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What Australia's top tech and startup entrepreneurs are saying about Malcolm Turnbull as PM

Malcolm Turnbull. Photo: Getty Images.

Malcolm Turnbull, the former lawyer, investment banker and tech entrepreneur, who famously invested in Ozemail in 1994 and sold his stake five years later for nearly $60 million, becomes Australia’s new prime minister today.

Telstra CEO Andy Penn, who’s no doubt had plenty of dealings with the former communications minister as the NBN is rolled out, welcomed the change.

Here’s how some of the country’s top technology and startup entrepreneurs are reacting to the news today.

Andre Eikmeier

Co-founder and co-CEO, Vinomofo

Turnbull as leader:
I don’t want anything but to feel inspired and excited again. This morning to me represents the first with the faint glow of national pride in a long time. I’ve heard a lot of “fellow labor” friends already digging in.

I think we’ve long moved past the point where parties stand for anything. In one night we’ve moved from as far right to as far left as we’ve got. ALP haven’t been socialist for decades, and I doubt the LNP will be as conservative under Malcolm Turnbull.

On the wish list:
As a nation, as a tribe, we need to let go of the legacy party bigotry passed down to us from parents or decided for ourselves some time ago.

Chris Ridd

Managing director, Xero Australia

Malcolm Turnbull and Chris Ridd

Turnbull as leader:
Malcolm Turnbull has said disruption is Australia’s friend and we totally agree with that sentiment. Innovation is what is going to push Australia’s economy forward. We’ve already seen some moves through the Digital Transformation Office, which Mr Turnbull led, but it’s fair to say there’s a long way to go before citizens and businesses can interact with government seamlessly, online.

Before Mr Turnbull was a politician, he was a businessman. He understands the needs of small business and by bringing real, commercial experience to the role of prime minister, it will boost the government’s economic credibility.

From his previous roles in merchant banking and as an entrepreneur with Ozemail, Mr Turnbull understands the finance and tech industries. Since taking on the Communications portfolio, Mr Turnbull has breathed life into the sector and demonstrated he understands the needs of our industry.

I would like to see more focus on longer term solutions to capitalise on the opportunities the tech industry can deliver, especially as Australia transitions from a mining-led economy.

Investing in tech education and STEM skills from a primary school level will be critical to develop a world-class tech workforce in Australia.

I would like to see Australia’s renewable energy industry be developed further. Australia has the know-how and resources to be a world leader in renewables.

Developing a culture of open government is important. I would like to see Mr Turnbull transition the way his party works so a case for change is built and decisions are not made on the basis of power or captain’s calls. Mr Turnbull believes in transparency. He’s a great statesman and communicator; I hope that filters down through the ranks.

Alec Lynch

Founder and CEO, DesignCrowd.com.au

Turnbull as leader:
Malcolm Turnbull has said he wants Australia to be creative, innovative and agile. In my opinion, this is the sort of vision that Australia needs. It is clear Australia’s economy doesn’t need more mining, we need more innovation. It is also clear this is something that Australian startups and entrepreneurs can help make a reality. While real innovation is best driven by businesses and entrepreneurs, the government could help foster this.

On the wish list:
I would love to see government increase its focus on technology and innovation (perhaps a portfolio on innovation, technology and startups). I would love to see more investment into startups – whether that comes directly from the government or fostered by the government (perhaps through tax incentives for investment by super funds). Australia has all the talent and resources required to become a leader in tech and innovation and, in the last few years, Australia has been experiencing a boom in startups. This momentum and opportunity is something the government and its new leadership should seize.

Chris Noone

CEO, DriveMyCar

Turnbull as leader:
Malcolm Turnbull clearly understands startups, technology and especially how the sharing economy works. I’m looking forward to seeing how he introduces that to the Liberal Party lexicon and embracing it in future policies.

On the wish list:
Most of all we are looking for the government to show it has a plan for moving beyond mining and manufacturing so businesses and startups have the confidence to invest and hire new staff.

New blood on the front bench with an understanding of innovation and technology is a must. We need people who can embrace disruption and innovation.

Turnbull with Jack Dorsery, co-founder of Twitter. Photo: Malcolm Turnbull/ Facebook.

