UTS honours two of Australia’s most successful tech entrepreneurs

13 October 2017

George Koukis

Two of Australia’s most successful entrepreneurs, who both founded businesses from humble beginnings to become global powerhouses, have been honoured by UTS this week for their contribution to business leadership and the community.

UTS conferred a Doctor of Business (honoris causa) on George Koukis, Founder and Director of pioneering tech giant Temenos, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to entrepreneurship, software development and for his commitment to building future generations of leaders in business and the wider community.

Koukis, who arrived in Australia in 1971 with only $140 in his pocket and speaking barely a word of English, graduated with a Diploma of Technology in Commerce from UTS in 1979. He held leadership roles at Qantas, before founding Tenenos in 1986, which is today Europe’s fourth largest software company, with a market capitalisation of more than US$5 billion.

Through Temenos, Koukis has transformed the global fintech industry, said UTS Vice-Chancellor Attila Brungs at ceremony held in the UTS Great Hall.

“George is a staunch proponent of ethical leadership – in all his business interests it has been a core focus,” Professor Brungs said. “The transformative approach of Temenos is due to this focus, and George has been an inspirational demonstrator of ethical leadership.”

Koukis has also founded the global ‘Future Leaders for the World’ program, which teaches ethical leadership skills, held in a different international location each year.

“George has made outstanding contributions to a plethora of fields, including entrepreneurship, software development, fintech and other innovative industries and has provided philanthropic support for medical research, education, music and the arts,” said Professor Brungs.

Koukis is currently the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Classical Opera, a non-profit organisation based in the United Kingdom. He is also a board member in seven private companies, acting mainly in IT and green technologies.

His philanthropic efforts also have seen the establishment of the George Koukis Paediatric Rheumatology Clinic at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, and he is also a supporter of the UTS Luminaries Scholarship Fund, providing a range of programs and opportunities for UTS students. He is a Fellow of King’s College London and an Honorary Adjunct Professor in the UTS BusRecalling his time studying at what was then the NSW Institute of Technology, Koukis said that the flexibility and practical elements of his degree provided a solid platform in the business world.

“What I appreciate now after 46 years since I first started at UTS, is that it was not about studying theory only, which is very important for me. It is the fact that most of the UTS staff have practical experience. It’s like getting advice not from someone who simply read a book and uses attractive words, but from someone who has done it before, experienced it, and is speaking from a position of knowledge.”

Fellow UTS graduate and business leader, Richard White, was admitted as a Fellow of the University (honoris causa) of UTS in recognition of his outstanding contribution to technology, business leadership and the UTS community.

Cathering Livingstone presenting Richard White with award

A former musician, who repaired guitars for Australian rock bands AC/DC and The Angels, White founded software company WiseTech Global in his basement in the Sydney suburb of Newtown in 1994. The company is now one of the leading global developers of cloud-based technology for the logistics industry, providing software for the world’s largest transport companies. In 2016, White listed WiseTech Global on the Australian Stock Exchange, and the company has since doubled its market capitalisation to be valued at $2 billion.

“Richard’s technology and business leadership has clearly demonstrated that Australian enterprises can innovate technically without having to take their ideas offshore; and that they can become dominant players in the global economy,” said UTS Provost and Senior Vice-President, Professor Andrew Parfitt at the ceremony.

“Richard has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of society in Australia and overseas, and employs thousands of people globally; providing them with a knowledge-rich work environment which facilitates personal growth and intellectual development. His commitment to the lifelong education of his staff is exemplary and sets him apart from many other employers.”

White completed a Master of Business and Technology at UTS in 2002, which assisted in strengthening his plans around global supply and logistics chains.

“I did a lot of work during my master’s degree to try and figure out what the future held for my business,” said White in his occasional address. “I would not have been able to take that business that I built in 1994 to where it is today had I not had that experience.

“It’s very unusual for a CEO of a company, however large or small or successful, to decide to come back and do a master’s degree. I’m incredibly glad that I did, and I’m incredibly glad that I met the student cohort, the academics and lecturers that I did, because it fundamentally gave me the future.”

Professor Parfitt added: “The international standing of his innovative products demonstrate the value of the relevant and innovative research conducted during his tenure as a Master of Business and Technology student; research that contributed to the strategic transformation of his enterprise from a local operation to a global one.

“His company models UTS’s aspirations for its students, which is to be entrepreneurial and committed to lifelong learning.”

As a passionate advocate for creating pathways for students to enter the IT industry, White maintains a close connection with UTS, sponsoring a number of students in the Bachelor of Information Technology program, providing student internships, as well as sponsoring many of his own staff to undertake the Master of Business and Technology.

Addressing hundreds of graduating Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology students at the ceremony, White said: “Every one of you can be a change agent for the future. Every one of you can help make the university better. Every one of you can help change society for the better, and every one of you can be part of the future that we are all going to live in.”

Story by Alex Wise