From LA to SA: innovator Tom explores new territory


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By Lana Guineay

It feels like a million miles away – but from his home in the scrub on the Fleurieu Peninsula, international innovator Tom Hajdu stays connected with the world.

“The world has shrunk. I wake up early in the morning and I speak to people in New York and L.A. and in the evenings, Europe.”

Co-founder of one of the largest music production companies in the world and the state’s first Chief Innovator, Tom, originally from Canada, has been based in New York and Los Angeles. But after combing the world for a place to live and work in 2015, he chose to call South Australia home.

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The Internet allows us to be based anywhere in the world – so why did Tom choose South Australia?

The entrepreneur says the choice was easy.

“I’ve looked at the other most ‘liveable cities’ in the world, but for me, South Australia is a very special place,” Tom says.

The state “not only offers global opportunity but a lifestyle reminiscent of the best parts of Southern California.”

“There are only six Mediterranean climates in the world, so it’s very similar to California – but with the nature of 100 years ago, the quality of life of 50 years ago, and the technology of today.”

Among his renowned accomplishments Tom is CEO of Disrupter, a company developing innovative and creative technology, and was co-founder of tomandandy in New York in 1990, which used new technology to lower music production costs.

As the state’s Chief Innovator, Tom provides strategic advice on innovation opportunities that have the potential to improve South Australia, like the GigCity initiative which is set to make Adelaide the most connected city in the southern hemisphere, with affordable, ultra-fast internet for business and start-ups. Tom believes the initiative “provides South Australia with the infrastructure to compete on a world stage.”

Receiving Australia’s Distinguished Talent Visa, Tom could live anywhere in the country. Searching for a new city, Tom created his own checklist – and SA fit the bill best.

“I had travelled to Australia with my partner a number of times, and we just kept coming back to Adelaide and to the Willunga Basin, which is a very special area.”

“While I could give you economic data, there are a string of reasons,” he adds.

“We have the best food and wine in the world, our geographic location in Asia is among the fastest growing middle class in the history of the planet, the people are friendly, humble, hard-working, of good character, the quality of life is amazing.

“Adelaide isn’t going to be a well-kept secret for long!”

The second piece of the puzzle is infrastructure.

With the southern hemisphere’s most advanced bio-medical precinct, the roll out of Gig City, a strong knowledge base across the three universities, and Australia’s first ever innovation district in Tonsley, South Australia has the infrastructure to support some of the core industries of the future; an area where Tom feels right at home.

“South Australia is THE place in Australia for big data and new space,” he says. “We have more investment in starts ups in new space than the rest of Australia together.”

Adelaide is set to host the Hybrid World and Open State festivals, as well as the Astronautical Congress, which promote ideas, explore cutting-edge technology, and showcase innovation and creativity. Adelaide is also home to Techstar’s first accelerator program in the Asia-Pacific.

Tom says this convergence of factors makes the state well positioned to face the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, transforming from a physical to a digital economy.

“There’s a buzz here,” he says. “All these pieces together are creating the right conditions and opportunities right now.”

His enthusiasm for the state is contagious – but what can we do better?

“South Australians are very humble people, that’s the good news – the challenge is: South Australian people are very humble people. We have to be proud. We should be proud, we deserve to be proud of all the things that we’ve already accomplished.”

“We’re very fortunate in how we’re positioned demographically and economically going forward, as well as lifestyle. We’re in a unique position, and I’m grateful to live here.”

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