min read

Our top program picks of Tropical Innovation Festival 2024

Written by
Gemma Clancy
Published on

Tropical Innovation Festival is an event for the innovation ecosystem like no other.

Set over five days in Cairns, Far North Queensland, it offers locals and ‘southerners’ alike, the opportunity to take themselves out of their day-to-day bubble and connect with others in a uniquely Queenslander fashion.

The program is designed to educate and engage founders, investors, operators, ecosystem builders and enablers, while connecting them to build relationships that last beyond the festival days. Over 100 speakers make up the event program which spans across a vast array of topics including social impact, space and future technology and artificial intelligence, as well as pitch breakfasts, and less structured AMA sessions with investors, successful founders, and government and support agencies. And that’s only scratching the surface…!

Across such a jam-packed event, attendees will no doubt be overwhelmed with choice. Let’s take a look at a few of the speakers, sessions and side-events we’re most excited about for this year’s program.

The Great Barrier Reef. What better place to network and learn from some of Australia's top innovators..?

Innovators on the Reef

TIF is the proud host of the world's first conference held on a dive boat in the Great Barrier Reef, now in its fourth year. (Read a bit about the story behind it here!).

Yep, you heard that right. Lucky holders of a Gold Reef pass to TIF (now sold out!) will be networking and learning with unicorn founders, over 20 investors, and a bunch of subject matter experts, for a full day on a boat floating over one of the worlds’ most famous and treasured UNESCO world heritage sites.

Quantum in Queensland: PsiQuantum's Path Back to Australia 

As part of Wednesday evening’s networking drinks event, Dylan Saunders, Director of Quantum Systems Engineering at PsiQuantum will be delivering a short but no-doubt fascinating talk. PsiQuantum is the highly publicised recipient of ~$1B in government funding which comes under the new Future Made in Australia policy. As part of the funding deal, the company will be setting up its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Brisbane, creating approximately 400 new highly-skilled local jobs and putting Queensland in the box seat to be the future home of the world’s first “commercially useful quantum computer”. 

Nic Marchesi and his co-founder Lucas Pratchett

Using innovation and technology to drive social enterprise and impact, with Nicholas Marchesi

This is the session to attend if you’re looking for inspiration to make a positive impact on the world. Nicholas Marchesi, co-founder of Queensland-based not-for-profit mobile laundry and shower service Orange Sky, is arguably one of Australia’s best-known social impact entrepreneurs. Alongside his co-founder Lucas Patchett, the pair were named Young Australians of the Year in 2016 after founding the organisation in 2014. Orange Sky was the first of its kind in the world, supporting those experiencing homelessness and hardship with basic but essential and humanising services, with the help of volunteers who act not just as facilitators but conversationalists.

Investor Reverse-Pitches

How the tables turn… It’s usually founders sweating under the bright lights of the pitch stage, but in this session, nine investors will pitch their angel syndicates, venture debt and venture capital firms to a panel of founders ready to grill them on why they should take their money. Investors see A LOT of pitches every day, so we’re expecting them to be experts, of course. Founders - bring your notebooks and your (friendly) heckling comments! 😜

Vu Tran, co-founder of edtech unicorn, Go1

Vu's Views

This one is back by popular demand! Co-founder of Queensland-based edtech unicorn Go1, Vu Tran, will answer hard-hitting questions from the audience, received on the fly, giving them the chance to get truly authentic insights on his experiences as a leader of one of Australia’s most successful startups. Anyone who follows Vu on LinkedIn will have a sense of his unique sense of humour and openness to sharing his personal perspectives; from what we’ve heard, this is exactly what makes this session worth its weight in gold. 

In May this year Vu announced he’d be stepping back from the day-to-day operations of Go1 but didn’t reveal what his next steps would be, saying only “I wouldn’t be stepping back from Go1 unless there was something that I was truly passionate about that I can sink my teeth into…” Maybe the TIF audience will get the scoop on what he’s going to get up to next! 👀

Lightning Talks

This is not your normal pitch event. Not only because the talks are a super speedy three-minutes or less, but because it’s not just founders who will get the chance to take the stage, but anyone who is passionate about what they’re doing and wants to share it with the TIF crowd. What a fantastic way to get an overview of all the cool things a cross section of people from across the ecosystem are doing!

Poolside at the Novotel Oasis, Cairns - the primary hosting location of TIF 2024

Water Zumba & Morning Yoga

Multi-day conferences can be super draining - not just because you’re “on” for hours at a time, learning and networking, but because they often lack the opportunity to get your body moving and re-engage the mind-body connection which helps moderate the nervous system. So it’s refreshing to see the TIF program includes a couple of sessions to do just this, as well as the opportunity to take a dip in the Novotel Oasis pool just outside of where the sessions are held.

I’ll be joining the water Zumba and morning yoga sessions to help break up the surrounding sessions and also meet some other attendees in a setting that will no doubt break down our professional personas! 💃

Mastermind Room

This is where all the good stuff is shared… Founders and subject matter experts including Nic Marchesi (Orange Sky), Lucy Wark (Normal & Fuzzy), Scott Crowe (Canva) and Mitch King (Mutinex) will take the hot seat for 30 mins each and answer questions under Chatham house rules (nothing leaves the room), meaning founders can freely ask all those ‘dumb’ and sticky questions that keep them up at night, and hopefully get answers that unlock new ideas, opportunities or maybe just help them breathe a sigh of relief with their new-found knowledge in tow. Sign me up!

Women in Leadership Women in Lunch and Symposium

The final day of TIF is dedicated to showcasing inspiring women to share their stories of leadership and innovation; a fitting finish to an event co-founded by a powerhouse female duo in Tara Diversi and Kate Montgomery! 

Over lunch there will be a fireside chat between the Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce, former Australian Governor General, and local singer Grace Jones, each providing a view of leadership from their own generational perspective. Following some networking, Cathie Reid, founder of EPIC pharmacy and ICON cancer and medical group, future astronaut, investor, director and philanthropist will share her story of success. The day will be rounded out by a facilitated session to help attendees put the inspiring words they’ve heard into practice and some lightning pitches from emerging founders. This event requires a separate ticket purchase and is open to women and men of all ages and backgrounds.

Want to know more? Take a deeper look at the TIF Program or just cut to the chase and grab your TIF 2024 ticket before it’s too late!

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