Bio: Vogue says ‘Get to know Mikaela Jade, CEO of Indigital’.

Based in Kakadu, Jade’s company InDigital work to develop innovative new ways to digitise and translate knowledge and culture from remote and ancient communities.  Her company works with some of the most remote Peoples’ on earth using cutting edge digital technologies to translate cultural knowledge within their communities; showcase their cultural heritage to their visitors in compelling ways; and create jobs from the digital economy. 

A proud Cabrogal woman, she was chosen as one of 21 Indigenous entrepreneurs to attend the Prime Minister’s Reception for Indigenous Innovators and Entrepreneurs in Canberra. She is also a United Nations Permanent Forum Indigenous Issues delegate, Tribal Link Alumni member (New York), Professional Associate of the University of Canberra and Fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Program.

What do you do?
We’ve built an Indigenous Augmented Reality (AR) Storytelling Platform that brings cultural places, objects, and artworks to life in walking, talking, singing 3D. It’s a little like Pokemon’ Go but for Indigenous knowledge systems that translate cultural stories in Indigenous languages first, and other languages second. Our digital AR platform is for bringing stories to life that will improve the lives of all Peoples’. The app works by using image recognition technologies to ‘see’ cultural stories in the landscape, in cultural objects and cultural artworks.

What is your background?
Like most Indigenous women I am multi-faceted! I’m a Mum to two girls. My cultural background as a descendent of the ‘last’ Cabrogal Woman born on the banks of the Georges River in Sydney means I’m deeply immersed in my cultural background. My education background is an Environmental Biologist, and I had 14 years in national park services around Australia working on the intersection of natural, cultural and economic development in natural environments. I have also been a public servant in the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and the Department of Innovation working on national policy agendas and big programs. For the past 2 years I’ve been a business owner of a remote area Indigenous technology company creating augmented reality storytelling that doesn’t require the internet. I’ve also been a delegate at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York during this time, advocating for international Indigenous digital rights.

Tell us a little about what you are working on right now:
Right now my life is a little bit crazy! I’ve just launched The Dilly Box – an online subscription type service that connects female Indigenous entrepreneurs from Northern Australia to markets in the cities. At the same time I’m packing 1000 boxes of augmented reality cards to use as rewards for our upcoming Kickstarter to raise funds for more Indigenous augmented reality storytelling. I’ve also created an online augmented reality t-shirt shop and am doing a lot of public speaking and media interviews to promote my company and the important work we do.

What inspired this idea?
Worlds collided at the right time. I had been visiting a cultural site on my Country wondering what the story was. Shortly after that I was able to have a try of augmented reality at the University of Canberra back in 2012. It was basic, but triggered an idea during a shower to connect cultural places with augmented reality. Indigital was born after a long period of self-funding and very small grant funded prototyping. I was able to meet the Prime Minister in February 2016, which kicked off a funding round to build the platform. We’ve spent the last 11 months immersed in technology and storytelling methodology and are happy to say that we’ve finished the build.

What is the most challenging thing about this project?
Living in two worlds every step of the way. I work in a startup world that demands speed and agility, and an ancient world that demands time and certainty. It’s been a challenge to balance the two worlds while creating a technology output and community outcomes while keeping a hungry startup fed!

What is your favorite part of your job?
Dispelling myths about Indigenous capabilities in the cutting edge technology sector. In 90 seconds we can completely change the dialogue from one about Indigenous disadvantage in the tech sector, to Indigenous advantage in the digital economy!

What is your biggest accomplishment?
Creating an Indigenous storytelling augmented reality app that works without the internet, in the most remote places in the world, to share the world’s oldest knowledge systems for the benefit of Indigenous Peoples’ and other cultures.

Do you have any advice for women wanting to enter this industry?
I have so much to say about this! My top 5 tips are: 1. Invest in yourself to learn about business and entrepreneurship before you spend money on technology – there is a lot of bullshit out there about the tech startup world that wastes time and money! 2. You don’t have to know how to code to make it in the tech sector – have the vision, and find someone with coding skills to help you build it. 3. Build the most diverse team you can afford to make sure you have a global mindset 4. Work with people who have already been successful 5. Unashamedly ask for what you need – most people want to help.

Who inspires you the most?
Anyone who’s had the guts to follow their plan for a better future for the next generation.

What motivates you to keep going?
I’m a simple human. Encouragement from others keeps me going.

How do you create balance in your life?
I’m really not the best person to ask about this! Usually when my body or mind collapses I understand it’s time out.

According to you, what is the definition of success?
This is a really interesting question and my answer is probably a bit meta! My definition of success is the moment that you really understand and believe that you define your own success. This realization hit me like a ton of bricks recently and it was truly an epiphany that released me from the pressures I was putting myself under.

What is your opinion on eco-friendly brands?
Mandatory. I’m an Indigenous woman and an environmental biologist so I probably don’t have to explain this!

Best beauty advice/tip:
Order more Briese Botanicals.

Words to live by:
Write down your own definition of success then go and make it happen.


Where to find Mikaela: