Australia’s peak startup industry body StartupAus has named former diplomat Alex McCauley as its new chief executive, with reform to research and development tax incentives his first order of business.
The appointment of Mr McCauley follows the departure of interim chief executive, Fishburners founder Peter Bradd, who has now partnered with young rich lister Jack Delosa in a new startup venture called The Beanstalk Factory.
Mr McCauley, was previously the head of strategy and advocacy at StartupAus, having left a diplomatic position in Israel in 2015. He told The Australian Financial Review he would initially focus on policy related to R&D incentives and connecting universities with the private sector.
“We’ve been advocating for quite a while to rethink the R&D tax incentives. It’s one of the best things the Australian government does for startups . . . but at the moment it doesn’t favour startups doing a lot of R&D more strongly than larger companies which don’t need the incentive,” he said.
“One good idea [for universities] is sabbaticals for researchers to go away and start a business using the intellectual property they’ve developed and commercialise it.”
Mr McCauley will also be looking to raise extra money for the organisation, with the expectation that startup-related policy will figure heavily in the upcoming federal election. Since it was founded in 2013 StartupAus has been funded by corporate partners like Google, Salesforce and Xero, as well as Roger Allen from Allen & Buckeridge and Bill Ferris of CHAMP Private Equity.
“It’s going to be a big year for startup policy with an election coming up, so we have to make sure we have the support structures in place first and foremost,” he said.
“We are going to expand our partners to include a university and a few more corporates in the next month or two.”
When asked about the government’s consultation paper on the proposed 20 per cent tax offset for early stage startup investments, released yesterday, Mr McCauley said the government should take heed of Britain’s Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, which does not limit the tax incentives to high wealth people.
“In the UK there isn’t a high bar for investors to qualify, and we think that should apply here too,” he said.
“There are two main reasons for these schemes, to get more angel funding into startups and also to increase the pool of angel investors to improve the knowledge of the ecosystem. You want a breadth and depth of investors.”
But the government’s consultation paper suggested limiting the tax offset to sophisticated investors with an annual income of more than $250,000 and net assets of at least $2.5 million, and suggested limitations to what companies could be invested in.