Australia's startup future is positive but access to capital is a constraint


A version of this article appears in the International Business Times.

Many technology entrepreneurs are upbeat about Australia’s future in technology startups, including prominent Australian and Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur, Sam Chandler, who has hailed Australia’s new focus on start ups and the encouragement and vision by Prime Minster Malcolm Turnbull in making Australia more digitally innovative.

Chandler is the founder and CEO of Nitro. In 2005, the Tasmanian launched Nitro in Melbourne, and now the company is a leading competitor to Adobe PDF and boasts a vast customer base, including big names such as GE, Nestle and the European parliament. With offices in San Francisco, Melbourne, Dublin and Slovakia, Chandler travels around the world and keeps abreast of startup trends, the Forbes magazine reported.

Although he sounded resolutely positive about Australia’s tech startup future, Chandler said the main hiccup to further growth is the lack of access to capital. To resolve this issue, Chandler called for innovative strategies that could secure Australia’s tech and innovation future.

Using pension funds

Offering a solution to solve the big problem, Chandler advocates the use of a tiny portion of Australia’s $2 trillion superfund pension to support the country’s venture capital market. Australia’s pension fund is considered the fourth largest in the world.

Noting that it takes a decade to build a strong local venture capital market base, Chandler wants Australia to attract more U.S. VC’s in the interim. He said the real value of VCs from America is their experience and networks.

“We don’t need to be protectionist about this. What if we went to all tier one U.S. VCs and offered them a co-investment fund and tell them ‘The Australian government welcomes you.’ We would see a material change in start-ups,” said Chandler.

Vital for GDP

Meanwhile, a recent report from PricewaterhouseCoopers also underscored the need for fostering an eco system that could create more start ups in Australia. The report, “Expanding Australia’s Economy: how digital can drive the change” said the successful adoption of digital change could reduce Australia’s estimated federal budget deficit by $6 billion and contribute an extra 1.5 percent to Australia’s gross domestic product by 2024.

The report also said that if the efforts are sustained for another 10 years, the GDP will zoom by $136 billion and create 540,000 new jobs by 2034. It recommended that Australia learn from countries such as Sweden, Canada and Singapore, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Meanwhile, Rimon Advisory, a Sydney-based firm providing services and funding for startups, has announced a new fund to invest in startups even before they start earning revenue.

The fund is backed by investors such as MYOB co-founder Brad Shofer and Global Capital Holdings co-founder Gary Burg. The fund plans to invest in eight to 10 companies every year with a minimum of $30,000, Business Insider reported.

“We look to invest in scalable technology. That’s the rule of thumb… but a lot of it is based on who it is,” said Rimon Advisory director Lior Stein.