I had the most incredible honour of being invited to make the main graduation address at the University of Western Australia on Saturday the 10th September 2016.  It felt like I was VIP for a week at the university I love so much, attending the Gravitational Waves talk by Dr David Blair, the University Senate dinner and finally the Graduation Ceremony each with the Chancellor Dr Michael Chaney.

But how do you cram the lessons of one’s life into 7 minutes?  I think I tried to speak faster in parts which was a mistake so here is the transcript for anyone who couldn’t hear it properly.

Introduction by the Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Johnson

Graeme is a Technology Entrepreneur, Kite-surfer and “Cloud Computing” pioneer.

He began studying Physics at UWA to fulfil a lifelong ambition to forge a career in Astrophysics. Disappointed at discovering there were better job prospects cray fishing he consulted other thought-leaders around the student pinball machines he graduated as a Chemist.  He says a short stint in industry shocked him into returning to UWA to complete a Computer Science degree.  Graeme started his first IT company the year he graduated.

In 1995, he mistakenly thought the Internet had plateaued, but saw a new amazing opportunity for ISPs to host applications.  Five years later the industry coined the term Application Service Provider (ASP) and his company Central Data Systems was one of the leading ASP’s in in Australia.  It thrived during the DOT.COM crash and his team continued innovating to launch a freemium Desktop-as-a-Service base open source software in 2005 called GoPC.net.  Graeme drove this from concept to commercialisation against mainstream thinking of the time.

After establishing a San Francisco office in 2008 the company found itself at the centre of the cloud computing revolution.  In 2009 GoPC.net was recognised as one of the leading cloud start-ups in Silicon Valley at Silicom Ventures Investment Summit at Stanford University.

In 2013, Graeme’s team patented a new cloud computing platform called Rainmaker which builds future-proof virtual computer desktops and can deploy thousands of these within a few minutes.  It was world-class, ground breaking technology recognised by Rackspace, profiled by tech evangelist Robert Scoble and was being considered for a pilot to 15,000  Stanford University staff when the company ran out of money.

Forced into a corner, Graeme applied a series of entrepreneurial lessons learned over a lifetime of innovation and risked everything pivoting the company to apply Rainmaker to solve a completely different problem.

The result is a new cyber device called BankVaultOnline.com which won the award of the world’s top FinTech Start-up at the World Cup Tech Challenge host by Microsoft and Silicon Valley Forum.  

BankVault stops bank accounts from being hacked.  It is relevant to every organisation and individual who needs to do secure online transactions.

Graeme’s ambition when he sells the company is to return to UWA to finish his Astrophysics degree and get a job with the Square Kilometre Array telescope.  Or if BankVault is successful then perhaps he’ll just build his own SKA.


University of Western Australia

Graduation Address to Engineering, Science, Maths and Computer Science.

by Graeme Speak   10th September 2016


This is a very special day for me of course because I was a graduate here many years ago.  I remember that day well because I hadn’t had many arguments with my father but that was one day we had one big stand-up blue.   I was over ceremonies and just didn’t want to go.   Finally Dad said “Graeme, this is not about you. It’s for your mother and I.  And by the way you’re coming whether you like it or not”.

I’m lucky enough to have my Mother and Father are here with me again today.  And it’s just as well because when I was getting nervous about making this speech Dad said ….“Graeme, this is not about you. It’s for your mother and I and them.  And by the way you’re coming whether you like it or not”.


My team and I invented a little device called BankVault. It stops cyber criminals accessing your bank account.

In 2019 cyber-crime will grow from what is today a $500 Billion problem to reach $2 Trillion worldwide. BankVault is potentially a $multi-Billion opportunity for us.

On the 1st of June we won Top Fintech Start-up worldwide in Silicon Valley at the World Cup Tech Challenge.

So to get the business out of the way quickly, I’ve got a little bag of these here under my arm and will be out the back later if anybody would like to buy one.


I’m extremely honoured to be here today.  Although I am here on the dais under the spotlights this is all about honouring each of you graduates.   And if there’s a message that I want to deliver today it is:

  • Follow your dreams passionately and don’t hold back for anything.
  • If there is a theme for my talks it is:  TAKE RISKS !

Stanford University and UWA are identical, Brick-for-Brick. The architecture is the same.  But that’s where the analogies stop.  I heard one of the university professors tell me recently that when she asked her final year class “Who here wants to be an entrepreneur when they finish”, not a single person put up their hand. If I had asked that same question at Stanford University there would not be a single hand held down.

