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Australia’s listed technology sector is about to boom

8:02AM | Wednesday, 13 August

In my last article I responded to an interview in Vox with Marc Andreessen. Andreessen lamented that, in spite of a historic gold rush in technology companies, the IPO is dying in the United States due to zealous over regulation in the form of Sarbanes–Oxley, for example.   As a result, the general public is missing out on the incredible gains that were experienced in the listed US technology companies of yesteryear.   Yes, the regulators have gone too far and it is creating serious friction in the IPO pipeline. However I argued that perhaps the real reason that technology companies appear to Marc to be listing later and later is because, not surprisingly, the top venture capitalists are keeping these returns all for themselves.   It's been a relatively recent phenomenon that US technology companies have been waiting longer and longer to go public. In the US, technology IPOs of yesteryear companies went public much earlier, with market capitalisations in the hundreds of millions of dollars instead of the tens of billions.   As a result, the general public had the ability to share in the spectacular returns that technology companies can generate over time as software eats the world and industry after industry is being wholesale remapped and reshaped, with revenue growth at a speed unprecedented in history.   Even though eBay's share price went up a spectacular 163% on opening day, if you bought shares on market after this rise and held on until today you'd have made over 3500%. If you bought Amazon the day after it listed, you'd be up over 27,000%. If you'd bought Microsoft at IPO in 1986, you'd be up 66,500% today and 3000% in the first eight years alone.   Unfortunately for investors in the US, the general public is missing out. You only have to look at Facebook listing at $104 billion and Twitter listing at $24 billion to get a feeling for just how late these companies are going to market.   So who is making all the money as the stocks go from the tens of millions of dollars in market capitalisation to the tens of billions? The answer, not surprisingly, are the venture capitalists. You can't blame them for doing so, because of course their business model is to make as much money as possible for their limited partners.   There is another stock market, however, outside the US that is not subject to Sarbanes–Oxley and where technology listings are about to boom. This market is already quite a large market for equity capital issuances. In fact, as much money was raised there in the last five years as NASDAQ. The only problem from a technology company perspective is that most of the money raised there has been for resources companies.   I am, of course, talking about the Australian Securities Exchange.   Now let me tell you how this has all come about, and why now.   There is a disaster in venture capital in Australia with only around $30 million per annum for the whole of seed stage investments, $40 million in early stage and $20m in late stage. AVCAL reports there were 16 "investments" done with this grand sum of $20 million in late stage venture capital in 2013.   I am quite perplexed about how they defined "late stage" here, because the very definition of a late stage round size is usually greater than $20 million in one single investment, let alone 16. The only conclusion I can make is that these investments were triaged into bleeding zombie companies – hardly a sign of a successful late stage industry. Either that, or AVCAL has now taken up reporting of late stage investments to include lemonade stands.   Atlassian, one of Australia's most successful technology companies, just raised $US150 million in a late stage round. The entire Australian venture capital industry simply isn't big enough to fund that single round.   In addition to the lack of venture financing, a major terraforming of the economy is needed. Although we have $1.5 trillion dollars in the fourth largest pool of retirement funds (superannuation) in the world, these funds don't invest very much in Australian venture capital because none of the VCs to date have demonstrated that they can generate a return.   It's hard to claim that venture capital is even an asset class in this country, as it's missed every single major technology success story this country has produced all the way back from Radiata: Atlassian, Kogan, Big Commerce, RetailMeNot, Campaign Monitor, OzForex. The list goes on and on. For the life of me, I can't think of one they actually invested in.   The funds being invested into Australian VC come roughly equally from corporates, government and high net worth individuals. Corporate investment in VC in Australia is in decline, and with the government recently turning its tap off with the cancellation of the IIF program, I don't see a path to resurrecting a domestic venture capital industry any time within the next decade or two without a serious change in philosophy, which is not going to come from either of the two major political parties.   The incumbent Liberal party is currently implementing a program of austerity, and the previous Labor government was, at best, only interested in trying to win union votes from bailing out the inefficient and dying local manufacturing sectors. The biggest impact Labor had on the sector during their tenure was to change the laws on the taxation of option schemes, which wiped out the primary incentivisation mechanism for the technology industry (and, ironically, the primary means by which wealth is redistributed from owners to workers).   While I personally was not sorry to see the IIF go, I was hopeful that the axing of the program would be replaced with something more effective for financing technology companies down under. A better way would be through taxation reform for investors in qualifying risky technology ventures –front-end relief in the form of tax credits or a reduced rate of tax and back-end relief in the form of capital gains tax reductions or exemptions like the UK's Enterprise and Seed Enterprise Investment Schemes.   At the end of the day, the Australian government only provided $25 million a year into the IIF program, which is paltry when you consider Singapore, with a population of 5.4 million, has committed $SG16 billion ($US12.8 billion) into scientific research and development over a four year period from 2011 to 2015.   So how are Australian companies getting financed? Whilst the big US VC brands like Accel, Sequoia, Spectrum and Insight are actively prospecting down here, they are mostly just looking for cheap deals by value investing in late stage companies outside the hot money Silicon Valley market.   The investments that they have made to date, and which have been trumpeted in the media, have for the most part been majority buyouts or exits (Campaign Monitor, 99designs, RetailMeNot, etc).   A notable exception to this has been Accel's investment in Atlassian.   However, the lack of funding has not deterred Australia's entrepreneurs from building world class technology companies. Instead, they have focused on raising funds from the best source possible: selling something valuable to their customers.   This story continues on page 2. Please click below.  Almost all of Australia's best technology companies have bootstrapped all the way through. Those that did take outside funding, for the most part, didn't take it until they reached quite a late stage. As a result, we have some very well run technology companies, and some world class companies in the making.   Although I am pretty active in the startup community, every second week I am shocked to discover yet another Australian technology company that I have never heard of generating $10 million, $20 million, $50 million or more in revenue per annum. Until recently, I had never heard of companies like RedBubble, Nitro, and Pepperstone. The latter of which has, in just three years, become the 11th biggest forex broker in the world, turning over $70 billion a month through their online platform).   Because the Australian technology industry is mostly bootstrapped, it took longer to get here, but coming down the pipeline are an incredible number of great technology companies.   So if the Australian VC industry is dead, then how are these great companies going to raise funds when they need them? Well, I believe the answer is staring them right in the face. It's called the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).   After all, what better way to fund a company than by crowdsourcing it? This is what the resources industry already does today, via the ASX. If you have an early stage speculative mining company, you don't go begging down Coal Hill Road pitching to mining VCs and spending six months negotiating a telephone directory thick preferred stock structure. No, you write a prospectus detailing what you're going to do with the money and list it on the ASX.   Likewise if you're BHP or Rio Tinto, you can go to the ASX and the market is deep enough to raise billions. Crowd sourcing equity from the public has been done successfully for decades in resources. The ASX is in the top five globally for the total amount of money raised for equity issuances from 2009-13. There is no Sarbanes–Oxley in Australia, and listing costs are quite low. (In Freelancer's IPO, the underwriting fees were $450,000, legal fees were around $100,000, and investigating accountants cost about $50,000.)   Why go to a venture capital middleman unless they are a rockstar with solid operating experience that can add demonstrable value in some way?   I believe that Malcolm Turnbull will bring in legislation to allow the general public to crowdfund early stage ventures without a registered offering document, as is starting to happen elsewhere around the world. This will generate further interest and appetite in investing in technology companies from the general public which already actively takes a punt on speculative, early-stage mining companies (not to mention the Melbourne Cup).   At the moment, to invest in companies without a registered offering document you need to be a "sophisticated investor", which is curiously defined as a person having income of $250,000 per annum in each of the last two years, or net assets of $2.5 million.   I don't know why being rich makes you automatically sophisticated, and being poor means you’re incompetent with your money, but I'm sure that something sensible will happen here. If, by miracle, we see some taxation relief for technology investments, then this will be accelerated.   But I'm not holding my breath, even though the Australian government used to provide some form of taxation relief for investors in the mining industry.   When we were considering listing Freelancer on the ASX, many people gave us the usual regurgitated responses as to why it wouldn't work; investors here don't understand technology and that we would trade at a discount compared to US markets.   Professor George Foster from Stanford Graduate School of Business showed some time ago that country specific factors were a lot less important than company-specific financial statement-based information in explaining valuation multiples in an international setting.   Markets are increasingly globalised. It's almost as easy for a US investor to buy Australian shares as US ones. Money flows to where it gets the greatest return for a given risk profile; basically if arbitrage exists, someone will take it. Our stock going to $2.50 from a 50 cent issue price in the biggest opening in the last 14 years and third biggest opening ever on the ASX for an issuance larger than seed size is testament to the amount of pent up interest amongst the general public to invest in technology.   We took a calculated risk – nobody wants to be the first to try something new. But so far it has paid off.   It’s great to see the sector now heating up with recent listings from companies like Ozforex, iSelect, iBuy and MigMe (up 95% yesterday on their IPO, and like I did, broke the bell), and with WiseTech Global, Vista Group, 1-page, Covata, BPS Technology, Grays Australia imminently coming down the pipeline.   I suspect Ruslan Kogan will also be considering his options given the tremendous effort he has done bootstrapping Kogan to date. What surprised me is that the process was significantly easier, quicker and resulted in a more equitable and transparent capital structure than what I have experienced in any of the dozen venture capital financings I have been involved with in the past.   Projecting forward, I think that the ASX will be the primary way in which technology companies raise equity in this country in the future. The ASX realises this as well, and is moving to position itself as a regional hub for the Asian technology sector.   If it is successful—and I think there is a good chance it will be—it will cover a massive market. There are significantly more people in Asia (with dramatically rising incomes), significantly more micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs). It’s a much bigger market for many industries, and there are a lot more mobile phones than the US, to draw comparison to just a few metrics.   The ASX is in a fantastic position to capture this opportunity. In the second half of 2013 a total of 14 technology companies listed on the ASX. Since January 2014 there has been 55. In the entirety of 2013, a total of 59 companies were financed by Australian venture capital.   This is the future for financing technology companies in Australia.   Matt Barrie is chief executive at Freelancer.com

