VICTORIA’S STARTUP ECOSYSTEM GETS A BOOST WITH LAUNCHVIC FUNDING ROUND TAKING OFF
Victoria’s nation leading startup initiative, LaunchVic, today released a public call for proposals as part of its first round of funding. The brand new company, owned by the Victorian Government, has been set up to make Victoria one of the world’s top destinations for entrepreneurs, startups, and scaleups. It has been created to be agile and flexible, embodying as much as possible the characteristics of the startup community so that it can be responsive to it.
Board Chair, Ahmed Fahour, and CEO, Pradeep Philip, released the guidelines and called for applications for the program that will build the infrastructure around startups and grow the ecosystem.
In releasing the guidelines, Ahmed Fahour said “Today we are calling for applications for small and large ideas that will improve collaboration, build capacity and grow Victoria’s startup pie,”
“This funding round gets the ball rolling on LaunchVic’s agenda to make Victoria the startup capital of the world.
“It will give the startup community an immediate boost, bring into service some of the great ideas that are yet to be uncovered and help shape the Boards thinking for future funding rounds and our strategic approach.”
CEO Pradeep Philip said, “LaunchVic is not in the business of funding individual startups but instead supporting the infrastructure which supports startups, entrepreneurs, and scaleups,”
“Proposals that demonstrate their benefit to Victoria and the ecosystem, which highlight how they will ‘give back’ to the ecosystem, and which promote gender, cultural, and economic diversity will be viewed favourably in the assessment for funding.
“We will work with the ecosystem to enhance competition, collaboration, and quality in the ecosystem, not duplicate what others do.
“Growing the startup ecosystem benefits all of its members, drives innovation and boosts the Victorian economy.”
The guidelines for the program are available on the LaunchVic website (www.launchvic.org). They contain more information on the program objectives, how to make a submission and the assessment criteria.
Applications for the first round close 6 May. For guidelines click here
Job Capital managing director Jo Burston has been appointed to the advisory board of LaunchVic, a $60 million body designed to accelerate startups, drive new ideas and create jobs in Victoria.
As part of a team of industry experts Jo Burston will work to strengthen and build the current operating environment of Victoria’s startup ecosystem.
Her appointment was announced by Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade Philip Dalidakis at the Above All Human Conference in Victoria this morning. Women make up 54 per cent of the team and, according to Mr Dalidakis, it is the first board in the innovation sector to include more women than men.
“This is an amazing team to steer LaunchVic and is one that has some extraordinary success stories and a wealth of experience in this space – there has never been a more exciting time to be a startup in Victoria,” said Mr Dalidakis.
“The calibre of women on this board should also, absolutely, dispel the myth that government and corporate boards cannot meet a 50/50 target,” he said.
Jo Burston, who is also the founder of the global entrepreneurial movement Inspiring Rare Birds, says she is “thrilled” to be involved with an organisation that represents such a progressive move.
“The Victorian Government has consciously chosen talent and board members that demonstrate value for these initiatives, with an exceptional view to equality and inclusion. To be on a board that has a 50/50 gender inclusion is a true act of modern leadership,” she says.
“I’m looking forward to outcomes that impact the SME, startup and innovation scene in Victoria and I’m very excited about the long term ripple effect socially and economically, and to see the State’s progression,” she says.
LaunchVic was unveiled late last year. It is designed to invest in core infrastructure, improve access to funds for local startups, advocate on Commonwealth legislation and regulation, and engage in startup events, campaigns, competitions and mentoring programs. The $60 million fund will be provided over four years.