  • So why is this?
  • This is what we have to change.


To share a little bit about my story.  I guess I graduated a pretty mediocre student. Every semester I had fallen in love with another girl it hadn’t worked out just as exams were beginning.  Truth be known I never studied for exams.

My career advice really did come from my peers around the pin ball machines.  And when I realised finally that my life and dreams were ruined, I finally took stock and listened to my own instincts.  That was when I decided to knuckle down and choose  Computer Science to be my career.

I enrolled too late. I was desperate. However the Dean (is he still sitting here on the dais behind me?) said I was too late. The course was full.  The answer is NO!

But I was highly motivated and so that NO didn’t stop me.  I simply came up after my work as a Chemist and sat in on every lectures.  Eventually, many, many weeks later they let me in.

  • This proves that 80% of success is just from turning up!

I studied Full-time while Working Full-time.

  • It wasn’t hard, it was exhilarating.
  • I had discovered that following my passion was easy.

While I was at university I was also diagnosed with a neuro-muscular problem and I do at times struggle to even stand up without tablets.  What seemed a real problem for me had a counter effect which in retrospect has become an incredible asset?  You see I never wanted to miss out on anything and there was no option for me other than to continuously keep striving.  I knew nothing else and excuses didn’t exist.  That that embedded one particularly important quality in me to which I realise I now owe my success and that is:


With that backdrop I have 3 very short stories.


 1st  Story:   Don’t Watch the Clock.

My friend’s father, John Georgeson once said to me:  “Graeme, do you want to wait to the end of your life and then wonder if you might have made a success with that idea”?   That was enough to kick me in the pants and I took the leap.

I started my first software company straight out of University.  I worked 120 hours/week for 2 years.  I took on 3 partners, each 30 years my senior, who then swindled me.  I lost everything.

What was worse than that is that to get complete control of the company they went out of their way to crush my self-confidence, which they almost did.  At rock bottom I had to start-building again from first principals. It was hard. Miraculously over the next 2 years everything went full circle. Obviously I was the only guy doing the real work and they crashed without me.  I was re-united with my inventions, my brain-child. You can’t imagine how that feels.  I actually still run that business today, some 30 years on.

Lesson I learned:

  • Work hard and you’ll do well.
  • Nobody can ever take away what you know.
  • Business is simple. Do a good job and people ask you back.


2nd Story:  Timing is Everything.  Yet Tenacity Outlives Time

My team created some incredible technology. We grew to 16,000 users worldwide.  I moved to the US and set up an office in Silicon Valley and discovered we were 10 years ahead of them. We had pioneered what became Cloud Computing.

I cut a deal with Yahoo! and was in the midst of a deal with Swiss Telecom when the Global Financial Crisis hit.  On a flight back to Australia and literally as I was landing Lehman Brother’s went broke in 2008 triggering the GFC.  We were out of money and the funding we were going to receive evaporated. And so started what I call the Long Dark Winter.

We sacked the sales guys and focused on our R&D which is where our core strength was.  We started what we thought was an 8 week project. Every 8 weeks we would stop and look again and it would still be 8 weeks out.  It became this endless horizon.  It was like going to work every day and digging your grave deeper.  And it was soul destroying.  What else do you do?  At what point do you decide to quit?


That lasted for 27 months.  And the day we broke through, it felt like we had dug right through to the other side of the world.  We were flying high. It was unbelievable.

We Patented something really incredible. We called it Rainmaker.

  • It was Future-Proof IT.
  • And we could build it within seconds.


Lessons we learned:

  • Tenacity is like a river – it outlasts every obstacle.
  • From Silicon Valley – Validate everything you’re working on FIRST.  Then invest behind success.


 3rd Story:  The Entrepreneurs Roller-coaster

Being an entrepreneur is an up and down roller-coaster ride and at any one point in time you can only look straight ahead.

We were looking at doing a Pilot with Stanford University, which is incredible – it’s the heart of Silicon Valley.  And all we could see was the Stratosphere.

Then suddenly a few bumps in the road  and we’re looking at the horizon.  It’s OK, we can still do this.

Then suddenly we are running short of money.  We can see the ground coming up at us rapidly.

And when you experience this, what happens is

  • Your ears start ringing
  • Your eyes go out of focus
  • Your heart is pounding
  • You’re looking at Oblivion in the face.
  • It is the end of everything you know.  Your career. Your family’s future.
  • There is nothing more scary.

