Leanne Kemp On A New Breed Of Values-Driven, Inclusive & Compassionate Leadership
Leanne Kemp is Founder and CEO of Everledger and Queensland Chief Entrepreneur. She is a prominent figure in the technology sector and recognised internationally as an innovator and leader. Her company Everledger uses Blockchain technology to track high-value assets such as diamonds, art and wine with the aim of increasing transparency and trust with technology.
Leanne co-chairs the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on the Future of Manufacturing and takes part in the Global Future Council on Blockchain. She also workstreams at the Global Blockchain Business Council, co-chairs the World Trade Board’s Sustainable Trade Action Group and is on the IBM Blockchain Platform Board of Advisors.
Leanne’s awards include the Advancing Identification Matters (AIM) Global Allan Gilligan Award 2019, Advance Global Australian Awards 2018 for Technology Innovation, and Innovator of the Year 2016 and 2018 at the Women in IT Awards (London).
In 2018, her entrepreneurial success saw her appointed as the Queensland Chief Entrepreneur in Australia, to develop the state’s startup ecosystem, attract investment and support job creation. She is the first female entrepreneur to hold this position. In 2019 her tenure as Chief Entrepreneur was extended for another year, the first time the role has been extended since its creation.
Leanne discusses the complexity of some of the global problems being faced, sharing insights into the need for social innovation to be diffused within every sector, whilst highlighting some of the great social enterprises operating out of Queensland.
Highlights from the interview (listen to the podcast for full details)
[Tom Allen] - Could you please share a bit about your background and what led to your work as Founder of Everledger and more recently as Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur?
[Leanne Kemp] - Well, I'm a Brisbane girl, so I went to school at Somerville House, not too far from here, proudly Queensland. I have a property in Samford Valley, so never too far from home from Silicon Valley to Samford Valley. Nonetheless, there's Wi-Fi in both locations, so it never stops me from working.
I'm a self taught engineer and have been working in technology since the mid-90s, so now I've pretty much given away my age Tom, a bit embarrassing, right? What a way to start the day!
More recently I've been titled as a serial entrepreneur, but I've never seen myself as an entrepreneur to be honest with you until more recently.
I am unemployable by virtue of how I think and even sometimes by the way I act. And what I mean by that is it's a square peg in a round hole. I often see things very differently and are able to bring together the patterns and the vision for the future and make it a reality for today.
I've had a number of businesses, started them successfully and even more successfully, exited those in various stages, and more recently began Everledger in the heart of London in April 2015. We have about 90 people across five operational centres in the world, so it's never ending.
It's a big gig, a big thing to be managing.
It certainly is…
On top of the role as the Chief Entrepreneur as well.
Well, I guess that's the unique proposition of being the Chief at this particular point in time. It's often called out as being the first female in the role. But I would probably say that it's more impressive to be running a business at the same time as being Queensland's Chief.
Yeah, definitely. So you've travelled extensively across Queensland in your time, [as Chief], and recently just did a regional tour. So what's your current take on the state of entrepreneurship in Queensland, and where do you see opportunities to improve our communities, particularly in some of these regional areas, which are facing some big challenges?
You know, I was so delightfully surprised running across most of regional Queensland because we truly have recognised our social entrepreneurs as a new breed of leadership. They're values-driven, they're inclusive, compassionate.
These are entrepreneurial individuals who develop sustainable business models, and whilst they're searching, in some respects, to reach beyond the paradigm of being a charity. This is really where parts of the challenges are for leadership in this social entrepreneurship or social enterprise realm.
But I'm delighted by the number of leading social entrepreneurs that I met across the last three to four months when we’ve been intently focused on meeting. I would say we have met over 150 [social enterprises] over the course of my time, and every time I meet, I'm delighted and surprised by the intent that sits within not just only the founders, but how they're bringing together the gravity pull of talented people within their businesses and driving for particular purpose.
It's very clear that, (Queensland, and even the world to a certain extent), there's no way that we can solve these large complex concerns that we have currently, and no single social entrepreneur and institution can tackle that alone. So for the first time, we do need to bring together the true coalition of the willing under a purpose and then pretty much reverse engineer how you would make that a sustainable business rather than leading out on profit-first endeavours.
Collective impact. Yeah, it is.
Some of these underlying causes run so deep in history and politics and culture that they're not easily solved fully just in a simple business plan or business model canvas, and the best solutions are often constrained by outdated rules and skewed power structures that exist.
So I think all kudos to everyone that has the bravery to leap forward first.
Wonderful. You spoke a little bit earlier about the charity mindset and how we could bring this really strong business mindset into social enterprise. Social enterprises operate with the majority of their revenue coming from trade. So how might we best raise awareness of social enterprise and change these mindsets so that we see business used as a force to tackle our most pressing social environmental issues?
It's interesting because I believe the two large lighthouse beacons that can come certainly from within our own government, and Minister Fentiman, just more recently, announced social enterprise and her policy and strategy moving forward from today.
