How "Shark Tank" judge Steve Baxter makes his investment decisions

Shark Tank judge Steve Baxter has more investments than he can manage on his own.

He has a team of pros who manage many of them, from indoor skydiving to medical software, payments, and mobile marketing tech including OtherLevels, which is looking at a potential ASX IPO this year.

Baxter was one of the key players behind Brisbane co-working tech startup space River City Labs, he’s a founding member of StartupAus and is a passionate Australian tech investor.

“I live in Brisbane so that makes Brisbane investments easier,” he said. “I’m an exceptionally patriotic Australian.”

Aside from investing in numerous Australian tech startups, Baxter is focused on “doing good business with good people”.

“I tend to invest in people. If I don’t like you I won’t invest in you. That’s a pretty subjective thing for me but if you set my skin crawling I don’t really care if you’re flapping gold in your hand. I won’t be investing in you,” he said.

While the numbers need to work, if he doesn’t think he can get along with the entrepreneur he won’t be progressing “the relationship let alone the investment”.

Baxter enlisted in the Australian Defence Force at age 15 and he spent nine years managing electronics, telecoms and guided weapons systems before leaving to launch his first startup an ISP called SE Net which he sold to Ozemail and UUNet.

His second startup, PIPE Networks, was sold to TPG for a whopping $US373 million in 2010. He’s also clocked up some time working at Google in Silicon Valley.

It’s this background which has him looking for founders with “mad technical skills”.

“They have to know what they’re talking about — it’s very important,” he said, adding only then, if he likes you, will he look at the opportunity.

Baxter is one of the judges on the Australian version of Shark Tank, which premiers on Channel Ten this Sunday.

He took on the opportunity to educate entrepreneurs and give advice people who are looking to start their own businesses.

“I love the concept of what shark tank can do. I talk to a lot of entrepreneurs. I give them my perspective on their business,” he said.

“No one dies wondering in front of me. I tell them what I think of it.

“It could be a good show or a bloody disaster.”

There were about 3,500 applications for this season of Shark Tank. That number was narrowed down to about 500 and the sharks saw about 120 pitches.

Although the judges aren’t allowed to disclose a lot about the upcoming series, Baxter said: “I made my best investment ever in terms of straight valuation on the show. It’s a cracker!”

“There are real deals that go down. I had quite a large deal rejected on me,” he said.

The deals are done using the judge’s own funds. To become a judge they they needed to have an undisclosed level of wealth and there was an expectation that deals would be closed.

Other judges on this season of Shark Tank include real estate entrepreneur John McGrath, Boost Juice founder Janine Allis, Talent2 MD Andrew Banks and RedBalloon founder Naomi Simson.

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