University of Queensland
Tesla may have ambitious plans for battery technology for the home but it is also looking to upgrade its electric vehicle batteries, which will allow them to travel twice the distance they currently do. So what will be the implications for Australia? While Australia has generally been an early adopter of new technology, electric vehicles pose more of a problem. Anybody who has grown up in regional Australia knows that being the family taxi at weekends for children’s sporting events can regularly mean a round trip of more than 200km. The current battery life of an electric vehicle is around 160km – the Nissan Leaf is quoting an average even lower at 135km – so they are still not an option as the primary vehicle for even the most die-hard regional environmentalist. There has been some take-up of hybrid vehicles – and they are more suitable to Australian conditions – but what is needed for those who would love to move to a fully electric vehicle? Electric is more suited to the major cities, where they can be used for the daily commute to work (and may provide an alternative for the second family vehicle). But the uptake of new electric vehicles is slow according to one recent report, with limited sales in the first few months of the year, although BMW claimed the most with 70 of its i3 model. (It’s a similar story in other countries where sales are far less than predicted.) One of the reasons for the slow take-up in Australia has been identified as a lack of infrastructure to keep electric vehicles powered, especially on the longer journeys that are typical here. The need for distance Three main issues need to addressed if we are to see more electric vehicles on our roads are: The battery technology Availability of charging stations Whether the cost of electricity continues to increase to a point where liquid fuels are the most economic option. Technology in electric vehicles is changing fast. Vehicle battery charging stations that are being deployed in the United States and Europe are being developed right here in Australia. New “fast chargers” will enable quicker charging, but will cost more (for both electricity at a higher tariff and use of the charger) compared to the overnight charge in the home garage. The Australian-designed Veefil by Tritium will allow for a charge of approximately 48km for each 10-minute charging cycle. A battery boost network The problem is who will pay for establishing a network that will allow for vehicle charging around what is one of the greatest highway networks (by length) anywhere in the world? We could retro-fit every current petrol service station with electric vehicle chargers – but what incentive would there be for the oil companies to even entertain the idea? Maybe the electricity distribution companies or retailers may look at vertical integration and diversify into their chain. Co-locating at existing sub-station sites may be a feasible option for them. There is also an opportunity for electricity generators as it will help use up the excess capacity they currently have due to falling demand. With a maximum charging time (utilising a fast charger) being 30 minutes, shopping centres or take-away food chains may also provide a viable option, providing drivers with something to do while their vehicle is being charged. Maybe valet car charging may become an option. While there has been much focus on the new Tesla battery for domestic use (primarily for photovoltaic (PV) systems), this is really a spin-off from what the company is doing for its vehicle batteries. The company’s co-founder, Elon Musk, has stated that it should be able to extend the life of its batteries considerably within 18 months. This is a key area for all manufacturers of vehicle batteries and development in storage technology will flow through to the vehicle industry. The final issue was the rising price of electricity within Australia. There has been much discussion around electric vehicles being a de-facto energy storage system for the home. However, in many cases the vehicle will not be in the garage during the day. Electric cars will be the future, one day For the foreseeable future, the price of charging the electric vehicle will be less than a tank of petrol and the whole distributable generation market will change considerably over the next decade. While electric vehicles are the way of the future, for Australia we still have to wait until they go through the pain of the innovation curve for a little longer and technology makes them more suitable to our driving conditions. We are at that stage where people will not invest in the vehicles until there is infrastructure to support them and those willing to put in the infrastructure will hold back until there are enough vehicles on the road to support the investment. It is not a case of will electric vehicles dominate the market, it is just a case of when. This is an area where Australia can play a dominant role in the long-term roll-out of infrastructure requirements for long-distance travel. Craig Froome is Global Change Institute – Clean Energy Program Manager at The University of Queensland. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
Tesla’s plans to use its new battery storage system to power homes will provide households with more opportunities to reduce bills. But it will also cause headaches for the electricity distribution companies. The company’s founder, Elon Musk, announced last week that it had developed the Powerwall batteries that could store electricity generated from solar panels. The idea is to store the energy generated during the day, when demand is relatively low, that can then be used to power a home during the evening when the demand is higher. It can also act as a backup supply during any power cuts. The Powerwall battery packs come in 7kWh or 10kWh units and cost US$3,000 or US$3,500 respectively. Up to nine units can be stacked together to give a maximum 90kWh. Musk made the announcement at a press conference that was powered entirely by batteries. Musk told the audience that it was possible to place orders now for the units with delivery expected in the next three months. Battery breakthrough This will be a major development for the renewable energy sector – primarily solar photovoltaic (PV) – and provide the possible opportunity for consumers to move off-grid. While it will be interesting to see how the distribution companies will react to that possibility, the ability to have three days of storage for a normal household will sound attractive to many. The price of the Powerwall unit in the US is about a quarter of what is currently being charged for similar sized systems here in Australia. As such, they should become a standard accessory with most solar systems, with the price being similar to just the solar panel system five years ago. Based on a recent Origin Energy invoice, an average four-person household uses between 20.9kWh and 21.6kWh of electricity per day. Currently any excess electricity generated is sold back into the grid at a price negotiated between the retailer and customer (for those without feed-in tariff agreements), usually at around A$0.12kWh. While providing some income, customers still have to buy electricity back in the evening at around A$0.27kWh, being the period of peak usage when everybody is at home. Not all will benefit For those without solar systems on their roof the story will only get worse when it comes to rising electricity prices. In simplistic terms, the distribution companies charge a price for supplying electricity to your home based on the cost of their infrastructure divided by the number of kWh of electricity supplied. If the number of hours supplied decreases – as more people adopt a solar solution – then the price must go up. People who don’t have solar on their roofs will be penalised. These pricing policies are based on Federal Government rules. These need to be closely reviewed, given the changing landscape of electricity generation, with a much larger portfolio of renewable energy, particularly on-site generation. Further, rules should be relaxed to allow rebates for solar to be allowed for rental properties – not just owner-occupiers. Another example of making those who can least afford the escalating electricity prices paying the most. At a more local level, the distribution companies still need to invest more to allow customers who want to install their own systems to do so. In some areas system constraints are resulting in applications to install solar PV systems being rejected by the distribution company as there area already too many systems installed and the grid cannot manage stability issues. So not everyone who wants to install a new solar system – including Musk’s new Powerwall system – will be able to. That means those customers must continue to pay high retail electricity costs and miss out on savings enjoyed by others. History has shown in recent years that with the reduction in the cost of solar PV systems there has been an exponential increase in the number of domestic residences adding systems. The continuing speculation of spiralling electricity costs will continue to add to the demand. It is an issue that needs to be addressed by both state and federal governments and with Musk’s latest announcement of affordable storage options we can only expect greater demand for on-site generation. We are now approaching the next phase for domestic electricity generation and it has arrived at a time that has provided regulators little time to prepare. But prepare they must. Craig Froome is Global Change Institute – Clean Energy Program Manager at The University of Queensland. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
1. Expedia’s proposed acquisition of Wotif for $700 million makes it the biggest acquisition of any Australian tech company to date. 2. Wotif.com was created in March 2000 by Graeme Wood, and is based in Brisbane, Australia. It has since established offices in Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom. 3. Wotif.com has been listed on the Australian Stock Exchange since June 2, 2006. 4. Wotif.com has been ranked by Alexa one of the top 15,000 trafficked websites on the internet. 5. Unlike many other travel websites, Wotif.com does not provide limitless lists of hotel details. Instead, the website provides information for the next three months, the reason being that "as a date gets closer, hotels can often drop their rates". 6. Originally, the website only provided details seven days in advance, this was expanded to 14 days in February 2001, and to 28 in September 2005 (around the time it first sought a listing on the ASX) to three months in 28 January. 7. In October 2007, Wotif.com placed a $57 million bid for Australian travel website Travel.com.au. This bid defeated Webjet's, causing the company to sell its share in the site. The takeover bid also gave Wotif.com a share in websites dealing in "online flight, car, cruise and holiday bookings", previously uncharted territory for the company. 8. Shares on Wotif.com have been volatile over the last 18 months, with the health of the online accommodation provider being monitored very closely. Wotif was one of the ten worst performers on the ASX in 2013/14, with its share price plummeting 46.5% over the 12 months to June 30. 9. The performance of Wotif shares knocked founder Graeme Wood off the BRW Rich List this year. Wood debuted on the Rich List in 2007 with $251 million. The value of his Wotif stake has halved over the past 12 months to about $105 million. 10. Wood has donated Wotif shares to the University of Queensland Endowment Fund. His latest substantial shareholder notice lodged to the ASX in November showed he had given 4.3 million shares to UoQ since his previous notice in June 2011. 11. Wood has sold more than $18 million of shares in two transactions, about $10 million in December 2012 and $8.9 million in October 2013. The major shareholder is co-founder Andrew Brice, who collectively hold a 35.7% stake in Wotif.
The start-up founders who graduated last night from Queensland’s ilab technology incubator Germinate program have had an intense three months of planning and pivots. This is the fifth intake to graduate from the program in two years. All 10 start-ups selected for the program graduated with a demonstrable product. Program director Bernie Woodcroft told StartupSmart the diversity of the entrants was the most exciting element of this graduating class. “Seven of the start-ups had founders who were juggling mortgages and kids but still wanting to deliver an entrepreneurial outcome. I find that very impressive.” Two of the enterprise start-ups have trials confirmed with major corporations and several start-ups will be receiving some of their first payments in the coming months. “Most of the start-ups will stay on in the ilab space from now without the accelerator program wrapped around them,” Woodcroft says. Navigation algorithm start-up CB AeroSpace co-founder Michael Creagh told StartupSmart the best thing he learned was that mastering the technology was only one factor in the business success. “The business solution will need a marketing strategy, a network of people, intellectual property protection and involving the professional world from markets to accountants to lawyers,” Creagh says. The start-up will enable a much cheaper version of existing navigational systems. Creagh says the increasing uptake of drones bodes well for the commercial potential of the start-up. “As someone from a technical background, the biggest challenge for me was narrowing down all the advice and filtering through many different opinions to work out what to do,” he says. “In the end I went half with my gut feeling, and the rest from weighing people’s input based on their experience in this area.” The program is funded by the Queensland government and part of the University of Queensland’s commercialisation arm, UniQuest. They recently launched a $1.5 million fund for the program in partnership with Artesian Ventures. In a statement, the Queensland Minister for Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts, Ian Walker, said technology start-ups will be agents for diversification of the Queensland economy. “As a government, we need to create the best environment we can to help get new products, services and innovative processes to market,” Walker said. Applications are now open for sixth intake and close April 8. The team behind ilab also recently ran a rapid, mass mentoring event for start-ups in the Indooroopilly area.
Ortelia, a 3D gallery space mapping technology targeting the cultural heritage industries has launched today, after seven years of development by a tight-knit team backed by the University of Queensland’s commercialisation unit UniQuest. The team of five began exploring the technology in 2005. They developed a prototype of the software and planned to pitch it to theatres. Co-founder Lazaros Kastanis told StartupSmart they always intended to commercialise it, albeit for a different target client. “When we started showing it around, we realised there was more interest in using it in galleries and museums. We realised we had a solid product, and partnered with UniQuest who have held our hand ever since,” Kastanis says. He adds their client-first approach has continued to this day, and is one of the reasons they’ve been able to successfully commercialise a technology targeting the fiscally constrained cultural heritage. “We’ve approached every single one of our clients with the understanding we have no idea what they really do, so our first step is always to work with them closely to really understand what they need,” Kastanis says. Ortelia is launching today in the UQ Art Museum at the University of Queensland, which is the first gallery the team worked with closely. They’re about to start working with 17 venues after signing a major deal with Museum and Galleries NSW. Kastanis says other than the perennial start-up issue of finding the funds to keep going, the major hurdle for the Ortelia team of five is navigating the varying attitudes to technology in the museum and gallery industry. “Many of them have got small budgets but enormous willingness to grab the bull by the horns when it comes to technological innovation,” Kastanis says. “But it varies. Bringing these digital tools into this sector was proved to be challenging. A lot of the people in decision-making positions felt they were all set with their older tools.” With 18 venues to work with and big plans, the Ortelia team of five is set to grow in the coming months. “The team is essentially still the same team from when we founded the company. It’ll probably need to grow although the bulk of our development is now done,” Kastanis says. “We’ve got a tight team with flexible interrelationships, and we’re all aware this is one of those classic moments where every overnight success is seven years in the making.”