StartupAus calls for creation of federal department of innovation to boost startup ecosystem

8:20AM | Monday, 4 August

StartupAus is urging the federal government to create a dedicated agency responsible for innovation.   Such an agency is one of a number of characteristics of a successful startup ecosystem that Australia lacks, StartupAus says in a submission to an inquiry into Australia’s Innovation System by the Senate Economics References Committee.   It suggests establishing a dedicated agency, responsible for the development of innovation policy and implementation of programs similar to New Zealand’s Callaghan Innovation, the United Kingdom’s Technology Strategy Board, Sweden’s VINNOVA Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems and Singapore’s Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board.   StartupAus says the absence of such an agency is partly responsible for Australia lacking a coherent vision when it comes to innovation, which in turn is contributing to a wide range of market failures hindering the development of successful startups.   “Australia does not currently have all of the required conditions for an ecosystem that supports successful startups,” the submission says.   “Their establishment has been hampered to varying degrees by market failures spanning education, culture, expertise, access to capital and regulatory environments.”   The submission suggests a number of actions targeting those issues, some of which include; implementing a national visiting entrepreneurs program which would give Australian founders better access to mentors, creating an entrepreneur visa, and developing a variety of programs which recruit young people to entrepreneurship and the ICT sector.   Much has been made of the federal government’s decision to scrap Commercialisation Australia and the Innovation Investment Fund, a decision which StartupAus says is of “grave concern”.   “It is highly conspicuous that the Australian government’s support for the startup sector is decreasing at a time when the rest of the world is increasing investment in this sector,” the submission says.   “…the removal of these two programs will undoubtedly lead to a further reduction in the availability of capital to startups in Australia. StartupAus expects that this will result in an acceleration of the existing trend toward Australian startups leaving Australia in search of more favourable funding environments.”   Shortly before the budget was released, the Commission of Audit recommended that CA and the IIF be abolished on the grounds that “skills and finance can be acquired from the private sector” and there was “no clear reason” the government should provide assistance in competition with the private sector.   “That the Commission should come to such a conclusion, or that the government should accept it, is beyond belief,” the submission says.   However, the submission notes there is reason for optimism, as the Australian startup sector has seen a “groundswell of activity” over the past three years and there is a growing number of Australian technology companies that are reaching meaningful global scale including Atlassian, Freelancer, Bigcommerce, 99designs and Halfbrick Studios.   “We believe that Australia has an unprecedented opportunity to transition from an economy based on resources, primary industries and domestically focused businesses to one based on high-growth knowledge-intensive businesses that can compete globally,” the submission says.   The inquiry is set to report its findings in July 2015.   StartupAus’ full submission to the inquiry can be found here.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

Australian mobile app market booming as tech job growth outpaces the US and UK: Report

8:05PM | Sunday, 3 August

Australia’s tech jobs market is booming, with the rate of growth for tech jobs outpacing both the US and the UK, according to a new report by the Progressive Policy Institute.   The report measured the creation of “core” app economy jobs, defined as jobs that directly “develop, maintain, or support” mobile applications. On top of these, the statistics also measured “indirect” jobs that support app developers in fields such as human resources or management.   When these two categories of jobs are combined, the report finds the mobile app sector employs 139,600 staff nationally. The highest number of jobs was in New South wales (77,000), followed by Victoria (39,200), Queensland (10,000) and Western Australia (5000).   This growth rate has meant the overall number of people employed in computer related jobs in Australia has surged by 38.5% since Android smartphones were first introduced in 2008. This is a significantly faster growth rate than either the US (22.2%) or the UK (10.1%).   The development of mobile apps now directly or indirectly accounts for 9.4% of all ICT jobs in Australia, a rate higher than either the US (8.4%) or the UK(7.6%).   Likewise, while the number of mobile app development jobs as a percentage of all ICT jobs in Melbourne (10.9%) or Sydney (10.7%) is not as high as it is in Silicon Valley (17.6%), it is higher than either New York (10.5%), Chicago (9.5%) or London (9.3%).   In the report, author Michael Mandel says Australia’s app development is well positioned for future growth.   “The major take-away is that Australia has a good start on the digital economy, especially when viewed from the perspective of mobile apps. This debate is at a fever pitch in both the United States and Europe, especially after the recent NSA revelations.,” Mandel says.   “As this sector continues to expand globally, this opens up new opportunities for Australia to become an exporter of apps and app-related services, especially given the current international importance of English-language markets.”   Mandel warns there are also important lessons in the figures for Australian government policymakers.   “It’s important for policymakers to strike the right balance between essential and excessive regulation, especially in areas such as data privacy,” Mandel says.   “However, a general principle is that the tighter the regulations, the more obstacles in the path of the growth of the rapidly innovating app economy.”   Image credit: Flickr/jasonahowie Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

What data retention is, and why it’s bad

7:15AM | Tuesday, 29 July

With the Australian government “actively considering” data retention, and Australian Security Intelligence Organisation chief David Irvine telling a Senate committee that it is crucial to intelligence-gathering and that Australians have nothing to fear from it, it’s time for a clarifier on exactly what data retention is and the concerns it raises.   What is data retention?   The compulsory retention of information about a citizen’s telecommunications and online usage, either by telcos and internet service providers themselves, or by a government agency, so that law enforcement and intelligence agencies can use it to investigate crime and national security threats.   What sort of data?   Depends. The European Union scheme (now ruled illegal) was limited to telecommunications metadata — whom you called and when, duration of call, location, and the account linked to a particular IP address. The previous Australian government cited the EU model as what it had in mind when it invited a parliamentary inquiry into the idea in 2012. However, some individual countries (like Denmark) went further than the Eu directive and included web browsing history. Most Australian agencies officially only want metadata, not content data (like browsing history and email contents), but some agencies and police forces want the lot. Some things, like email subject lines, could arguably be either metadata or content data. The definition of what data will be subject to a data retention regime is thus crucial.   What would it cost?   In evidence to the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security that considered the issue in 2012, iiNet said it might cost them $5 a month for every customer to store data. That, in effect, is a $60 a year surveillance tax on every household. iiNet has recently significantly increased its estimate of the likely cost. Remember, both companies and government agencies will not merely need to store this data, but ensure it is stored safely — the vast trove of personal data that data retention will produce will be immensely attractive to criminals (and online activists looking to demonstrate how unsafe it is — in 2012, Anonymous hackers released customer data obtained from AAPT to protest the then-government’s data retention proposal).   What happens currently?   Traditionally, telcos have retained phone records because that was how they billed you. But there is decreasing need for specific call-based billing as consumers move to data-based plans. Moreover, companies have no need for metadata beyond the billing cycle, and given there’s a cost to storing such data, they are keeping less of it for the sort of periods agencies prefer — usually two years. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies call this “going dark” — losing access to phone information of the kind they’ve had for decades.   So what’s the problem - isn’t this just maintaining the status quo?   No. Let’s just focus on phone data. Your mobile phone data includes your location as your phone interacts with nearby phone towers, so in effect it can be used as a tracking device. But more importantly, forget that “it’s just metadata” (or “just billing data” as the Prime Minister said). A single phone call time and duration won’t tell anyone much about you. But in aggregate, metadata will reveal far more about you than content data.   With automated data-sifting software, agencies can accumulate a record of everyone you have called, everyone they have called, how long you spoke for, the order of the calls, and where you were when you made the call, to build a profile that says far more about you than any solitary overheard phone call or email. It can reveal not just straightforward details such as your friends and acquaintances, but also if you have medical issues, your financial interests, what you’re buying, if you’re having an affair or ended a relationship. Combined with other publicly available information, having a full set of metadata on an individual will tell you far more than much of their content data ever will.   And if you don’t believe us, ask the people who know: the General Counsel for the United States National Security Agency has publicly stated, “metadata absolutely tells you everything about somebody’s life. If you have enough metadata, you don’t really need content”. According to the former head of the NSA, Michael Hayden, the US government kills people based on metadata it has accumulated on them. As Edward Snowden says: “You can’t trust what you’re hearing, but you can trust the metadata.”   OK, but we’ve already given away our privacy to Facebook etc, haven’t we? Why shouldn’t agencies that want to protect us get the same data?   This is an argument routinely used by data retention advocates, and by Irvine himself. But going on Facebook isn’t compulsory. Citizens choose to use social media or other online platforms and voluntarily engage in the swap of privacy for services that so many applications are built on. Maybe they don’t understand the full nature of what they’re losing in that transaction, but it’s still voluntary. There is nothing voluntary about data retention — not unless you want to withdraw from the 21st century and not use telecommunications and online services.   But agencies say they need it to help prevent and solve crimes.   Let’s look at what happened in Europe. A German parliament study concluded data retention in Germany had led to an increase in the crime clearance rate of 0.006%. (The German scheme was later ruled unconstitutional.) Danish police, who have a much wider metadata and content data retention scheme, said the sheer amount of information was too unwieldy to use.   But such-and-such a high-profile crime was solved with metadata.   Maybe. But that metadata was available without a data retention regime. As the German study demonstrates, the number of crimes solved because of old metadata that would not otherwise have been available is negligible. And anyway, in western societies, we have long accepted that there is a trade-off between the rights of the individual, including a right to privacy, and the state’s power to protect its citizens. We understand that our civil liberties make it harder for the state to prevent, detect and punish crime, but value them enough to keep them anyway. Data retention alters this balance in favour of the state.   But we can trust our agencies to do the right thing.   Australia’s agencies generally have a better record of behaviour than foreign agencies. For example, repeated abuses such as stalking women, sharing intimate photos and listening in to intimate conversations, have been revealed to have occurred in the NSA; the CIA recently spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee while it was preparing a report exposing the agency’s use of torture; MI6 abducted and rendered Libyan dissidents to the Gaddafi regime for torture in exchange for help in the War on Terror.   However, ASIO, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service are by no means perfect and serious questions remain, for example, about both ASIS’s bugging of the East Timorese cabinet in 2004 and ASIO’s efforts to intimidate and gag the whistleblower who revealed it late in 2013. We also know from Edward Snowden that Australians intelligence agencies use electronic surveillance not for protecting us from terrorists, but for economic espionage.   The problem is that, unlike normal government bureaucracies, intelligence agencies have minimal public oversight or accountability, and can use national security as a justification to resist media scrutiny. The lack of oversight means incompetence, corruption, mission creep and criminal activity are far less likely to come to light than in normal government agencies. Public transparency is one of the key motivations for public servants to behave appropriately, and it doesn’t exist for agencies engaged in surveillance. And the more personal data they have access to, the greater the temptation.   But if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide.   Wear clothes in warm weather and have blinds in your windows? What are you hiding?   Are you happy for everyone to know where you are all the time, who your friends are, whom you’re having a relationship with, everyone you call, whether you have a medical or financial problem? It is not up to privacy advocates to “prove” the right to or importance of privacy. All governments acknowledge it is a fundamental right. If you support breaching that right, it is up to you to make the case, not demand privacy advocates defend it.   And law enforcement and intelligence agencies don’t merely target people “with something to hide.” People as diverse as whistleblowers, journalists, politicians, non-government groups and activists are subject to surveillance by such agencies, despite not having “done anything” other than reveal wrongdoing by governments and companies and protest against it. Data retention thus indirectly threatens core processes of democracy like whistleblowing, political organisation and scrutiny of governments. And once information is collected, agencies will press for its permanent retention. Some already argue that information should be retained forever. That means all future governments will have access to it. You may be comfortable with the current government having access to your data - but what about all future governments?   And law enforcement and intelligence agencies aren’t the only groups who have access to metadata. In Australia, bodies as diverse as local councils, the RSPCA and health bodies can obtain telephone metadata on citizens without a warrant.   But this is about stopping terrorism – the ends justify the means.   Terrorism is a wildly overhyped threat in western countries. About three times more Australians have died falling out of bed since 2001 than have died at the hands of terrorists; more Australians die from diseases like shingles and chickenpox than from terrorism. More women and children die at the hands of the partners and parents in Australia every year than the total number of Australian victims of terrorism. More Americans die from causes like malnutrition, falls, swimming accidents and work accidents each year than the entire death toll from 9/11. The level of spending we direct toward national security is completely unjustified in terms of the harms it prevents.   As a threat to the health and lives of western citizens, terrorism is negligible compared to deaths caused by poor infrastructure, bad health policies, unsafe workplaces or poverty. Data retention would be yet another expensive, intrusive national security policy that has no objective justification. Doing things in the name of stopping terrorism relies on our emotional fear of attacks, rather than making the case for taking away our rights.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. This story first appeared on Crikey.com.au.

The who, what and when of R&D tax incentives for Australian startups

6:53AM | Thursday, 19 June

If you are just starting out in business you may not be familiar with Research & Development Tax Incentives (R&D) available from the Australian government.   They offer help to businesses by offsetting some of the costs of performing R&D. Many startups are not aware of what constitutes as research and development, therefore potentially missing out on a substantial cash injection for their business.   Is my startup eligible to submit an R&D grant application?   R&D projects usually comprise of a set of activities with start and finish dates, undertaken to generate a specific piece of new knowledge. Under the R&D Tax Incentive Scheme, eligibility is determined on an activity basis rather than on a project basis. Eligible activities fall into two classes, core R&D activities and supporting R&D activities, both of which can be claimed.   The R&D program has four steps:   1. Conduct eligible R&D activities   You will need to write an R&D project plan to support your application. If you haven’t done this before there are various service providers that can help you put this together and ensure that you provide the correct information. Getting the base project plan together is tough for the first year’s claim but once you have this it will form a template for your business to use for subsequent applications.   2. Register with AusIndustry   Companies with an income year of 1 July 2012 to 30 June 2013 who wish to apply for the R&D Tax Incentive for the 2012-13 income would need to have lodged their registration application with AusIndustry by Wednesday 30 April 2014.   3. Ensure your books are in order   Use a bookkeeper who has experience in accounting for R&D tax incentives. Your bookkeeper should understand how to structure your company expenses efficiently to help maximise your eligible expenses.   Make payments for all eligible expenses in the year of the claim – i.e. before June 30.   Don’t get caught out with employee super expenses. Although this isn’t due for payment until July 28, you will need to make the payment before June 30 in order to include these expenses in your claim amount.   Get your filing in order. Expense receipts, travel diaries and any other relevant documentation that may be required in the event of an audit to substantiate your claim will need to be kept safely.   4. Lodge your company tax return with the ATO   Talk to an accountant as soon as you make the decision to apply for R&D tax incentives.   Seek advice from your accountant to ensure your business is prepared to lodge its return and understand how the timing of the application submission will impact forecasting your cash flow.   You can read more by downloading the information pack from the AusIndustry website.   Additionally, you may use the online eligibility tool to assess if your startup qualifies.   NOTE: As part of the 2014-15 federal budget, the government reduced the rate of benefit to all companies under the R&D Tax Incentive, effective from 1 July 2014. The rates of the refundable and non-refundable offsets will be reduced by 1.5 percentage points to 43.5% and 38.5% respectively.    The change will apply for a company’s income years commencing on or after 1 July 2014.   Clare Hallam is the COO of Pollenizer. She has worked alongside the founders from the very early days of Pollenizer and is now responsible for ensuring that the machine is well oiled and finely tuned to allow the business operations to scale and expand across the globe. 

Budget 2014: Small Business Commissioner scrapped in favour of $8 million Small Business Ombudsman

5:39AM | Tuesday, 13 May

The Australian Small Business Commissioner will be replaced by a Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, which will act as a “concierge for dispute resolution”.   The federal government has allocated $8 million over four years to establish the ombudsman, with $2 million to be spent each year between 2014 and 2018.   The announcement of funding follows the release of Small Business Ombudsman discussion paper in April, which is currently open to community consultation.   The government said in its budget papers the ombudsman will be a “Commonwealth-wide advocate for smaller enterprises; a single-entry point agency for small business to access Australian Government small business programs and support; a contributor to making Australian Government laws and regulations more small business friendly; and a concierge for dispute resolution”.   Small Business Minister Bruce Billson said “small businesses can find it difficult to navigate the Commonwealth and its numerous departments, which is why we are moving to this single entry-point model”.   “The small business sector hasn’t been forgotten in this budget and by making the right choices today, we create a stronger economy tomorrow with more jobs and a stronger small business sector,” said Billson.   Billson said the ombudsman will also “cut compliance burdens and reduce red-tape, meaning small businesses can get on with the job of attending to their customers”.   Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, previously welcomed the establishment of a Small Business Ombudsman, telling SmartCompany in April he was in favour of an ombudsman with real power to resolve disputes.

Junior Engineers get inspiration from Israel’s startup economy

3:59AM | Friday, 28 March

Migrating to another country often identifies cultural differences that can create great opportunities. This was the case for Ron Ofir, when he arrived from Israel with a young family.   “Both my wife and I are trained in science and technology and have had successful careers in these fields so it is important for us that our children have a similar education”, says Ofir. “However, I rapidly became aware of less focus on STEM education in Australia than we had at home.”   Realising that he couldn’t do much about changing the Australian curriculum, Ron decided to create his own software programming course, called Junior Engineers, and set it up as an after school activity, inviting parents from the school to enrol their children. The invitation attracted over 30 students to participate and resulted in the birth of a business idea.   Ron teamed up with Leigh Angus, a family friend and past program director of ilab, an accelerator for technology start-ups in Queensland. Together they built out a system and courses that could be replicated across a number of schools.   “We packaged and refined the course that Ron had built for one school and offered it to a number of other schools in the local area to gauge their interest”, says Angus. “By the end of January we had a further two schools signed up and over 70 children enrolled.”   And the interest is increasing. “For next term, we have six more schools joining our courses and another dozen schools promoting us. We’re expecting over 300 students to participate by the end of April and are busy employing instructors.”   It comes at a time when companies in Israel, the US, and China are building out technology enabled products and services at great knots, contributing significantly to their national economies. These companies are ravenous for talent and governments are investing heavily in STEM education to keep up with the demand for skilled and competent science, technology and engineering graduates.   For instance, Israel initiated a program several years ago to reskill a large portion of its workforce by offering software programming courses to science and arts graduates to encourage them to cross skill into IT. The initiative provided good talent for a very active technology hub.   Israel recognised early that having graduates with a global programming language skill was just as important as them having a global spoken language skill, in order to build companies that could succeed at an international level.   It looks like they probably got it right. Israel has the largest number of technology companies listed on the NASDAQ, second only to the US. To put it in proportion, Israel’s population is roughly a third of Australia’s.   “I spent four years living and working in Israel and a number of years visiting the Silicon Valley in the United States”, states Angus. “I’m always dumbfounded when I return to Australia at how behind we appear in comparison. There’s no doubt that Australian’s are early adopters of technology, but we tend to be a nation of consumers of US made tech rather than a nation of inventors and creators of our own.”   Both Angus and Ofir are responding to the rapid pace of technology development and advancement in other countries in comparison to Australia. They have ambitious plans to roll out Junior Engineers nationally and fill what appears to be a vacuum that the Australian government seems reticent to fill in its national curriculum.   “I used to develop and implement software programming courses on behalf of the Israeli government,” states Ofir. “And this is what I have based the Junior Engineers course work on. In practice, our students are learning first year tertiary coding skills that would ordinarily be taught to 18 to 21-year-olds in Israel. By implementing this kind of training, we should be able to leap other countries in advanced education.”   The pair believe, with support and recognition of these kinds of initiatives, Australia should, at the very least be able to catch-up.   Junior Engineers is based in Brisbane, Queensland, conducting a series of computing and technology courses at primary schools across the region before, after, or during school hours.

OneVentures announces second fund, citing increased venture capital appetite

3:23AM | Wednesday, 26 March

Venture capital group OneVentures has today announced they’re raising $100 million for a second innovation and growth fund.   The first OneVentures fund of $40 million was supported by $20 million from the Australian Government’s Innovation Investment Fund.   The other half is from 55 high-net worth individuals or family trusts, which are also the target groups for the second fund.   Since then, OneVentures has closed three co-investment funds securing $30m in additional funding for the portfolio.   The fund has invested in a wide range of companies including e-learning startup SmartSparrow, which has recently raised an additional $10 million, photo app Paloma Mobile and head lice treatment Hatchtech.   In a statement, managing director Dr Michelle Deaker said Australia’s innovation economy and early stage investor community have both been growing but there was still a dearth of later stage capital.   “This dynamic should create downward pressure on valuations and generate scope for superior returns. We see no reason why Australia’s entrepreneurs, with the assistance of experienced venture capital firms, like OneVentures, cannot compete successfully in global markets. For investors, the fund provides an opportunity to truly diversify a portfolio and gives access to emerging businesses with true breakout potential.”   Deaker spoke to StartupSmart about what they look for in companies and how they invest a few months ago.   The average investment plan is for three to four years and OneVentures usually takes 20 to 30% of a company.   “We don’t just give them a big wad of money, and we help them structure what they’ll do with our money,” said Deaker. “Most of the time it’ll go to driving the business forward, such as profit development staff, or sales and marketing staff because often our companies have great products but no marketing expertise.”

Legal firm “inundated” with calls from businesses unprepared for privacy law changes

3:58AM | Tuesday, 11 March

National law firm Holding Redlich has been “inundated” with calls from businesses which are unprepared for the privacy law changes due to take effect on Wednesday.   The legislation was first passed by Parliament 15 months ago, but many companies still haven’t made the necessary changes to comply with the laws.   Holding Redlich general counsel Lyn Nicholson has been fielding the requests and told SmartCompany there’s been dozens of companies calling in the past week.   “We did a webinar a week ago on the new laws and with just 48 hours’ notice we had 50 people log on and find out what they had to do. And since then we’ve had a number of follow ups,” she says.   “In December we’d done an earlier webinar on the topic which attracted 115 people, and equally we got a lot of follow ups from this too.”   Nicholson says despite having 15 months to prepare, businesses are only just starting to worry.   “It seems many businesses have left it to the last minute to get prepared and the level of interest on this topic has been huge. The deadline is looming and businesses are clearly realising that they face commercial and regulatory risks, including fines if they are non-compliant,” she says.   From March 12 businesses could be fined up to $1.7 million per breach of the new regulations, which aim to bring Australia’s privacy laws up-to-date with technology trends.   The laws will make it more difficult for businesses to collect information about consumers without their knowledge and will also give consumers more control over their ability to opt-out of marketing communications.   The laws will apply to businesses turning over more than $3 million a year and collect personal data.   Other small businesses which are health services providers, are related to a larger business, trade in personal information or contract to the Commonwealth will also need to comply.   However, Nicholson says it’s been predominantly larger businesses needing last minute information on the privacy law changes.   “They [the businesses making inquiries] are across a range of industries and they’re reasonably sized companies. They’re under-prepared and the changes are finally here,” she says.   “They’re also often the Australian branch of a multinational which hasn’t focused on the Australian legislation. They could have really great policies for the European Union regulations, but those then need to be adapted for Australia,” she says.   Nicholson says many companies which only deal business to business tend to be unaware the laws also apply to them.   “Even if you’re predominantly b2b, some of the changes will impact you,” Nicholson says.   Under the changes, the Privacy Commissioner will have greater powers to enforce the legislation.   The commissioner will be able to accept enforceable undertakings, seek civil penalties in the case of serious breaches, and conduct assessments of privacy performance for both Australian government agencies and businesses.   Nicholson says the commissioner has also indicated if a company has failed to update its policies and practices prior to March 12, so long as it can show it’s “working through the updates”, this will be taken into consideration.   But Nicholson says the changes need to be taken seriously and she expects a serious penalty will be delivered within the first six months of the new changes.   “The commissioner will be looking for an opportunity to work through the charges, so I expect there will be a high profile breach within six months,” she says.   “In America every three months there is a significant breach… the Privacy Commissioner has put out enough warnings.”   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

