When a child is first learning to wield a cricket bat, can you harness technology to map their potential and, ultimately, identify the next Don Bradman?

And, if you can, what kind of competitive advantage and value does that create – not only for kids pursuing sporting dreams, but also for sports clubs, academies and even national sporting bodies? And could it even drive greater participation in sport to improve a population’s overall wellbeing?

They’re questions Matt Gooden posed as the co-founder of an early-stage tech startup that explored the concept of talent identification among sporting kids through anatomical, physiological and behavioural mapping.

On the surface his role as Datacom’s Chief Innovation and Technology Officer might seem a world away but the common thread is Matt’s philosophy that innovation – through the smart application of technology – is all about creating value.

Systems thinking

Matt has honed his understanding of how to create value for businesses in a range of roles and fields, spanning large global companies and startups.

Matt joined Datacom when he took on his role in June last year; before that he ran the Innovation Centre for NTT Australia – consulting C-level executives on strategy and innovation through the lens of digital transformation.

But despite forging a highly successful tech career, he was initially drawn to the world of science.

“Towards the end of high school we looked at genetic engineering – the ability to genetically modify a tomato to produce penicillin, for example, and literally get medicine from eating food,” he recalls.

“The idea of being able to pull apart genetic sequences and reconstruct them to create something with more value really blew my mind.”

He completed an applied science degree in medical biotechnology, but after moving into scientific research and realising funding in the sector was challenging, he made the shift to tech.

“It was a great time to join the tech industry because there was an acceleration of wide-spread technology adoption across corporate and consumer segments. I very quickly discovered I could apply my skills in understanding how systems work to drive value creation through technology.”

He spent four years working for an investment bank in London, gaining exposure to the high-end technology systems used by everyone from back-office staff to traders in a large, global business.

“For example, we were looking at high-end trading algorithms that would analyse markets and data feeds, and execute trades automatically. It gave me an appreciation of how technology can drive real competitive advantage in certain industries at global scale.”

Matthew Gooden Article Image

Startup credentials

Around five years ago, Matt gained a Master’s in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, but his understanding of the necessity for innovation to drive business value was sharpened by working on early-stage startups.

“There’s a phrase that’s used in the startup world – ‘MTB’, or ‘months to bankruptcy’. That keen understanding of your runway of available cash sharpens the senses, and keeps your line of sight focused on ‘what is the problem we’re solving, and how is that creating value?’”

Matt says traditional approaches to technology innovation in established businesses typically involve deploying large capital investment in long-term projects in the hope they will yield positive results.

But Matt prefers to follow a different path – more akin to the startup journey.

“I’ve found using an agile and iterative approach to value testing and value creation is more interesting than following a predetermined project plan because it allows you to explore. If you’re constantly asking and testing ‘what is the problem and is it worthwhile solving?’ you have a better understanding of the friction, and how to use technology to unplug that.”

At home with innovation

Datacom’s agile approach was one of the factors that drew Matt to the company.

“Datacom has the critical mass to attract major clients, such as the Australian Government Department of Health, but it’s not so big and rigid that it can’t change direction.”

“I saw that the company was making some smart investments in its own business innovation and transformation, such as adopting agile ways of work across the organisation.”

“Datacom is also embracing new technologies to support its customers – such as artificial intelligence, automation and digital experience technologies – and in doing so, it is structuring itself to support the changing market landscape.”

Ultimately, he says, execution is key.

“Innovation without execution is just ideation. Everyone is full of good ideas, but you have to execute to create real impact.”

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