Start-up raises $2 million to battle diseases costing the Australian crop industry billions each year11:00AM | Wednesday, 30 November
A start-up on the cutting edge of agricultural science has closed a $2 million investment round that included deals with Yuuwa Capital and Uniseed. Nexgen Plants is built around science to introduce virus resistant technology to crops. The start-up was launched by University of Queensland’s commercialisation program UniQuest. The Nexgen Plants technology is focused on selectively breeding stronger versions of crops, and allows plants to develop strong defence responses to virus attacks. The technology was developed by Professor Peer Schenk. Uniquest’s chief executive Dr Dean Moss said in a statement: “Crop losses from viral infections are a multi-billion dollar global problem. This funding is essential for Nexgen Plants to further the development of a potentially disruptive technology focused on producing virus-resistant varieties of plants for different crop types.” Nexgen Plants interim chief executive Brian Ruddle told StartupSmart the funding would go towards proof of concept rounds. “It’s commercialising to bring virus resistance into food, fibre, energy or ornamental crops,” he says. “We’ll be taking what we’ve proven to work in the lab and moving it towards some plant varieties to prove the scope and breadth of the technology.” Ruddle says the next step for Nexgen is to license the technology to plant breeders in Australian and internationally. “We think we’ll be ready to start engaging plant companies in six months or so. It takes time to have those discussions so we’ve started a few now and they’re keen to see how we progress in the next few months,” he says. Ruddle says the company, which is currently made up of himself and a research team of five scientists coordinated by Schenk, will be looking to grow and bring on management and team members as they develop. “It’s the same with every start-up, we’ll bring on management as we need it,” Ruddle says. “As we ramp up the business development, we’ll scale as we go. If I have the right skill set, I’d love to stay on board but it depends how it progresses.”
Data released this week by US tech database CrunchBase has found the University of New South Wales produced more technology entrepreneurs in the past 15 years than any other Australian university. The data was based on the CrunchBase dataset of over 170,000 companies, including 169 Australian entrepreneurs. CrunchBase is a free database of technology companies, people, and investors where anyone can upload information on start-ups. Australians on the database included Dean McEvoy from Spreets, Tess Walton from Aruspex, Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar from Atlassian, Alicia Navarro from Skimlinks and Eddie Machalaani from Bigcommerce. The University of New South Wales was ranked number one in Australia and is credited with launching the careers of 16 entrepreneurs. UNSW had more than double the number of entrepreneurs produced by the University of Technology Sydney, which took second place and clocked in with seven entrepreneurs. Monash University, Queensland University of Technology, University of Queensland and University of Sydney shared third place with six entrepreneurs. Swinburne University, Melbourne University and the University of Newcastle were credited with four entrepreneurs each. Josh Flannery is the student enterprise manager at the University of New South Wales entrepreneur program and commercialisation arm NewSouth Innovations. Flannery told StartupSmart while the results were recognition of their commitment to encouraging entrepreneurship, he believes UNSW and NewSouth Innovations are about to reach a tipping point and start producing even more successful start-ups. “It’s been an experiment really, but we’re at a tipping point now. I’m speaking to 60 to 70 individual students who are working on start-ups at the moment,” Flannery says. UNSW runs entrepreneurial and innovation-themed subjects in every faculty and has a variety of internal programs. “What’s maybe different is our NewSouth Innovations commercialisation approach. We now give 100% of the equity to the students. That’s not the case in every university yet but it’s becoming the trend,” Flannery says. He adds that universities play an important role in encouraging young entrepreneurs and can do more to boost the start-up ecosystem. “Universities play a very important role in nurturing entrepreneurial students, but also something I’ve found that we’re doing, which is relatively new, is almost offering the entrepreneurship career route as an alternative to the safe route as a consultant in a big firm,” Flannery says. “The way we’re doing that is encouraging students to have a go at something entrepreneurial right now, when they have the least expectation on their shoulders than they will at any point of their life.”