Weekly digest: All the stories we published this week in one easy to check place

2:40PM | Sunday, 23 February

This week was a busy one for Australian start-ups, with two crowdsourced equity platforms launching in Australia and a couple of big discussions taking place online.   Israeli-based OurCrowd launched on Monday and Artesian Ventures-backed VentureCrowd launched on Thursday.   Our story that received the most comments this week explored why Australian tech start-ups are leaving the country and if we can solve the issues driving them overseas.   But it’s not all doom and gloom for Australian government support for start-ups, with supporting start-ups on the agenda and an election issue in South Australia with both parties targeting them.   In other investment news, an angel investor warned against quick capital rounds, two start-ups have banded together to offer a start-up scholarship for uni students and a Brisbane start-up won $100,000 at Perth’s West Tech Fest.   One of Australia’s leading start-ups, the founders of e-commerce platform Bigcommerce, shared how they had to overcome their fear of taking on external capital and getting big too quickly before they could really take off.   In other growth news, this start-up shared how they grew 200% by eschewing a gung-ho entrepreneurial approach to business and heard from a start-up taking on big players in the science lab supplies space.   For those looking to grow, we reported on three education opportunities including the return of Melbourne’s only private accelerator AngelCube, Australia’s first ever all-female hackathons and Sydney University’s incubator program announcing its latest intake.   We looked to the future and explored three emerging trends that will transform business, and heard from REA’s CIO about why individuals will play a bigger role than ever before.   Getting customers was also a theme of this week with some lead generating advice and Facebook’s head of e-commerce shared his top tips for turning followers into return customers.   We also explored how to keep the customers you have, with tips on how to master customer service, prevent PR disasters online and why this start-up copped flack for their internship ad.

THE NEWS WRAP: Kickstarter hacked

2:20PM | Sunday, 16 February

Crowdfunding site Kickstarter has posted a security notice revealing hackers gained access to its customer database and is urging all users to immediately change their passwords.   In a post on the company’s official blog, chief executive Yancey Strickler says the hackers did not gain access to credit card information and the vulnerability used by the hackers has since been closed.   “While no credit card data was accessed, some information about our customers was. Accessed information included usernames, email addresses, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and encrypted passwords.   “Actual passwords were not revealed; however, it is possible for a malicious person with enough computing power to guess and crack an encrypted password, particularly a weak or obvious one.   “We set a very high bar for how we serve our community, and this incident is frustrating and upsetting. We have since improved our security procedures and systems in numerous ways, and we will continue to do so in the weeks and months to come.”   Branson lobbies federal government not to financially assist Qantas   Virgin founder Richard Branson has taken out full-page advertisements in News Corp papers telling Prime Minister Tony Abbott to “think twice” about providing financial assistance to Qantas.   “Should the Australian taxpayer be forced by the Australian Government to prop up the Qantas Group, as Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey is suggesting, business people worldwide should think twice about investing in Australia for fear of such intervention in their sectors,” Branson says.   “Qantas has gone to its shareholders on numerous occasions over the last few years to wage its capacity war against us.   “Now that shareholders have turned that tap off, the company is turning to the Australian taxpayer to try and bail it out.”   Overseas quantitative easing might be boosting the Aussie dollar   Reserve Bank assistant governor Christopher Kent has warned the Australian dollar might be overvalued as a result of the money printing programs of major overseas central banks.   “The fact that these expansions have been occurring for some time suggests that they may have been placing some upward pressure on the Australian dollar in the years following the onset of the global financial crisis,” Kent says.   “The fact that they are still playing out may have continued to provide some support to the Australian dollar beyond the time at which the terms of trade and the interest rate differential had begun to decline.”   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up to 16154.4. The Aussie dollar is up to US90.59 cents.

Crowdsourced equity insights: Australian activity and why it opens up possibilities for every start-up

11:43PM | Wednesday, 6 November

The international start-up community is readying themselves for the “unstoppable wave” of crowdsourced equity funding, which a local funding expert says is great news for start-ups, especially those not traditionally attractive to angel and venture capital investors.   Crowdsourced equity allows start-ups to raise capital through smaller donations from large groups of investors aggregated via online platforms.   Paul Niederer, chief executive of the Australian Small Scale Offerings Board (ASSOB), a fundraising platform for unlisted Australian companies, told StartupSmart Australians were already exploring crowdsourced equity.   “There are a whole lot of other companies who aren’t going to give that 10-times return to shareholders that venture capital investors and angels want. A lot of start-ups aren’t that high-tech Silicon Valley-style offering, but they still need funds to start and grow,” Niederer says.   Over 300 companies, the majority of which are start-ups, have raised more than $135 million via the ASSOB since the platform launched in 2008.   Niederer says they’ve had several tech companies use the platform, but the real power of crowdsourced equity funding is connecting non-high-tech start-ups to investment opportunity.   “For those guys, crowdsourced equity funding and aggregated investors are one of the few ways to get funds. They don’t go ahead if they can’t find investors who are passionate about what they’re doing and really get it,” Niederer says.   The average amount of capital raised through the ASSOB platform is $300,000 to $500,000. The average amount of equity sold down is 21%.   According to a global report on crowdsourced equity activity published by Crowd Valley Inc, over 6000 companies and individuals ran crowdsourced equity campaigns.   Start-ups made up 32% of this group. The leading regions were the North America (47%) and Europe (26%).   While only 2% of the funding activity cited in the report came from Oceania, Australian crowdsourced equity funding is increasing, according to the report.   Crowdfunding is still an emerging fundraising method. While the United Kingdom, Italy and New Zealand have enacted legislation to make CSEF more accessible, it’s not in force yet.   The United States is currently overhauling the Jobs Act with similar goals in mind. In the United States, 69% of the campaigns weren’t authorised by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.   The Australian government is currently seeking input on a discussion paper for their review into crowdsourced equity.   Niederer says he expects Australian crowdsourced equity activity will increase as the government improves the regulatory environment for it.   “It’ll grow because it’s a trend that is evolving worldwide. The ability to fund an entity will become easier with legislation changes so it will occur more,” Niederer says, adding the legislation will be hard to get right as it needs to work for both start-ups and investors.   “We can see the fight for this balance happening right now in the United States, where they’re trying to make it feasible for small business to raise funds but also putting enough measures in place to protect investors.”

