As Chairman and former CEO of the local pioneer tech company Seeing Machines, Ken Kroeger has been calling Canberra home for over 10 years. We sat down with him to find out why he loves Canberra and what makes it a great city for global businesses.
What is Seeing Machines all about?
The original vision of the company was to understand how the world would interact with robots when they arrived. Seeing Machines is ultimately about helping machines understand people. While technology comes about in different ways; it’s usually brought in by a requirement to change. People are always looking for advancement, and the technology that Seeing Machines provides is designed to make things safer, smarter and simpler to use.
What are some of the company’s biggest achievements?
I’ve been with Seeing Machines for six years now and during that time the company has grown from 25 to over 125 people. We’ve gone from a research house to a world recognised driver monitoring supporter. We’re not pioneers anymore; we are now the benchmark on how it’s supposed to be done. Everyone who works here has a sense that they have at least one hand on the steering wheel guiding the company to where it’s going. We’ve got great diversity and an amazing culture of being able to compete against the world.
What do you think it takes to create that working environment as a CEO?
I think the role of a CEO is to set the course. I manage by walking around and I’m proud to know about the company and the people who work here really well. As a global business, there’s only so much you can do remotely. In order to develop relationships with strategic partners, I think it’s important to do it in person. As a result I usually do a once-a-month around the world trip, with stops in Europe, North America and South East Asia.
As a global business, how important is Canberra to you?
Seeing Machines is a great example of a global company that is headquartered in Canberra. For me, the success of the company and many other businesses around the city comes down to its innovation. There are so many collaborative workspaces and start-ups; the government is pro-business and the universities are heavily investing in becoming social incubators – it’s very dynamic. I think because of its compactness people actually feel this happening, and it’s significant. There’s a real culture of this “can do” community. People also love living here and they will come from all over the world if you can provide them with what they need. That includes the right employment, a comfortable place to live and a safe environment. Canberra has all the right opportunities and attributes to attract people, which have helped shaped Seeing Machines and its diverse culture.
Why is Canberra such a great place to start a business?
You really cannot find a better place. 20 years ago Canberra was just seen as a government town, but now I don’t think anyone who lives here thinks of it that way anymore. As a small business you have access to bigger companies with thousands of people that you can start working with immediately and gain access to their international presence. You’re not just washed out in the crowd of a bigger city; you can become a fairly big fish quite quickly here.
What do you love the most about Canberra?
I can’t imagine a better place in the world to live or raise a family. I’ve travelled extensively and the amazing things we have on our doorstep in Canberra are unbeatable. There is no consideration of logistics. I don’t have to worry about leaving early – I can go anytime I want, anywhere I want and I can get there on time. I can walk, ride or run in any direction and it’s enjoyable. I think we take it for granted, it’s a rare space.
For a peak into what Ken’s life looks like, check out his People of CBR campaign video.