<long pause>

What happens is that when you’re in that situation and you are painted into a corner, you learn that you can climb the walls.

  • You get out of your comfort zone.  You talk to people you would never normally talk to at a very deep personal level about your fears, what’s going on and what you need.  Because you cannot imagine what’s in those other people’s universes.
  • And that’s where the magic happens.  That is what the whole of life is actually about.

<long pause>

What happened is that 2 days before we were going to close the business we got funded.  It was a Fairy Tale.  The guy who backed us was the top IT advisor in Western Australia for the last 20 years.  He totally backed everything we were doing.

On the back of that we pivoted and turned our technology to address this issue of cyber hacking.  We found the same technology had 1,000x leverage on what we were doing previously.  And that is now BankVault.


The story is not over.  We are still right in the middle of it. But I’ve been pushing this wheel barrow uphill against mainstream thinking for 20 years and suddenly it’s become easy.  Everybody gets it now in half a sentence.  I think we’re probably going to make it.  I could still end up working for the council next year – but I reckon we’re there.


There is one important point I want to make about all this.

  • If I can do this myself against the odds with just a little tenacity then honestly any one of you can do it.


5 quick bullet points to end.

  • Dreams are important. Follow your Dreams.  They are what has created everything.
  • Doing something 99% is hard. Doing it 100% is easy because there is nothing else to do.
  • A persons worth is not what they’ve done but what they’re about to deliver.
  • If you met yourself as a 7 year old child, what advice would you give yourself based on what you know today? For me it is  “Don’t care about what others think, just Go Full Tilt”.
  • And the single most important ingredient of success is this: When you’re defeated and crushed, find another reason to stand up and keep going. That’s how you grow and take lessons into the future.


Congratulations to everyone graduating from here today, the University of Western Australia.


How is it that a blog post can be delayed so long when so much is going on?

The question answers itself. Since pivoting our GoPC Rainmaker technology into BankVault 20 months ago everything has been on steroids. The team have:

  • evolved out Raspberry Pi model through several generations into a miniature USB thumb drive. We released a massive version 2.0 of that today with another cool development which we’re lodging another patent application on.
  • we’ve built out our team with top level senior managers
  • we’ve released BankVault-Web and BankVault-App which are now rebranded as BankVault-Professional
  • we’ve introduced temporary storage, virtual keyboard, and other features making the technology even more secure.
  • we’ve re-architected the back end systems and refining this further to create an Enterprise version.
  • we won the Fintech category of the World Cup Tech Challenge in Silicon Valley on 1st June 2016. With the media interest etc I lost at least a couple of weeks of emails that I’ll never get back to.
  • we’ve set up a Sydney office and I’ve moved to live on the east coast.
  • we’ve taken further investment and chasing a new round again now.

Each one of these bullet points deserve a blog post in their own right.  There’s just not enough time to do it.   So with space for only one picture here is winning the Top Fintech Startup (pre-global stage) at Micrsoft’s campus Silicon Valley.

[Silicon Valley Microsoft Campus]

I’m still on this incredible ride. If I distill it into a single point reason – we worked out how to narrow our focus on one specific acute pain point. There’s still dozens of other things we can be doing but the game now is go narrow and deep to allow us to then expand exponentially.

And the near term future is all about providing:

  • Safe Environment where no ransomware can run.
  • Bundle insurance with BankVault.
  • Channel Partnerships

My team amazed me recently by pitching a new cyber security angle for GoPC. It was under our nose the whole time but it took Corrado Fiore our Solutions Architect talking to Peter McCredie our new head of Marketing for the lights to come on.

After days of grueling debate we tested our hypothesis in the market and over the last 2 months every single business we’ve pitched to has bought it asked for an evaluation.  We even have a government department and one of Australia’s largest banks now evaluating it.

BankVault was born. It’s literally 10x easier to sell, it’s 10x higher margin, and spearheads everything else we do. We’ve lodged a new patent application and now investing behind success to grow this derivative product that runs on the Rainmaker platform.




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One entrepreneurs journing: pitching, raising, hustling and risking everything.

Here’s a talk I made last week about my entrepreneurial journey and some of the war stories. I personally find the war stories to be the most interesting and so I decided to share some of ours.

Morning Startup, a vibrant group of entrepreneurs who turn up at 7:30am every second Wednesday. There were 70 registrations which is a remarkably strong group.



