Adrian Turner, CEO of Data61 at CSIRO.

Steve Baxter, best known as a Tech Start Up investor, was born in Cloncurry and raised in Emerald located in the Queensland central highlands. He left school at 15 and joined the Army, enlisting in its apprenticeship program. There, he became a technician working in the field of electronics, telecoms and guided weapon systems.

In 1994, at the age of 23, Steve put his life savings of $11,000 on the line to launch his first start-up, the pioneering internet service provider SE Net, from the spare room of his Adelaide home. Servicing more than 35,000 customers, SE Net was eventually acquired by Ozemail/UUNet under the stewardship of its founding Director and now Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. While building SE Net, Mr Baxter was involved in early Australian Internet community work with committee appointments to the South Australian Internet Association, the Australian Domain Name Authority (forerunner to AuDA) and the IIA. He worked tirelessly in the industry in South Australia and nationally to assist the industry to understand the benefits of cooperation with respect to Internet peering. This culminated in the formation of the South Australian Internet Exchange (SAIX) and then work with the Ausbone collective effort.

In 2001, Steve teamed with a schoolmate, Bevan Slattery, to launch his second start-up, PIPE Networks. In the 3 years after listing, the Company deployed over 600km of dark fibre, built several hundred metres of data centre space and under took to build PPC-1 - the first competitive submarine fibre optic cable in Australia. In 2010 PIPE Networks was acquired by TPG Group for $373 million. Steve's work in rolling out high speed dark fibre networks across Australia drew international attention and, while remaining a Director of PIPE Networks, he spent a year working with Google in California in 2008/09, leading a project to deliver high-speed telecommunications systems across North America.

Over the past five years, since returning to Brisbane, he has become a major early-stage investor, mentor and advocate of Australian tech start-ups. Steve has invested or provided funding for over 20 start-ups or early stage companies, with a focus on the communications and technology space.

  • In 2012, Steve launched River City Labs in Brisbane, a leading co-working community and start-up hub to encourage and grow the entrepreneurial scene in Queensland and Australia. River City Labs is about being the focal point for activity in the early stage and start up space in the mobile, Internet, telecoms and technology sector in the Brisbane area.
  • In 2012 Steve also founded RiverPitch, bi-yearly event that brings together pre-screened investors and pre-screened entrepreneurs in a social environment where developed ideas can be pitched.
  • In 2013 he co-founded and was a major investor in Right Pedal Studios, a mobile gaming accelerator. He has also supported the Mura-D accelerator program based at River City Labs and continues to provide investment and other support in the implementation of programs to assist new tech start-ups succeed.
  • In 2014, Steve created, underwrote and led the first Startup Catalyst program, taking 20 young tech-savvy future entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley and introducing them to leading international tech giants. Startup Catalyst was formed to assist in the cultural transformation of the Australian economy to one that is fast paced, start-up aware, and "global first". Steve continues to actively support this program which has now expanded to sending missions to New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, London and Singapore.

He continues his long association with ICT advocacy dating back to the early internet days to now engaging in advocacy for tech start-ups with high level contact with all levels of government. As well he is introducing the general community to the concepts behind business, investment and the ICT industry through his media presence and participation in television (notably as a "Shark" on Channel 10's "Shark Tank").  Steve is also a founding board member of StartupAUS, a not-for-profit organisation formed in 2013 by fifty leaders in the national start-up community with the mission to transform Australia through technology entrepreneurship.

Follow-up

August 2017 - Steve Baxter appointed Queensland Chief Entrepreneur (innovationaus)


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