'Crazy' ideas need nurturing

20 April, 2017

Australia needs a ‘Department of Crazy Ideas’ to ensure good ideas aren’t destroyed by slow moving regulatory frameworks says Uber Australia’s General Manager David Rohrsheim.

Speaking at CCI’s The Sharing Economy business breakfast this month, Mr Rohrsheim said it was well-known that Uber had run into regulatory issues in Australia since its launch in 2012.

Uber has clashed with several Australian state governments on issues like levies, safety and its impact on the taxi industry.

Rohrsheim said as a start-up it was in their nature to be impatient, which doesn’t really work with the slow-moving nature of government.

“We are impatient people, we are start-up people,” he said.

“I knew what the opportunity was, it wasn’t in our DNA to wait. That’s a fact and it’s probably not going to change.

“The governments run on different timelines and the timelines are getting slower and slower unfortunately, and technology is getting faster and faster so these clashes are going to occur more and more often.”

Clever governments were seeing the explosion of start-ups as an opportunity and crazy ideas needed to be accommodated, Rohrsheim said.

“My main ask of Government is that there is a Department of Crazy Ideas where you can go to and they tell you here’s what you need so you can accelerate those conversations,” he said.

“Our ideas didn’t quite fit and if you go and talk to regulators they say, ‘it doesn’t quite fit, have a nice day’. It’s not their job to reform, it’s their job to enforce whatever those laws are.

“If you have to wait a year or two for government approval, a lot of people don’t have a year or two to wait to pay for themselves or their employees so those ideas just die.

“Ministers tend to get it and the reason Uber came into being is that customers wanted it one way or another. Once people started writing to their MPs that they used it and loved it things were going to change.”

Rohrsheim praised the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s regulatory sandbox idea that allows eligible financial tech businesses to test certain services for up to 12 months without an Australian financial services or credit licence.

The sandbox gives the businesses the chance to see how their idea fits in with the current regulations and what they would need to do to secure a licence.

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