And I think government leaders who harness the power of social innovation and social entrepreneurship through public good with policy regulations and public initiatives will be a guiding light for other entrepreneurs to follow.
But more so, I'm really interested in digging a bit deeper into our corporate relationships that we hold here across Queensland, because corporate social intrapreneurs that lead with regional companies or multinationals, where they can develop new products and initiatives and services or business models that address societal change and environmental challenges, for me is critically important. But here I am sitting in the heart of startup land, but the reality is if we are able to connect with large corporates and government and policy, then all the better fertile ground for the likes of startups and scale ups to be able to enjoy and forage.
There’s so much value that can be used within the ecosystem. I think corporates can play a really important part.
Yeah. And to see a strategy so quickly come to bear with Minister Fentiman is delight for me because…
…it's not necessarily painting the true picture of the future, but it's just opening the gate to fertile ground. So, you know, let the harvest begin.
Just last week that Minister Fentiman announced $450,000 of grants available for social enterprises across Queensland. So matched funding between $5,000 to $50,000 if you’re based in Queensland. You might want to check those out.
Leanne, you've spoken with over 150 social enterprises across Queensland, so what advice would you give to the social entrepreneurs listening who are working very hard to create impact?
I live in this utopic world of hope that potentially by 2030, and let's even say 2025, that social entrepreneurship is not called out as a separate category. That it is just how we are and who we are as a society. We need social innovation to be diffused within every sector so that we can adopt and adapt and diffuse and scale what is societal's research and development, right? What is possible and how is it sustainable?
But the biggest call out for me in early stage social entrepreneurs is to ensure that you lead with impact-first impressions, but to be able to truly understand the accounting.
The triple bottom line is starting to become known globally by large financial institutions like BlackRock and even Fidelity.
So I would spend as much time on the purpose as you will need to spend on the profit, because they do go hand in hand to ensure a sustainable model.
But in all of that, there has to be an ecosystem of pioneering actors who share a common purpose. And I'm glad that we're in a place where we can see this so very clearly across the threading of Queensland.
I 100% agree with the fact that I think social entrepreneurship as a term should be made redundant. It should just be business as usual, right?
Let's hope. Let's hope this is the case, that it becomes digitally ubiquitous as they say. Right?
You highlighted BlackRock and Larry Fink, in his letter a year or so ago, did highlight purpose and impact as being a really core part of business.
So what inspiring projects or initiatives have you come across recently, which you believe are creating some great positive social impact?
Well, I know I've only got about 60 seconds to answer that question but I can speak for about 60 minutes. There are incredible companies. One of the call outs for me on my flight back from Indonesia to Brisbane last night on the documentary channel from Jetstar was Orange Sky Laundry. Orange Sky are celebrating their fifth birthday next week. So happy birthday guys.
Big call out to Luke [Terry] and Vanguard Laundry. Both of them of course are pioneers when it comes to social entrepreneurship.
Xceptional; they are exceptional. In fact, they just won Pitch@Palace. They're working with adults and children with autism and enabling them to bridge across into well-versed careers in software testing or gaming.
Brisbane Tool Library. Big call out to Brisbane Tool Library. It's incredible. In fact, you know the Social Enterprise World Forum in Ethiopia is the third biggest in the [Australian] delegation with 60 odd people attending, and the founder of Brisbane Tool Library will be front and centre main stage exampling the work that has been brought about. I was in Townsville more recently, and in fact Townsville also has a tool library, so I'm hopeful this catches on.
One of the biggest surprises to me, which is really starting to create an impact boom in Brisbane is World's Biggest Garage Sale. Yas [Grigaliunas], is certainly one of the guiding lights for a great entrepreneur and a founder's spirit that runs deep, but impressive and incredible is the work that she's done in such a short period of time. There’s Bertonni, as well as PowerWells, who I just left in Indonesia and I experienced first-hand the impact that they're making, particularly in countries with vulnerable women. So well done guys. Well done.
Plenty of really inspiring projects there, Leanne.
So to finish off, what books or resources would you recommend to our listeners?
Ah, books and resources? To be honest with you, I'd love to say that I can rattle them all off from Reid Hoffman right the way through to Elon Musk on Twitter. But the reality is I spend a lot of my time in Harvard, so I go every year as a part of an executive program there. So I enjoy the resources of Harvard.
I do do a lot of reading. World Economic Forum, of course, holds an incredible amount of resources in education, and no better being more recently appointed as an Adjunct Professor for QUT. Then our very own universities right here. So I'd like to say that I read a lot of books, but the reality is I immerse myself only in three or four different channels and that's where I spend most of my time.
That itself, I think, is good advice, right? Cut all the crap.
Focus on the channels that provide the value and stick to them.
That's true. That's very true. And I think gaining access to academics provides for a good, solid foundation to not necessarily lead out in an education sense, but to also challenge the current thinking.