Startup owners are worried after their peak body accepted federal government research funding

StartupAUS CEO Alex McCauley. Photo: Supplied

Australia’s startup community is questioning the independence of its peak body, StartupAUS, after it accepted funding from the federal government to conduct research on entrepreneurship

StartupAUS will receive $120,000 annually for two years, with an optional third year of federal funding.

Innovation minister Christopher Pyne says the “partnership” with StartupAUS involves research to “examine the key elements that drive entrepreneurial behaviour, including turning ideas into commercial outcomes”.

StartupAUS CEO Alex McCauley said his not-for-profit organisation was in discussions with a range of partners, including corporates and academic institutions.

“These research partnerships allow us to build credible, independent research which more closely examines key areas of Australia’s innovation ecosystem. This will ultimately help build on Australia’s strengths and maximise economic opportunities for the start-up sector.”

However, not everyone is happy with the decision to sign up with the Turnbull government, despite it push for innovation.

One of the peak body’s key roles in lobbying the government on key issues for the industry, including policy decisions.

Labor’s startups spokesperson Ed Husic’s fears that the deal will silence the group, a concern some in the industry share, including Tidy Me co-founder Riley Batchelor.

https://twitter.com/Riley_batchelor/status/733046680845590528

Signal Ventures general partner Atlanta Daniel also shares Husic’s opinion, saying it’s hard to be objective towards or even critical of a financial supporter.

But McCauley told StartupSmart that their independence is not at risk.

“StartupAUS has always called it how we see it and we’ve always worked with anyone that wants to work with us. There’s never been a conflict there and there isn’t one now,” he said.

The group’s first report will be around agricultural technology and its significance for the Australian economy. It’s currently being produced with additional support from the Commonwealth Bank, KPMG, the Queensland government.

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