Advisory board members
Ahmed Fahour, managing director and group CEO, Australia Post (Chair)
Elana Rubin, director, Mirvac Group (Deputy Chair)
Jo Burston, managing director, Job Capital and Inspiring Rare Birds
Tim Fawcett, director corporate and government affairs, Cisco Systems Australia
Dominique Fisher, executive chair and managing director, CareerLounge Pty Ltd
Con Frantzeskos, CEO, PENSO
Phillip Kingston, managing director, Trimantium Capital
Jane Martino, head of social segment, ANZ Bank
Rachael Neumann, managing director Australia, Eventbrite
Kee Wong, managing director, e-Centric Innovations
Susan Wu, head, Stripe Australia and New Zealand
Preparing your pitch is an art form and can seem like a daunting task. However, you’re probably a lot closer than you think; if your business is at a stage where it’s pitch-ready, then so are you.
Different types of pitch
Begin by making sure you have your ‘elevator pitch’ prepared. You need to be able to summarize your business in 1 minute or less, covering the service or product you want to provide, the gap in the market which you will fill, how you differ from your rivals and who your target market is. Being able to offer a succinct, accessible description of what your business will do and what it is about is essential to engage potential investors.
When it comes to making your full-length pitch, you need to be able to show off your expertise in a personable way, showcase your team and their strengths, and ground your idea with simple, realistic messages. Remember that in addition to presenting your idea, you are also presenting yourself. Investors invest in the entrepreneur as well as the idea, so make sure you demonstrate your personal strengths as well as the strengths of your business. It also often pays off to have done your investor research and found out what your potential investor has funded before and why, how well they know your industry and how successful they have been. However, be wary of using jargon or gimmicks to differentiate your business or expertise, as often these can have an adverse effect and undermine the image of yourself that you want to present.
Prepping your pitch content
As far as the content of the pitch is concerned, you should be prepared to start from scratch and assume that your investor has little or no knowledge of your sector unless you have concrete reasons to believe otherwise. You need to be able to clearly explain what problem your product or service solves, your target market and customer acquisition strategy, your funding needs, the growth strategy and return on investment, your exit strategy, and offer competitive analysis to show where you have credibility and where your rivals have credibility. Rehearse and spend some time picking holes in your pitch and thinking of the tough questions that you would least like to answer about your business, and make sure you come up with solutions or answers so that the content of your pitch is fully-fledged.
Making your pitch stand out
When it comes to distinguishing your pitch and engaging your investor, make sure that your pitch is simple, clear and concise, and doesn’t rely too heavily on visual stimuli or supplementary reading. In addition to creating a stronger pitch, it will make sure that you can continue even if your presentation slides fail. Put yourself in your listener’s shoes, and figure out what your pitch and your delivery really show about your business. Finding a way to integrate your personality into your pitch will stand to your advantage as it will make your business more memorable. And whilst you shouldn’t necessarily weigh your potential investor down with large stacks of paper, it’s a good idea to have a factually-supported, well-written executive summary to hand over at the end.
Finally, remember that you are there for a reason: because you have an idea, and a way to turn that into a reality. Use that fact to stay confident – even if you are not the world’s biggest extrovert, being able to present your passion will help you maintain an air of confidence, which will be key to securing your investor.
By Ciara Long
Female entrepreneurs make up 50% of Australian start-ups, but often remain smaller corporations and struggle to expand. There are plenty of factors affecting this, but one hotly-debated topic is the funding gender divide and the proposed reasons for its existence.
Despite the statistical information surrounding women entrepreneurs and business success, many female-led start-ups struggle to obtain venture capital funding. Babson College’s 2014 Diana Report, which examines the gender funding gap, showed that since 1999 the amount of early-stage investment in companies with female executives has increased to by 10% in the last 15 years, bringing the total to 15%. However, only 2.7% of the companies featured in the study had a female CEO, and the remaining 85% did not have women on their executive teams. On the whole, male founders were 40% more likely to get venture capital funding than female founders.
Part of this is explained by the fact that only 4.2% of partner-level decision-makers in venture capital are women. In scenarios where venture capital firms had women partners, they were more than twice as likely to invest in companies with female executives on the team and three times more likely to invest in companies led by female CEOs. However, the Diana Report’s statistics would indicate that the lack of female partners in venture capital firms inhibits the capacity for progress in closing the funding gender gap.