Kerry Plowright

CEO, Aeeris

Turnbull as leader:
Don’t know about regional business, but he comes from a tech background so he’s savvy there. Let’s wait and see what happens when the rubber hits the road. There’s a big difference between the talk and the walk. But we’re hopeful that Turnbull’s leadership will have a positive impact.
That being said, for us — as a regional ASX-listed company — a lot of settings are already pretty good. It might be different for a lot of smaller companies attempting to raise capital.

On the wish list:
What we would like to see now that Turnbull is in power is more open access to ministers and the operations of government. The tender process for government services is still too much about who you know rather than what you know. That being said, it’s natural the people gravitate towards relationships with business.

In truth, I’m actually not too happy to see Abbott gone. While Malcolm Turnbull is more electorally appealing, I think this latest leadership shuffle shows a key weakness in our democracy. We focus way too much on non-substantive issues and gaffes over what the government is actually doing.

Leadership changes are great for headlines, but businesses need a stable platform in order to grow.

Jo Burston

Founder and CEO, Rare Birds

Turnbull as leader:
As an entrepreneur and business owner, I look forward to seeing a Prime Minister who understands the importance of innovation in making Australia globally competitive.

On the wish list:
We need to see STEM and entrepreneurship subjects made compulsory in schools to ensure Australian children are not left behind by the rest of the world. Business legislation is vital too: I would like innovative technology-enabled and driven companies to be given better research and development opportunities and tax incentives, as well as the abolishment of payroll tax.

James Chin-Moody

CEO and co-founder, Sendle
Turnbull as leader:
For the first time in a long time, we might have a PM who sees the bigger picture. That we are entering an age of disruption where the fast eat the slow and the world is hyper-connected.

On the wish list:
With his background in both business and communications, can he please release the shackles on small business and technology to help Australia compete globally in this new world?

Rob Nankivell

CEO, VentureCrowd

Turnbull as leader:
Malcolm Turnbull’s private sector experience and his priorities while in politics have shown he believes in the power of technology and Australian innovation. His election last night as leader of the Liberal Party presents a fantastic opportunity to push forward the policies and issues that have been talked about for so long with little real action.

Turnbull as leader:
This is a chance to finally open up equity crowdfunding opportunities to retail investors so more people can invest in the next potential billion-dollar company, and there’s a host of other policies we need to support and encourage our startups to grow and thrive in Australia. These can help to supercharge our economy with Australian ingenuity, so we hope Malcolm Turnbull can achieve those goals quickly and efficiently.

Turnbull with Virgin founder Richard Branson. Photo: Malcolm Turnbull/ Facebook.

Simon Cohen

Co-founder and MD, Cohen Handler

Turnbull as leader:
The change in leadership is likely to restore confidence to the Australian public and the Australian economy. Foremost, Turnbull is a smart and savvy businessman with a personal interest in both the residential and commercial property market. The plans and strategy he will put in place to build Australia’s confidence is likely to have a positive affect on the property market.

On the wish list:
Wishlist: I’d like to see a plan in place to make it easier for first home buyer to enter the property market.

Philip Weinman

CEO and executive chairman, Locomote.

Turnbull as leader:
Malcolm Turnbull is highly educated and very accomplished with some decent runs on the board. He has demonstrated he supports and understands small business. Turnbull has great respect for innovators and entrepreneurs and is very involved in the startup community.

On the wish list:
It would be great for Turnbull to put more focus on Australia’s startup scene so rather than having companies leaving for Silicon Valley, it’d be far more productive for Australia if they stay here and attract talent from other countries.

Stuart Stoyan

CEO, MoneyPlace

Turnbull as leader:
The change in leadership is exciting for start-ups given Mr Turnbull’s familiarity with the sector as well as his focus on productivity. However there is a risk that any real change gets caught up in pre-election promises, and we remain stuck in political gridlock. Australian start-ups need action now.

On the wish list:
Too much Aussie talent is being poached by the likes of Singapore (with better tax incentives), the UK (who have just taken 10 Aussie fintech start-ups to London) and the US and Israel (both of whom provide better access to funding).

Australian start-ups need better incentives, improved access to funding and a reduction in regulatory friction so that we can level the playing field and enable Aussie start-ups to thrive.

