The startup community’s innovation statement wish list


The government’s highly anticipated innovation statement is due next week and has the hopes of an entire ecosystem riding on it.


Since Malcolm Turnbull took over as PM and reshuffled his cabinet, there has been a broad national focus on innovation and startups, and the statement will be the flagship announcement in these areas.


As part of moulding the policies, the government has said that has been constantly consulting with the broader community, through things like the Policy Hack and roundtable discussions.


But what does the startup community actually want from the statement?


We asked some of the biggest names in Australian startups what’s on their innovation statement wish list.


A unifying vision

–        Sebastian Eckersley-Maslin: founder of BlueChilli

Above all we need a single unifying vision which unites the broader community around innovation. Innovation is an output of a strong culture which is built on empowerment, a tolerance of failure and speed, and the initiatives need to address these.


The innovation policy needs to be a holistic approach across the entire ecosystem. We need to look at supporting the creation of ideas which will supply the VC demand, incentives to encourage angels to invest and support those startups and initiatives which supper stronger STEM participation and gender diversity.



A focus on the entire ecosystem

–        Elaine Stead: Blue Sky Venture Capital investment director

My wish is that any policy at its foundation supports the entire innovation ecosystem. Too often a lot of policy initiatives are directed to very early-stage companies which inevitably results in a cliff at a later point along the innovation spectrum. I want the policy recommendations to support culture, capital and commercialisation. We need to address all three components, not just successful, but globally competitive.


I’d like to see additional policies that support broader participation and investment into venture capital. Venture capital is one of those unique asset classes that gives investors the opportunity to increase their personal wealth while also contributing to the culture, innovation and economic wealth of the country. Any policy initiatives which make the risk return profile more favourable for investors could be transformational for the sector and for the broader investment community.



Filling the funding gap

–        Mark Fletcher: Cohort Solutions CEO

I want to see more access to capital. It has never been so easy to start a company and never so difficult to scale it. There has been huge growth in promising commercial concepts here in Australia but a lesser increase in investors providing VC and business networks required to scale it. It is commonly understood that Australia is great at creating things but not so good at commercialising them.


Cutting the red tape

–        Julia Claven: Developer and CopyConnect co-founder

I’d love to see the statement focus on simplifying and removing the worst of the super tedious red tape and hurdles in order to get out of the way of startups and small business so we can recoup some time from compliance back to creation.


Beyond that, it would be so inspiring to see a departure from the somewhat oxymoronic status quo innovation policy approach of implementing weak versions of policies copied from other countries and instead see something bold.



Access to global markets and entrepreneurs

–        Josh Anthony: River City Labs general manager

I want to see access to global markets – ways for startups to reach global markets and open offices outside Australia with profits flowing back to their Aussie HQ.  They need to make it easy for foreign startup founders and even whole companies to relocate to Australia.


Helping those in need

–        Anne-Marie Elias: Chief disruptor

I love what Julie Bishop is doing with InfoXchange and the recent $2 million prize to improve international aid and the issues associated. I wish we had a similar fund and body to focus on local problems and challenges like the disability and mental health inclusion, youth suicide, unemployment, farming communities and helping them meet the digital disruption and leverage free trade agreements.


We have the ideas and skills to create great solutions to huge problems by creating more opportunities to leverage tech and startups and connect them to the community.


A focus on procurement

–        Rangan Srikhanta – One Education founder

High on my wish list would be prioritising social enterprise and not-for-profit startups as preferred suppliers for government contracts. Current procurement options in the education technology space are too expensive and place too high onus on schools to navigate a technological minefield. The end result is digital literacy in decline and our children are not prepared to be leaders in shaping the industries of the future.


Support for universities

–        Colin Kinner – director of Spike Innovation

The government could do a lot by supporting startup programs at universities – such as incubators, accelerators, entrepreneurs-in-residence and overseas placements. Exposing more young people to startups would greatly increase awareness of entrepreneurship and prime the pump of the startup ecosystem.


Australian startups need support to expand their operations overseas in order to access larger markets, capital and talent. The establishment of a network of startup landing pads in startup hotspots around the world would greatly improve the success rate of Australian startups going global.


A national network of innovation precincts would act as a focal point for startup-related activities and events, and provide a much-needed centre of gravity to each city’s startup ecosystem.


Tax incentives

–        Alex McCauley – StartupAUS head of strategy and advocacy

StartupAUS has recommended a series of policies around talent and capital. In particular, on the capital side: tax incentives for early stage startups, changes to the R&D tax incentives to ensure startups have the best chance of success. On the talent side, we’ve called for an entrepreneur visa, and streamlining the 457 visa to make it easier for startups to hire technical talent from overseas. We’d also like to see some refinements to employee share scheme.


New visas

–        Michael Jankie: LeadChat co-founder

We need a new PR or Sponsored Visa class for technology industry workers based on skill not time-based experience or qualification; it’s out of touch with the sector and a major opportunity to attract world leading talent to our shores.


Getting coding into schools

–        Kelly Tagalan – Code Club Australian national program manager

I would really love for innovation to start in schools and for that to be a major priority. We need to stop working on the assumption that we’re already teaching coding.  We have to look at how we can diversify who we are working with in this space too.


I would really love for the attention to be how to teach kids to be innovative thinkers and less how they think for exams.


Do you know more on this story or have a tip of your own? Raising capital or launching a startup? Let us know. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Denham Sadler is the editor of StartupSmart. He was previously a journalist at the publication and has worked as a freelancer for the Guardian, the Saturday Paper and the ABC. In his spare time he likes puns and jaffles.