Here's what the Turnbull government needs to do next week to impress Australia's startup sector

Fishburners’ Murray Hurps says the biggest problem is recognising opporunities’

The federal government will be releasing its innovation statement on Monday.

The statement has been flagged as covering five areas – unlocking capital, access to Asia, greater public-private collaboration, growing the talent pool, and using the government as an example for others.

Assistant minister for innovation Wyatt Roy says the innovation statement will include policies aimed at encouraging more capital in both early and late stage funding rounds. These could include the government matching some investment, as well as the extension of R&D tax incentives.

Roy says the statement will also include policies on commercialising research – such as the recent tool launched by IP Australia and allowing the government to “take on risk and try things diffferently” innovations, and possibly even create “landing pads” to startups can expand into Asia.

“We need a realisation that we are not a marketplace of 23 million Australians, we’re a marketplace that has access to the globe – to a billion people coming into the middle class in Asia” Roy said.

But the startup community have specific needs that they want addressed in the innovation statement.

Investor Steve Baxter wants to see an emphasis placed on more graduates with both technical and entreprenurial skills, more and better funded accelerators, support for “communitites” like Fishburners and the York Butter Factory, and access to capital including tax breaks for early-stage investors.

“So, for this overall approach to work, the government needs to be addressing each of the
elements of the pipeline simultaneously, not just choosing one or two to focus on” Baxter wrote.

“This is how we will create a startup ecosystem that is continually pumping out world-class tech startups, a startup ecosystem that is second to none.”

Mick Liubinskas, entrepreneur in residence at Muru-D, also has a list of things he wants to see in the innovation statement. Liubinskas says it must be lead by entrepreneurs – not academics, consultants or officials.

He also wants it to focus on on helping startups go global, create city based programs that cooperate with each other, and change negative gearing to encourage investment in startups and not houses.

Australia is geographically too large for a national program says Liubinskas, and cities have been competing with each other – such as the furore over SydStart moving to Melbourne next year. Achieving any kind of national outcomes means city programs working in concert, or at least in complementary ways.

But most of all, Liubinskas says it is not about the announcement.

“It will take 10 years of sustained effort to see results. We must do the work regardless of the market. Don’t make it about the announcement, that is just the start – do the work, get the results and then we can celebrate” says Liubinskas.

Envato co-founder Cyan Ta’eed wants to see more flexible regulation for online companies.

“Often, innovative companies don’t fit neatly into existing regulation frameworks that didn’t account for the way online businesses work, and this puts them in a grey area that is difficult to navigate.”

Ta’eed also wants to see a great emphasis on the technology education, which has recently entered the primary curriculum, to be expanded and continue throughout schooling.

“The plans to teach coding in primary schools are a fantastic first step, but that emphasis needs to carry throughout high school, and a program around teaching kids how to develop early stage products would be a fantastic complement to it. Just Start IT out of WA is a great example of what this would look like.

“Finally, we’re eager to see more early start-up funding, and beyond that grants for diverse start-up founders. We don’t just want to see more innovation, but more diversity in innovation. That might take the form of direct grants or more support for boutique VC firms like Scale Investors which only invests in female led start-ups.”

Murray Hurps, general manager of Fishburners, points out that if you ask the startup community what they want from government, the list is inevitably topped by funding. As the latest Startup Muster survey shows:

Hurps thinks the government needs to focus on fostering more accelerator programs, and more people with technical skills.

“If you look at all the accelerators that are out there. If you want an accelerator that doesn’t have a university or corporate partner, there is pretty much one option – Smartmate, and they take 6 startups a year and get 300 applications” says Hurps.

As far as creating landing pads, which Labor now also supports, Hurps says most cities that you would try and launch in are laying out the red carpet for startups.

“We’ve got so many trade and investment people from all around the world coming into Fishburners and trying to spruik the advantages of their ecosystems, it might be helpful but I don’t think its a problem at the moment” says Hurps.

“The number one challenge we have is people’s own perception of Australia. Seeing Australia as a backwards kind of economy. And it’s not. Things are taking off a whole lot quicker than many people realise.”

“It’s really just recognising that there are opportunities and pursuing them. That’s the biggest problem I see.”

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