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40 Under 40 winner of the day: Michelle Perugini


Combining a background in health and medical research with the rising power of artificial intelligence is helping entrepreneur Dr Michelle Perugini become a leading technology innovator.

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Perugini spent a decade as a stem cell biologist with SA Pathology and then UniSA while establishing her first startup. ISD Analytics created the award-winning predictive analytics product Simulait before the company was bought out by Ernst & Young in 2015.

In 2017, Dr Perugini co-founded two more AI startups, Life Whisperer and Presagen, with her husband Don Perugini.

Presagen has an advanced AI platform for automating human behaviour, as well as image-based medical diagnostics. Life Whisperer uses AI to better select healthy embryos for IVF, and to ultimately improve outcomes for couples wanting to have children.

Dr Perugini, who is also is on the University of South Australia Advisory Board, was named a winner of the inaugural InDaily 40 Under 40 Awards in June.

We asked the 37-year-old some more about doing business in South Australia.

What do you believe are the strengths of doing business in South Australia?

The major strength of doing business in SA is the collaborative, small and connected culture. Strong entrenched networks can be created and fostered. There is also a shift toward innovation and entrepreneurship that is infiltrating universities, commercial enterprise and is driving the startup ecosystem.

What do you believe are the weak points of conducting business in South Australia?

One of the biggest challenges of conducting business in SA is the lack of customers and large commercial enterprise. The city is very public sector-oriented and the risk-averse nature of government makes it difficult for enterprises to engage, particularly at the trial and test phase of start-ups.

Do you see your future in South Australia?

I run two AI businesses which I hope to keep in SA. I hope to be able to continue to draw on the exceptional talent we have in this state from universities and the defence sector. We always go global from day one but hope to keep our HQs firmly in SA, provided the right supportive ecosystem is in place. This includes access to talent, funding, and customers. Each of those things is incredibly important and will drive the success or failure of startups.

How can the state encourage more of its young leaders to stay?

One of the key factors is building a supportive ecosystem that creates industries and business opportunities for young leaders. We need to stop trying to get enterprise to relocate to SA in order to create jobs, and instead should focus on building our own enterprise. This means supporting the entire ecosystem from startup to scale-up to mature enterprise.  Our focus should not be on jobs and growth it should be on innovation and industry development which is far more sustainable long-term.

More about 40 Under 40

An assessment panel representing the South Australian business community judged hundreds of nominees for the inaugural 40 Under 40 awards, which aim to identify and promote a new generation of local leaders under the age of 40.

The final 40 includes a hugely varied collection of South Australian talents, who are making a mark in fields such as health, technology, the media, property, social innovation, agriculture, finance, the law, and much more.

For the full list of 40 Under 40 winners go here.

40 Under 40 is an InDaily initiative supported by the following partners:

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