Tesla chair Robyn Denholm predicts tech worker boom in western Sydney

Tesla chair Robyn Denholm expects a boom in technology-related jobs in western Sydney in the next five years, adding that the recent wipeout in global technology stock valuations would not hinder growth in the sector domestically.

“There are more than 100,000 people from across western Sydney working in technology-related jobs. We expect that number to boom over the next five years.” She did not quantify how much she expected those job numbers to expand.

Tesla chair Robyn Denholm says lower global tech company valuations don’t diminish the opportunity for the sector in Australia to be a “great exporter and also a huge creator of jobs”.Credit:Jessica Hromas

Denholm’s rosy predictions for the Australian tech sector come amid a gloomier picture overseas. In the United States, where there are predictions of a looming recession, as many as 20,000 tech workers have been laid off, including at companies such as Netflix and PayPal.

The job cuts in the US and the pandemic have seen many Australian expatriate tech workers return home.

Denholm says the growth in the Australian technology industry over the past three decades has made it a more attractive market for global talent.

“For my generation this was not an option. To get access to the best minds in technology you had to travel overseas to gain experience and be exposed to cutting edge, world-leading innovators.

“Now … we are seeing the great return of talent to this city and to our country, and even better our home-grown talent is staying home, creating some of the most exciting companies right here.”

Denholm, who is 59, and also chairs the Tech Council of Australia, cited companies such as Atlassian, Canva, Afterpay, Wisetech and Seek, as examples of homegrown start-ups that have been globally successful.

“Our success means that 2.2 per cent of the world’s tech unicorns [$1 billion companies] have come from Australia, even though our share of global GDP is just 1.6 per cent. It shows we can punch above our weight in the global tech race.”

Denholm made her comments in the keynote address at Business Events Sydney’s annual Ambassador Gala dinner on Thursday night, which was attended by business and tech leaders and politicians, including NSW premier Dominic Perrottet.

In May, the NSW government announced an $8 million Tech Central Research and Innovation Infrastructure Fund to help support the industry. While the federal government has pledged $1 billion for a Critical Technologies Fund.

Denholm said Australia needed to target strategic tech industries, which include areas such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence, robotics and software development.

After a decade of stunning growth, technology start-ups, venture capitalists and tech companies overseas are beginning to cut investment and lay off workers, amid growing concern about a slowdown in the world economy.

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk recently told employees he has a “super bad feeling” about the US economy. Musk has been widely criticised recently for launching an expensive bid for Twitter.

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk recently told employees he has a “super bad feeling” about the US economy.Credit:AP

In April, Musk made a $US44 billon ($63 billion) offer for the social media company.

Company earnings are softening as consumers and industries curb demand, amid soaring inflation and higher interest rates. In turn, this has battered stock prices.

“One of the questions I’ve been asked a lot recently is have we ‘missed the boat’, with global public company tech market valuations significantly below the levels of six months ago,” says Denholm.

“In my view, it’s important not to confuse relative valuations with opportunity. Lower valuations don’t diminish the opportunity for the sector to be a great exporter and also a huge creator of jobs.”

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