Start-up community welcomes new government, concerned about the fate of the NBN

9:49AM | Monday, 9 September

Australia’s start-up community hopes a new Coalition government will deliver progress on key policies that will enable and strengthen the start-up ecosystem.   The entrepreneur in residence at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Dean Alley, told StartupSmart he was disappointed that innovation wasn’t more of an issue this election.   “I would’ve liked to have seen more innovation policy put forward,” Alley says.   He adds that the start-up community includes a wide variety of people, who all prioritise different policies.   “Academics will tend to vote Labor, as they do tend to give more money to university research. But both parties support Commercialisation Australia, which is key,” Alley says.   He added that a key enabler of the start-up scene would be the roll out of the National Broadband Network, and hopes the Coalition’s plan will create adequate internet speeds.   “The Coalition would be silly not to bring in some satisfactory broadband speed, but it won’t be the grandiose project Labor had,” Alley says.   “There are a lot of start-ups, especially in regional areas like here, who need those speeds. We’ve had a lot of people come into take advantage of the broadband speeds here.”   The Coalition’s fibre-to-the-node NBN plan has been criticised for offering slower internet access speeds than Labor’s fibre-to-the-premises plan.   Catherine Eibner, lead start-up advisor at Sydney-based venture-technology accelerator Blue Chilli, told StartupSmart it was unclear what changes the new government would implement.   “One benefit is we won’t have to build new relationships with the new government. Malcolm Turnbull is fairly well aware of the start-up sector and a fair amount work has been done to communicate our needs and situation to him,” Eibner says, adding that some of the Blue Chilli team had met with the Coalition a few months ago to discuss the needs of the start-up sector.   “I am disappointed about the changes to the NBN, and I can’t deny that. In terms of our connectivity and speed from a global competitiveness position, it’s not the best result. Access to high speeds, and the cost of this access will be a prohibitor for a lot of start-ups,” Eibner says.   Eibner adds the Australian government needs to move quickly to fix the issues that are driving start-ups to set up in other countries.   “The employee share schemes issue is one of the reasons why start-ups leave Australia and go to the United States. Reviewing the policies around that, and also the research and development tax incentives will help us keep businesses here. This helps us keep working towards our goal of building an ecosystem of global businesses based here,” she says.   Chief executive of the Enterprise Network for Young Australians, Jeremy Liddle, says the not-for-profit entrepreneurial support group hopes the new government will be more receptive to much-needed policies.   “Traditionally a Coalition government has been better for start-ups. For example ENYA was founded under the Howard one, so I do think a Coalition government will be a bit more open to the policies we’ve been talking to them about for entrepreneurs and start-ups,” Liddle says.   ENYA has been lobbying for five policies since May 2013, including creating a four-year, $20 million fund for low-interest loans to entrepreneurs, and a government dollar matching scheme for graduates of incubators and accelerators.   Liddle adds the early traction around updating tax laws relating to employee share schemes is good news for start-ups, but education and support networks should be a priority.   “The employee share scheme changes are going to happen. I don’t think it’s the major obstacle for start-ups, but it‘ll definitely be an enabler that will help a lot,” Liddle says.   “The major obstacle for start-ups is enough funding going into education and access to finance, as there is very little funding going into support services.”   Liddle describes the NBN as a key issue for start-ups, but adds that both policies aren’t ideal.   “Faster internet is going to improve efficiencies and make it easier for the tech industry to grow,” Liddle says. “Both NBN solutions are less than ideal. The truly ideal solution would be universal wireless internet.”

Software industry rejoices as New Zealand eliminates software patents

9:30PM | Sunday, 1 September

The software industry has taken a leap for joy this morning after the New Zealand government announced it would abolish certain software patents – and local experts say we should follow suit.   The abolition of software patents is a long-running issue in the developer community. Although traditionally used to protect copyright, critics say patents have become so general and broad they are effectively useless.   Now, major companies such as Samsung and Apple have used patents as tools in litigation to win royalties – leading to the creation of entire entities dedicated to buying patents and suing for profits.   “There is no doubt the current patent system is antiquated,” the chief executive of incubator Pollenizer, Mick Liubinskas, told SmartCompany this morning.   The New Zealand government passed a bill to ban software patents this week, with the vast majority of MPs in favour of the motion. In a release, commerce minister Craig Foss says the bill marks a “significant step towards driving innovation in New Zealand”.   Critics of the patent system say they stop companies from developing new projects based on other ideas that should essentially be taken as very basic innovations.   Liubinskas says it’s time the Australian government investigated making a similar motion.   “If you manage intellectual property protection the right way – and not through patent protection – you can do a lot to really drive innovation,” he says.   “It comes back to the question of whether we want to put entrepreneurs first. How much do we want to drive entrepreneurial innovation? Do we want to put our foot down and be a world leader in this area?”   In New Zealand, the Institute of IT Professionals says the patent system doesn’t work for software, because it is “almost impossible for genuine technology companies to create new software without breaching some of the hundreds of thousands of software patents that exist”.   This is the main problem cited regarding patent infringement in the United States, where major companies including Apple, Microsoft and others have applied for patents that are extremely general.   For example, last year Apple filed a patent application on a graphical user interface that can “display electronic lists and documents”.   “Apple’s patent covers UI modules covering blogging, email, telephone, camera, video player, calendar, browser, widgets, search, notes, maps and more importantly, a multi-touch interface.”   Liubinskas says for entrepreneurs to do their best work, they need freedom – which is why the system needs to be changed.   “We’ve incremented to ugliness, and so the only way we can actually get anything done is to blow the whole thing up.”   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