Bart Jesman

CEO, FinSuite

Turnbull as leader:
The Liberal Party has shown that they have a small business focus by introducing the $20,000 write-off on capex and the 1.5 per cent income tax reduction. With Malcolm Turnbull’s experience in starting and running businesses, I would hope for this to continue.

On the wish list:
I would also hope that he addresses some of the things affecting the start-up community, especially the high cost of wages. Without this, in particular in the tech industry, we will continue to see the majority of work being off-shored.

In particular, businesses like my own will be forced to consider opening offices, or even moving entire operations to regions such as Hong Kong which offer better support for start-ups.

Turnbull with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Photo: Malcolm Turnbull/ Facbook.

Andrew Ward

Managing director, SelfWealth

Turnbull as leader:
This is the greatest leap forward for start-ups and early stage companies in Australia’s history. Malcolm Turnbull, himself an entrepreneur, has been very vocal on the support for start-ups in Australia.

On the wish list:
This will hopefully mean ESOP schemes will be more tax-favourable for early-stage businesses which are looking to give equity or options.

I hope Mr Turnbull will introduce an investing environment similar to the UK. In the UK, investors in early-stage businesses receive a tax deduction for their investment. This would be a great step forward in encouraging the ecosystem. This in itself will keep early-stage businesses in Australia and negate the need for them to move overseas.

Mr Turnbull has also been very vocal on keeping our best tech talent here. He is very cognisant that the mining boom is over and that technology companies can fill the void and lift Australia’s GDP and growth rates, including exports and better terms of trade.

Lachlan McKnight

CEO, LegalVision

Turnbull as leader:
Malcolm certainly mentioned all the issues affecting startups in his speech yesterday; disruption, technology and innovation. Superficially these are the points startups want to see being made by our national leaders. The proof, however, will be in the pudding. What legislative changes will the government now make to foster a more innovative business culture? Talking about innovation is much easier than passing legislation to actively encourage it.

On the wish list:
Short term, the biggest changes that could potentially assist tech startups are: (i) make it easier to bring talented developers into the country to work on startup projects – the 457 system is still difficult to navigate for smaller startups, (ii) push through crowdfunding legislation. This has been talked about for years. Nothing’s happened. Raising early stage capital in Australia is difficult; making it easier for startups to crowdfund their first round could make a significant difference to the early stage startup community. Long term, Australia’s biggest issue from a startup perspective is going to be the lack of science/maths graduates coming into our workforce. We really need to work out how to change this.

Ned Moorfield

CEO, goCatch

Turnbull as leader:
Mr Turnbull has already indicated the need to be an innovation-led economy that embraces disruptive technology business models.

On the wish list:
• The regulations move quickly inline with the emergence of new innovative business models
• Continued strong funding for the ACCC and ASIC which play important roles in the Australian economy
• That the government continues to look at how more private investment can be funneled into early stage technology businesses. Options include via tax concessions on early stage investments and mandating a percentage into this class of investment under the Significant Investor Visa scheme.

Bridget Loudon

CEO, Expert360

Turnbull as leader:
We’re excited and hopeful about the change of leadership. Technology and innovation will be the next engine of growth for our economy and I’m hopeful that with Malcolm as PM, we can make even more progress in this regard.

On the wish list:
We hope that one of his priorities are to help Australian startups get easier, quicker access to capital and talent.

This included a simplified, streamlined process for startups using 457 visas to bring key personnel from overseas and more incentives for investments in startups at the early and high-growth stages.

We’re hoping for better coordination of startup policy, driving real change with strong leadership. We need vision and not a piecemeal approach.

Peter Bradd

CEO of StartupAUS

Turnbull as leader:
Mr Turnbull’s business acumen along with his knowledge of and well known support for the Australian technology sector will provide him with unique insights into the barriers facing Australian startups, particularly in terms of accessing venture capital and talent.

On the wish list:
As Australia enters a new era of growth, technology based startups have the potential to transform the economy and create the jobs of the future. In the next two decades, startups have the potential to contribute up to $US109 billion in growth to the economy, and create 540,000 new jobs.

This is a critical time for Australian startups. There is so much to be gained if we can grow this important part of our business community. But we must act swiftly and decisively in this area and we need the support of our Federal Government to lead a unified, centralised approach to building this ecosystem.

