Above: AusBiotech chief executive Dr Anna Lavelle. Superannuation funds have been urged to offer more support to Australian biotechnology companies, amid fears they risk being sold cheaply to overseas investors. According to Jeremy Curnock Cook, managing director of biotechnology fund BioScience Managers, the Australian biotechnology industry needs more support from local super funds. Curnock Cook told The Australian there is not enough capital available to support innovative biotech companies. As a result, these companies “run halfway round the track and still had the other half to go”. “When they finally run out of money, they will be sold for cents in the dollar… What is the point of selling chunks of assets to foreign investors when you shouldn’t have to?” he said. Dr Anna Lavelle (pictured above), chief executive of Australian biotechnology organisation AusBiotech, told StartupSmart she agrees with Curnock Cook’s views and concerns. “I add my voice to the growing chorus of eminent Australians who believe that the government has a role to play in encouraging the superannuation industry to invest in next generation industries, which require a long-term view of sustainability and growth,” Lavelle says. “Australia’s fast-growing superannuation funds – the world’s fourth largest pool of managed funds – totals $1.3 trillion at present and is expected to grow to $3 trillion by 2022. “Even a tiny fraction of a percentage invested in innovation can support the building of a knowledge-based economy, leading to jobs and wealth creation. “A tiny portion of the country’s superannuation ‘nest egg’ directed to innovation and biotechnology would give invaluable support to the growth of innovation-based industries.” Super funds tend to steer clear of biotech companies because they are considered high risk. Rather than distributing money to all biotech companies, Curnock Cook said super funds could invest in specialised managed biotech funds, which in turn invest in local and foreign companies. He said the investment risk could be lower if the biotech companies targeted by specialised biotech funds have already advanced to clinical trials on patients.
A new crowdfunding platform aimed solely at local sporting clubs has highlighted the growth of niche crowdfunding websites, suggesting there are opportunities for other start-ups to specialise. Sportaroo, which has a team of six based in Australia and the United Kingdom, allows sports teams to raise funds for team projects by offering merchandise, experiences and sponsorship. According to Sportaroo spokesperson Jim May, it’s been an exciting few weeks. “Our first campaign for the Australian Women’s Olympic Bobsled Team is going great guns and is close to achieving its target,” May wrote on Silicon Beach Australia. “The girls are offering all sorts of supporter packs including great value sponsorship and the chance to ride in an Olympic bobsled.” Sportaroo isn’t the first start-up to carve a niche in the increasingly popular crowdfunding space. Here are a few others that are homing in on specific areas. Start Music Unlike Pozible – which encompasses all kinds of creative projects and ideas – Start Music is aimed solely at Australian music artists, allowing them to connect with fans and fund music. “A lot of musicians and artists haven’t heard of the concept of crowdfunding but I find they get it very quickly when I start explaining it,” founder Andrew Sellen told StartupSmart in July 2011. “I’m also going to have a system of milestones rather than a simple success/failure system… so fans are still engaged in helping them reach their 100% target. “My marketing strategy will revolve around contacting the sort of artists I’d like to see on the site. I’d like to see bands on there that are buzz bands – newer bands but growing in popularity.” StartSomeGood StartSomeGood is a US-based platform for social good initiatives to raise funds and grow a community of supporters. According to its Australian co-founder Tom Dawkins, StartSomeGood is “Kickstarter but for social change”, which is “lowering the barriers [for] people… who want to make a difference”. “Currently, you’re told you have to register as a charity before you can access most fundraising platforms, which builds in costs and delays, and excludes social enterprises,” Dawkins told StartupSmart in January last year. Dawkins – who is part of the Australian delegation for the 2013 G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance Summit – said StartSomeGood enables social enterprises to raise funds “based on their vision, plan and credibility, not their tax status”. GoFundMe US-based crowdfunding platform GoFundMe, which was founded by Brad Damphousse and Andrew Ballester, has been described as “Kickstarter for the rest of us”. GoFundMe is a do-it-yourself online fundraising service, which helps people raise substantial amounts of money in online donations for their various causes. In September last year, it was revealed GoFundMe will launch a new partner program, which will see it partner with organisations whose members raise funds through the site. GoFundMe already takes a 5% cut of all funds raised on its platform. Through this program, it will split that with the organisations it partners with. This means GoFundMe and Member Networks will each receive 2.5% of the funds raised in associated campaigns. Seedstarter Realising that scientists regularly look for funding in order to commercialise their innovations – but are often underwhelmed when communicating with investors – Michael Dawson and Stephen DeVilliers created a crowdfunding site specifically for the science sector. “Seed Starter is all about getting the community involved and interested in science,” the website says. “We’re interested in research projects from all fields of science including biology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, astronomy, technology, engineering, social science, medicine, agriculture and many more. We are looking for projects from researchers with affiliations at universities, nonprofits or other research institutions. This includes tenured faculty, post-docs, and graduate students. We also accept proposals from industry bodies.”
Female entrepreneurs in high-growth sectors are being encouraged to submit an application to Springboard Enterprises, which aims to help them secure funding from local and US investors.
The Victorian Government has unveiled the $8 million Technology Voucher Program in a bid to drive the use of cutting-edge technologies, offering vouchers worth up to $250,000.
Frankston City Council recently announced a new grant scheme for start-ups, one of the few local councils around the country to offer grants to early stage ventures.
Government grants are notoriously hard to snare for start-up businesses and can involve completing a mountain of time-sapping paperwork in the application process.
Advance, the Federal Government-backed network of Australians living overseas, has launched an awards program aimed at boosting innovation within Australian universities.
The scope of a competitive grants scheme has been questioned after it was revealed university research and development supporting grants totalled $22 million less in 2012 than in 2011, despite the government’s heavy focus on this area.
Early Facebook investor Peter Thiel has used the fortune he made from Facebook’s IPO to launch a new $402 million venture capital firm, which is looking globally for potential deals.
A University of Queensland associate professor will collaborate with a US biotech company on an innovative biofuel production system, thanks to an R&D contract facilitated by UniQuest.
The founders of Smart50 entrant Catch of the Day, Gabby and Hezi Leibovich, have been revealed as being among the country's richest people, with a fortune of $240 million, according to the latest figures from BRW.
The Federal Government should introduce more incentives to boost investment in biotechnology, a major industry player has argued, despite some recent high-profile deals in the high-risk sector.
A $15 million investment in an Australian biotechnology start-up has been judged the Best Venture Capital Investment at the 2012 Vaccine Industry Excellence Awards in Washington.
Melbourne Population: 4.07 million Start-up survival rate: 74.3% (2007 to 2009)
Australian angel investors will give preference to projects in biotechnology, clean technology and web-based software this year, according to the results of the 2011 National Angel Survey.
Getting venture capital for any start-up is hard work. Even in the US, the world’s biggest venture capital market and the mecca for start-ups, only two out of every hundred get funded.
The Victorian Government has opened applications for funding of up to $250,000 for the state’s small businesses to trial and develop productivity-boosting technology.
The Victorian Government plans to spend more than $50 million on the state’s biotechnology sector, just days after IBM announced a new R&D lab to strengthen Victoria’s ICT industry.
Business research firm Frost & Sullivan has unveiled the top 50 technologies and innovations set to impact on business throughout the decade, including wireless charging and energy harvesting.
V-Tol Aerospace, a Queensland based company that develops unmanned aircraft systems, has teamed up with the University of Queensland to launch the Australian Unmanned Systems Academy (AUSA).