Entrepreneurs need urgent action to overcome start-up brain drain to US

7:53AM | Thursday, 4 July

Mick Liubinskas, one of the directors at incubator and accelerator Pollenizer, is calling for urgent action from the government to overcome the steep challenges facing growing start-ups after seed stage.   Liubinskas told StartupSmart support for the post-seed stage was critical to get entrepreneurs through the “the valley of death for start-ups”.   “If we don’t support our start-ups then, too many just won’t make it and won’t get to the Series A funding. Or they go to the US and we miss out. The anguish I feel for that gap is awful,” Liubinskas says.   While the depth and breadth of start-ups and angel investors is growing in Australia, it’s still much harder to get a start-up really growing in Australia than it needs to be, he says.   “We don’t have a big enough well of high-risk capital,” Liubinskas says. “Australian companies are registering as US companies from day one because they know it will be a lot harder if they don’t. It’s disastrous.”   Having recently returned from a trip to Israel, where the government funds start-ups who graduate from the 24 approved incubators with five to one funding after their seed stage development, Liubinskas says the Australian government needs to get serious if we want to lead the entrepreneurial world.   Liubinskas says Australian entrepreneurs and investors are going to keep getting on with the job, but the upcoming election is a great time to discuss the role of the start-up sector, and how to support it best.   “We need to attack on all fronts. It’ll happen regardless, entrepreneurs are feisty and we don’t take no for an answer, but it’ll take a lot longer. If the government wants a world-class, top five, technologically leading nation in 10 years, we absolutely need additional support.”   As part of this, Liubinskas is diversifying his Pollenizer work and is looking to work directly with five start-ups to coach them through the difficult growth stage.   While start-up services and products vary, Liubinskas says there is some advice that works for all of them.   “I say to absolutely every start-up, launch as soon as you can. Learning doesn’t start until you launch, and far too many first time start-ups wait far too long. Launch a smaller product to a smaller market, just get it out there,” he says.   Liubinskas says start-ups need to navigate a series of compromises to be successful. These include listening to customers closely, but keeping their focus tight and their target market specific.   “Picking the right market is key. It’s tempting to have a really wide funnel to see what comes in, but that usually ends up with a bland product that doesn’t appeal to anyone,” he says.   “The important thing is to differentiate between research and testing. The most important thing you can do is talk to customers. One conversation is about asking them questions and getting feedback: what are their problems and how can you solve them, and how valuable would your solution be? But the other is about crafting an offer and trying out it. Just try it, and learn from the response.”   Liubinskas says it usually takes 10 significant modifications to a product or service before it really starts cranking. He adds start-ups with a team of two or more will almost always get further, faster.   “All of the research and certainly all of my experience says a team of two at least is significantly stronger,” he says.   “Like much of the start-up world, it’s about managing contradictions. Founders need to be wonderful, optimistic and caring, but also brutal, aggressive and hold the other person accountable.   It’s about focus, and focusing on getting it done fast. On your own, it’s easier to languish and never get anything done or constantly be distracted.”

Women business owners not paying themselves a wage, research reveals

7:33AM | Wednesday, 10 July

Research by the Australian Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry has revealed the majority of women small business owners do not pay themselves a wage.   The survey results released yesterday from an AWCCI study of 3000 female respondents showed 50% of the businesses required more capital to grow.   It also found a large majority of women start a business with under $5000, with just under 70% using personal savings, and 51% of women did not pay themselves a wage.   Women in rural areas were less likely to pay themselves a wage than those in metropolitan areas. Overall, 40% of the women surveyed also said they worked both Saturdays and Sundays, while 36% worked seven days a week   These figures, AWCCI executive director Yolanda Vega told SmartCompany, are alarming and could result in increasing numbers of women living below the poverty line.   "It's always hard when you are a small business owner trying to bring in an income as well as running the business, but because the majority of women are in service based industries they can't obtain grants, contracts from industry and government and furthermore women by nature tend to give out a lot more than they should, meaning they always care about others before themselves."   "We feel there is potential for another one million women to be living below the poverty line. At the moment research shows the majority are women and children and the majority of people living below the poverty line after rent, are surviving on a few dollars a day," she says.   Vega says many women start a business without an exit plan and without enough funds.   "This is problematic for the community and the economy, both in the short and long term because money changes everything," she says.   Vega says women are increasingly leaving corporate jobs to start their own services business. Research from AWCCI shows the number of females running their own business has increased by 8.9% in the past five years, while the number of males running a business has dropped by 3.7% in the same period.   Vega also says women not paying themselves wages has negative implications on the economy as a whole.   "Only a very small percentage (37%) of respondents believed they were paying themselves a market wage, when they actually paying themselves a wage at all."   "It's harming everybody. If you look at the big picture, women have the power of the purse and between 80-90% of consumer decisions are being made by women. If we continue to see this trend of women leaving the corporate environment and continuing to not pay themselves a wage, they won't be able to spend," she says.   Vega says the women who are not paying themselves a wage are also not receiving super, and this will have implications upon their ability to retire comfortably.   "Women are not valuing their work as much as they should."   "What we're trying to do is advocating to make sure the government starts using women as suppliers. Last year the government pumped out $41.3 billion of contracts, but they don't know what percentage went to women, and if they do know they won't deliver that information to anyone," she says.   SmartCompany contacted AusTender, the Australian government agency responsible for research and publications into government business opportunities and contracts to see if the data was available, but received no response prior to publication.   However, research presented in November last year at the annual global Women Vendors Exhibition and Forum found women's share of government corporate procurement contracts was only 1% globally.   In the United States the government has set a government-wide mandated procurement goal of 5%, but in 2012 only 4.1% of contracts were awarded to women-owned businesses, according to research from Women Impacting Public Policy.   Vega says the Australian government needs to start monitoring how many government contracts are given to women-run businesses so mandates can be set which dictate the percentage which must go to women.   "The government should now be setting targets. We don't even collect the data, so we can't possible instigate a mandate and try and set targets.   "The government must start collecting data now to avoid a massive catastrophe," she says.   This article first appeared on SmartCompany.

Roy Morgan survey shows entrepreneurs are getting older and think the NBN is pointless

3:42AM | Friday, 15 March

The majority of Australian small businesses believe the National Broadband Network will not provide any benefit and believe the federal government is "very poor" at fostering business growth, according to a new study.

Deloitte and Norton Rose to press government on employee share options

2:43PM | Monday, 4 February

Deloitte has partnered with law firm Norton Rose to conduct a survey on employee share option plans in order to present the government with hard-and-fast data on the issues affecting start-ups.

Australia up three spots in global innovation – but expert says we can do better

2:36AM | Wednesday, 6 February

A new report shows Australia has improved its global ranking in the innovation stakes, moving from 16th spot to 13th spot, although access to venture capital and public funding remains a problem for start-ups.

Five top reasons to start-up in 2013

3:32AM | Friday, 15 March

The start of the year often sees a surge in new business launches, as plans mulled over throughout the year, fermented over Christmas, come to fruition.

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