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Meet the wildlife-obsessed tech entrepreneur whose goal is to put herself out of business

Camille Goldstone-Henry

Camille Goldstone-Henry kickstarted an amazing career as a wildlife conservation scientist, until she discovered a problem only technology would solve

“If you could define my childhood, it’s a little bit wildlife-obsessed,” says Camille, who grew up in New South Wales, and remembers spending much of her time either at the beach or in the bush, searching for critters like hermit crabs or stick insects to take home.

Fast-forward to her study and career path, and you could probably define it the same way.

“Science has always been on the cards for me,” she says. Camille’s favourite subjects in high school were biology and chemistry, and for a time she considered becoming a vet. But she also knew she wanted to work with wildlife in its natural habitat rather than look after cats and dogs in a clinical environment. Then she discovered the Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience at a University of Sydney open day and was sold. 

Compared to studying a straight-up veterinary science degree, this option would offer her “a lot more opportunities to pursue wildlife, whether that’s focussing on genetics, disease, wildlife management,” Camille says. Plus, it would allow her to focus on wildlife research, which she was also passionate about.

Incredible experiences

Camille didn’t grow up in a family of scientists, but she credits her “hippie” parents with her love of nature, and also with giving her the confidence and encouragement to pursue her passions. For example, it was her mum who convinced her to go along to that pivotal uni open day, otherwise her path might have looked very different!

Data gaps were impacting Camille’s ability to do her work as a wildlife conservationist.

Camille has had some amazing experiences with wildlife as a result of her undergrad degree – both during her studies and after. 

A highlight was a two-week student trip to Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, investigating the impacts of cane toads on native species. Later, after graduating, she got to spend time helping critically endangered leatherback sea turtles in Costa Rica, and back in Australia she worked with endangered Tasmanian devils, including releasing captive-bred devils to bolster wild populations. “That to me was an incredibly special experience,” she says. 

“It’s not all rainbows and butterflies though,” Camille adds about her fieldwork as a conservationist. “There’s a lot of rain, a lot of mud, and you’re usually wet and cold!

“You have to be willing to rough it. If you’re happy going for a week without a shower, wildlife conservation is for you.”

RELATED: 10 cool jobs you could get with an animal science degree

A conservation game-changer

It was during Camille’s wildlife conservation career that she encountered a problem.

Her work with endangered animals involved lots of collaboration – with government, businesses, not-for-profits, other scientists and academics, community and land-holders. “Each organisation held a specific piece of the conservation puzzle and had specific information that was really important for making decisions as to how we save that species in the wild,” Camille explains. Such decisions might include, for example, where to release a species to give it its best chance for survival.

“Often I didn’t have the right information at the right time,” Camille says. This “data gap” not only held back conservation efforts, but even risked worsening the situation for animals already threatened with extinction.

“That was the turning point for me. That was the formings of Xylo Systems in my mind.”

To try and solve this problem, Camille stepped out of her conservation career altogether and decided to skill up in tech and business. Her idea? A cloud-based software platform to help all those organisations working together on species conservation to be able to share data and information and make decisions collectively, and instantaneously.

Enter Xylo Systems, Camille’s tech startup, launched two years ago and which she believes “is going to be a game-changer for the conservation space.”

RELATED: Students graduate from new wildlife conservation degree

Learning a new language

As a scientist, Camille had some basic tech experience from her work with data, but says she certainly wasn’t a “coder” and launching a software platform was further out of her comfort zone than spending a week with wildlife in the bush! That means in establishing Xylo System, she worked with a team of tech experts. “I bring the experience of the problem and the industry that we’re solving for,” she says.

But even with that support, the learning curve hasn’t been steep – and fast, something Camille says is the nature of running a startup. She credits YouTube for a lot of her self-directed learning, and she’s also about to finish a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) at UNSW Sydney, a course that she’s given a tech-edge by choosing electives such as data analytics, AI and machine learning.

Camille also says her STEM background equipped her with the critical thinking needed to succeed as an entrepreneur, and she compares launching a startup to the scientific process. “As a startup founder you have to hypothesise what might happen with an idea that you have, or a problem you want to solve, and then go out and test that hypothesis.” 

But a traditional STEM education isn’t necessarily all you need to excel as an entrepreneur, and Camille says she “strongly agrees” with a recent ATSE report that recommended adding entrepreneurial skills into the STEM curriculum – skills like adaptability. “I think the difference between science and entrepreneurialism lies in the ability to take action when you don’t have all the answers,” she says. “As a founder you have to act with uncertainty.”

Life goals

As for her future goals – short-term, Camille wants to grow Xylo Systems and build it out globally. “Our goal with Xylo Systems is to be the go-to platform globally for preserving biodiversity, for any industry,” she says. There’s also plans to make the platform available for individuals to use and “contribute to a nature-positive future on a personal level.”

But long term? “Our ambition is to be out of business,” she says.

“I hope we’ve done our job and reversed biodiversity loss. We don’t say that to investors, but it’s the truth. We want to be out of business.

“If I achieve that professional goal, I will have achieved my life’s mission.”

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