Furthermore, a study from prominent business professors at Harvard, Wharton and MIT found that venture capitalists prefer start-up pitches from attractive men, who were likely to win funding by as much as 60-70%. The study found that venture capitalists found male pitches more “persuasive, logical and fact-based” than the same pitches narrated by a female voice.
The business community acknowledges that there is a clear gender divide when it comes to funding, as demonstrated by the plethora of online articles on the topic from leading business publications. Whilst the statistics make for daunting reading, the most important thing for budding women entrepreneurs to take from these facts is that – in true entrepreneurial spirit – the most important thing is to pitch and keep pitching.
Advice for women to gain access to capital in the start-up and early stages of ventures is no different to the advice offered to any entrepreneur. When you find yourself struggling, network, use contacts, and talk to as many people about your idea as possible. Accepting individual funding refusals as defeat or failure will be detrimental to your business; ultimately, the only way to close the gender gap is to keep trying.
Australian entrepreneurs are enthusiastic about budget measures that will make it easier to start new businesses or change the structure of rapidly growing businesses.
However, they say more can be done to foster the kinds of skills needed to ensure Australian businesses remain competitive.
Small Business Minister Bruce Billson has already flagged a number of budget measures that will form part of what he says will be the “most substantial small business package this country has seen”. SmartCompany asked three entrepreneurs what they think of the measures and importantly, what else they would like to see in tonight’s budget.
Chris Strode, founder and chief product officer of Invoice2go
Chris Strode says “entrepreneurship today is so much different than it was, say, 10 years ago” and as the founder of $100 million invoicing startup Invoice2go, Strode knows a thing or two about the challenges of creating a new business.
“It’s good to see a sentiment around opening up access to creative funding, and allowing more flexibility with regards to changing business structure,” Strode says of the budget measures already announced.
“I think these changes will go a long way to get people moving and to encourage new ideas to flourish.”
Strode says government red tape can hamper the growth of new businesses.
“Businesses have to be extremely flexible, nimble and quick to adopt new ways of doing things,” he says.
“Too much red tape, fees and obstacles on the backend only make it that much harder to innovate at the speed you really need to in order to compete.”
Dean Ramler, founder and chief executive of Milan Direct
Dean Ramler founded online furniture retailer Milan Direct in 2006 at the age of 24. Like Strode, he is pleased to see the government’s efforts to reduce red tape and compliance costs for SMEs.
“I’m very happy to hear about the proposed changes which will essentially see the setting up of new businesses simplified with reduced compliance costs,” Ramler toldSmartCompany.
“It is also being tipped that measures will be put in place to encourage crowdfunding for startups, which is very positive and should lead to less barriers to entry for startups.”
Although Ramler says it has been a long time since Milan Direct was a small business, as an entrepreneur, he can see how these changes will help those who are starting a small business for the first time.
“Anything to assist small business getting up and running with minimal red tape should be applauded,” he says.
“Small businesses are the backbone of the economy and should be encouraged to invest more for growth, which will increase employment opportunities and stimulate the economy.”
Jo Burston, founder and chief executive of Job Capital and Rare Birds
Job Capital and Rare Birds founder Jo Burston believes the federal government is “beginning to recognise that the Australian startup and entrepreneurs ecosystem needs their support if we are to be competitive on a global scale”.
While Burston told SmartCompany the already announced changes to employee share schemes and tax relief for smaller businesses “will assist startups”, she says “they are only a starting point”.
“I think the government has a long way to go, especially compared to New Zealand and the way they support entrepreneurship,” Burston says.
“New Zealand’s equity crowdfunding model allows companies to raise up to $NZ2 million per year from the public, whilst here in Australia startups are restricted to seek funding or angel investors.”
“Crowdfunding is critical for startups and younger entrepreneurs who may not be able to access capital from a traditional lender. If you look overseas, you see that the US, the UK and New Zealand are all ahead of Australia in this respect, and it’s time the Australian government caught up.”