Andreesson and other Silicon Valley VCs have chimed in warning on the growth of vacuumous business models built on hype and hope.

My own lesson from surviving the GFC in Silicon Valley was the sooner you work on the hardest issue of all, what it takes to get a customer to pull out their credit card, the better off you and your investors will be. The day investment sentiment turns is the day you need to be viable. For most SMB entrepreneurs revenue is fundamental but Startup entrepreneurs think they can out smart that fundamental. Some do but for every one that does thousands vaporize. A proportion of those could have done it better and become viable businesses.

GoPC moved away from a Freemium model straight after the GFC. I remember meeting the CEO of Gh.o.st in 2009 when they had some 700,000 subscribers. I asked him how they were monetizing and he told me they had ideas but being funded by Sequoia Capital this wasn’t urgent. The following year they ran out of funds and were shutdown.

We actually tried a Freemium model again in 2013 with Rainmaker. Consumers were able to get a complete virtual machine free and simply pay for add-on applications and storage. We finally accepted that Rainmaker should just target SMEs, not consumers. They have much deeper pockets and real IT problems that need to be solved. I’m happy to say its working.

And this month we just starting trialing another consumer play with a new technology product called Raindrop, but it’s monetizing from day one.  http://raindrop.gopc.net.

I seriously love this technology.

Western Australia is becoming one of the main two supercomputing centres on the planet in the coming years with the massive SKA project (Square Kilometre Array telescope).

The Pawsey supercomputer called Magnus has just been commissioned this month and has broken the PetaFLOP (one quadrillion floating point operations per second) barrier.

In one second, Magnus is able to perform more calculations than the entire population of Australia could in 21 years.

Magnus Supercomputer Sep2014

On Thursday 25th Sept 2014, I’m presenting the background story of technology innovation, evolution and entrepreneurship that went into creating GoPC.net.

Hosted by Engineers Australia, ITEE, IICA, IET and IEEE at the Engineers Australia Auditorium, 712 Murray Street, West Perth, Australia. The event is catered with food and drinks so includes small $30 cover charge.

If interested in coming along then here is the Flyer and Registration page: http://tinyurl.com/q5ju3gn

IEEE 2014 Event Sponsor GoPC.net - Flyer

The interview with Robert Scoble in San Francisco after GoPC.net was recognised by Rackspace’s Australian CTO Alan Perkins.

Big thanks to Robert for the invitation to be interviewed.

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Woohoo indeed!

GoPC.net is through to the penultimate round of a startup competition being run out of London. 1,000 startups from 72 countries vying for $1.7m investment.

I’m not reading too much into this but its reassuring to make the shortlist. I’m not surprised – we have some cracking good innovotions. I expect there would still be 100 in the race which puts us somewhere amongst the top 10% of startups applying from all over the world.

Next to sharpen the pitch.   I’m also preparing to return to Silicon Valley in 3 weeks and for Robert Scoble’s video.  Although its busy these things layer on one another as good practice runs.


eGroup.org.au have asked me to present the background war stories behind GoPC.net  It’s very much a personal story of an entrepreneur’s awakening which I hope will be interesting and useful.

GoPC was recognised at Silicom Ventures Summit at Stanford University in 2009 as one of the leading Cloud Computing startups in Silicon Valley.  When the GFC hit we elected to self fund and keep control but the last 4 years have been as tough as a long dark winter. This month however I am returning to Silicon Valley to launch a truly ground breaking new technology code-named “Rainmaker”.  Rackspace.com invited us to present Rainmaker and have recommended further investation be done.  Robert Scoble, a prolific technology evangelist followed by 4,000,000 influential early-adopters, has arranged a video interview with me next month that will launch GoPC like nothing else could.

So what are the lessons learned over the last 9 years that increase our likelihood of success?  Where are the risks?  Should we raise more capital and lose control after having conquered all the hurdles? This will be an interactive presentation where I’ll be happy to share my own insights and answer questions.

Registration beforehand is needed for catering:    https://egroup.tidyclub.com/public/events/394-september-forum-gopc-case-study

I apologise the event isn’t free.  eGroup charge $25 to non-members to cover costs which includes finger food and drinks.  The venue is at Wray and Associates Patent Attorneys in West Perth.

I’m personally inviting those who have in some direct way helped or inspired me along this journey.  I really look forward to sharing Tuesday evening with you.

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