We believe Mr Turnbull has the vision and conviction to do this effectively and we very much look forward to working with the Prime Minister and his Cabinet to “seize the day” in support of Australia’s many startups.

Phil Morle

Founder and CEO of Pollenizer

Turnbull as leader:
These are extraordinary times, abundant with change and opportunity. Historically, Malcolm Turnbull has been an active listener and participant in the innovation community of Australia. This gives me hope that the new leadership will take a creative, growth position on our future as a nation, work as fast as the world evolves and restore confidence in what is to come.

On the wish list:
This will be our first PM that comes from a tech business background and lives comfortably on the internet that is changing the world around us. I am hopeful that we will see policies shift to mobilise the talent in this country to exploit this. I am expecting what startups do to become a more important part of how the government is run.

Photo: Malcolm Turnbull/ Facebook.

Andy Crawley

Director at Jack Media

Turnbull as leader:
On the face of it, Turnbull’s ascent to office looks like a good thing. You’ve got someone who has an innovative and creative background. You can go back and find various comments over the last few years, which have really indicated his understand of tech and its potential impact on Australia. It can be a massive driver for growth jobs and innovation. It really underpins all of those economic factors.

On the wish list:
In terms of what will change: One has to be realistic with the election is relatively close. They don’t have a time to implement wholesale change. All we can really expect to see is a vision and plan. It’s unrealistic to expect radical change in the next six months.

But if we had to ask for anything, it would be a revised approach to the NBN. We need a greater focus on the NBN in regional Australia, we want to see it up and running outside of the major cities sooner rather than later. It’s a no-brainer: fast reliable internet will make a huge economic impact on regional centres around Australia.

What we expect to see however, is some minor changes to economic planning with some minor policy changes to boot. Sadly, we also expect a larger focus on major cities and key electorates close to the election, at the cost of a focus on the regions.

Tim Fung

Co-founder and CEO of Airtasker

Turnbull as leader:
We’re happy with the outcome of last night’s spill and think that most people in the Australian technology ecosystem would be too.

It was great to hear Turnbull’s acknowledgement of the start-up and technology sector in his speech last night saying that as a country we need to focus on Australia’s future industries rather than attempting to future proof existing, disrupted businesses. It all sounds positive and we’re pretty hopeful.

On the wish list:
It would be great to see Turnbull attempt to fix the biggest problem for start-ups in Australia; brain drain. I certainly don’t have all the answers to this problem, but I think the solution revolves around creating a strong base of technology and engineering skills and jobs.

Above said, it’s easy to talk and not so easy to do. So before we hail Turnbull as the hero of the start-up sector, let’s wait and see what actions he takes first.

Oliver Tams

Director of strategic partnerships at Think Procurement

Turnbull as leader:
Malcolm Turnbull as a leader only works if he has support internally and externally. A leadership spill is always difficult to manage early on and Turnbull has to have really solid future plans (quickly) to unite the party and the people. Change for change sake is short term thinking if there is no solid strategy behind it.

I think it will be good for the sector as Turnbull understands communication and innovation and knows Australia needs to stay the smart country and the only way to do that is to back the startup community and technology innovation.

On the wish list:
In terms of change, we would like to see the government focus on slowing the brain drain and keeping innovation in Australia. To keep Australian IP in the country, we need to see support via VC Funds and continuing government R&D tax credits.

Tony Abbott, was always on the back foot with limited support and as such was unable to become an effective PM, so from that perspective his departure hopefully heralds a period of change, with Turnbull bringing Australia back to the forefront of global innovation and development.

Beau Bertoli

Joint CEO at Prospa

Turnbull as leader:

It is exciting to hear a Prime Minister talk the language of digital innovation, and who recognises that these forces of economic transformation are not just challenges, but opportunities that should be embraced.

Prospa has been on a mission to change the way that small businesses access finance, and we do this though smart technology. Small businesses have been neglected by the mainstream finance sector. We are proud to be a part of the transformation of the sector – providing better services to markets that have been poorly serviced in the past.

On the wish list:

We look forward to working with Malcolm Turnbull to help realise his vision for cementing Australia’s role in the global digital economy.

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