This year has been a big one for Australian startups, and Queensland-based entrepreneurs in particular have several reasons to be happy this Christmas season.
In fact, 2016 looks so bright that, rather than recapping what’s already happened, I’m going to take a look at the most exciting things on the horizon.
A sensible federal approach to supporting startups
Malcolm Turnbull’s innovation statement included most of the initiatives entrepreneurs have been calling for: an upfront 20% tax offset for angel investors, an entrepreneur visa, support for ‘landing pads’ for Australian founders heading overseas, and more. As the StartupAUS Crossroads Report explains, these are all measures that have been successful in countries like the UK, so it’s good to see our government isn’t too proud to borrow some good ideas from elsewhere.
At the larger end of the scale, there’s also a focus on a more particularly Australian problem. Amongst Western nations, Australia doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to commercialising scientific research. The renewed funding for the CSIRO, $20 million of which is aimed at helping to commercialise its research, is a good starting point.
Ultimately, the two high level problems this innovation package is designed to address – the lack of local investment in startups, and the dearth of industry and research science partnerships – both require a similar PR push in addition to regulatory reform.
Turnbull seems well aware of the lead role government can play in setting the tone on these issues, so as to encourage behavioural change in business and investment circles. During the announcement, he said “this package is designed to inspire. It is designed to lead.”
His rhetoric around innovation has already brought more much-needed attention to the Australian startup space. The rollout of these initiatives is sure to turn more heads.
Of course, it’s worth remembering that there’s always a gulf between a policy announcement and its implementation. But the fact that the federal government is at least talking the talk makes me more optimistic that they’ll walk the walk.
A focus on boosting the Queensland ecosystem
Even before the federal government switched priorities and leaders, the Queensland Government’s Advance Queensland (AQ) plan was earning praise from local startups. For me, the most surprising thing about Advance Queensland was the extent to which the government was willing to shape the package based on feedback from people in the ecosystem.
It’s true that more consultation doesn’t always mean a better outcome, but having been in the room for several Advance Queensland discussions, I think it’s clear that talking to the community helped the government understand what needed to be done. Startups in Parliament was a real sign that Queensland wanted to give startups a place at the table.
Beyond the discussions, several parts of the AQ plan have filled me with excitement at the possibilities for 2016. The Business Development Fund is both an excellent incentive for investors get involved with Queensland startups, and a practical way of topping up the low levels of seed and early stage investment currently available in the state.
There’s also a focus on creating more cohesion within the Queensland ecosystem. For now, the Startup Queensland fund has been established to provide financial support for entrepreneurial networking and education initiatives. Over the next 12 months in Brisbane, the priority will be on creating a hub for startups and fostering collaboration between our existing startup spaces. That’s something this city has been needing for a long time.
Newly minted angel investors
A whole generation of successful local entrepreneurs might be too much to hope for in 2016, but there have been some real success stories over the past year. From a high profile New York IPO for Atlassian, to a $6.1 million Series A round for SafetyCulture, Australian startups have been riding high. The most exciting thing about this is that success breeds success. The more successful companies a city or a country has, the more successful founders there are to become the angel investors and mentors for the next batch of startups.
A string of big raises and IPOs means a host of new Australian angel investors is just around the corner. So if you’re wondering what to spend your time doing in the new year, it’s simple: build something they’ll want to invest in.
Kit Kriewaldt is an entrepreneur and strategic communications specialist. He loves to talk James Bond, cocktails, and psychology – focusing particularly on decision making and consumer behaviour. He is also former Chief Marketing Officer of Liquid State.