If the Rudd government is re-elected to another term this year, it will legislate a move from the carbon tax to an emissions trading scheme effective from July next year, the government announced on the weekend. The move could see a carbon price of $6-$10 a tonne, Treasurer Chris Bowen said. However the price could be higher or lower based on market demand. Most analysts expect the price to be significantly lower than the $24.15 per tonne of carbon Australian businesses currently pay for their carbon emissions. What does this mean for your business? This has the potential to both help and hurt small businesses. Peter Strong, the CEO of the Council of Small Business Australia, says there are two main ways the weekend's announcement could impact the sector. The first is through its impact on electricity prices, and the second is through some of the positive business incentives that were funded by the carbon tax, which are now in jeopardy. "Not a lot of small businesses are directly affected by the tax, but its effect is in the power costs," he told SmartCompany this morning. "Part of the problem with the carbon tax was that few small businesses were able to pass on their costs to customers," he said. "That's because, if you're a supplier to Coles or Woolworths, they make it very difficult for you to do so." In June, research by the Australian Industry Group found 70% of businesses surveyed had been unable to pass on any increased energy costs to their customers, and only 6% said they'd been able to pass on the energy costs caused by the carbon tax. This has meant small businesses have largely absorbed the carbon price, particularly in manufacturing, which uses a lot of electricity. But they weren't the only ones affected. "Any retail shops or cafes that have a lot of fridges, or big freezer rooms, were impacted," Strong says. "If power bills go up $6000 a year because of the carbon tax, I think it's a lot of money." Professor John Quiggin, an economist at the the University of Queensland, told SmartCompany the carbon tax had raised electricity prices between 5%-10%. "So, if the price falls when we switch to emissions trading, which is what we're expecting, other things being equal we'd see a drop of somewhere less than 10%. But that's likely to be swamped by other factors." The biggest factor in electricity price rises in recent years has been a dramatic increase in the poles and wires charges billed to electricity users, Quiggin says. "And those are likely to rise further." The government has yet to announce many details about which programs are likely to be cut as a result of the move to an ETS, but has flagged it won't change the compensation offered to households. The carbon tax has funded some tax breaks for small businesses, including an increase in the instant tax write-off and the loss carry-back measures. This article continues on page 2. What do the industry bodies think? Most business groups have welcomed the move to an emissions trading scheme. "The government's decision to move early to scrap the carbon tax and commence emissions trading is a positive move that will cut business costs while still meeting the emissions targets shared by the major parties," Australian Industry Group CEO Innes Willox said yesterday. "We will be looking for more detail. But, in principle, a switch to much lower internationally linked carbon prices next year would be very positive for businesses struggling with high energy prices and lost competitiveness. "The earlier move to emissions trading would cut the carbon price by as much as three quarters, while not reducing our capacity to meet the objectives of reducing emissions in line with Australia's targets." However, the Queensland Resources Council has said the changes raise more questions than answers on Australia's carbon pricing. QRC chief executive Michael Roche said the government had a number of crucial questions to answer, including whether the scheme would allow European Union politicians and bureaucrats to effectively set Australia's carbon price, and whether the scheme would lock in Australian firms to buying local permits, excluding them from the European market. "If the federal government's answers to each of these questions is 'no', then clearly the intent is no more than a political fix in the shadow of an election, not the fundamental rethink that is so badly needed to ensure Australia's trade-exposed industries can be internationally competitive," Roche said. The earlier move to an ETS has been criticised as a "cowardly act" by the Australian Greens and "a name-changing exercise" by the opposition. What about the election? What would the Liberals do? The date given for a move to the ETS was July 2014, which is after the last possible date for the next federal election. This means the policy hinges on Labor being re-elected to government, a prospect which, until recently, looked unlikely. This morning's Nielsen poll is the latest to show the government and opposition neck-and-neck in the polls. But if the Liberal opposition does what is largely expected and wins government, its current policy remains to scrap the carbon tax. This would mean no emissions trading scheme, and instead, a range of "direct action" policy measures intended to pay businesses to reduce their carbon emissions. Some of these measures include paying businesses up to $40 per tonne (though usually less) to reduce their carbon emissions. This means the Coalition's plan values emissions at far above the $6 per tonne currently being proposed by the government. However, it would be a cost borne by the public out of general taxation, and not billed directly to polluters. This story first appeared on SmartCompany.
The University of Queensland’s commercialisation company, UniQuest, has partnered with investor Artesian Venture Partners to build a $1.5 million investment fund to invest in graduates from the university’s ilab technology incubator. UniQuest chief executive Dean Moss says in a statement the Accelerate Investment Fund will provide private investors an opportunity to invest in several early stage start-ups emerging through ilab. The statement says Artesian Venture Partners has committed to raising a majority of the $1.5 million fund and will be both investing in the fund itself and inviting private investors to participate. “ilab is the premium start-up lab in Queensland,” Jeremy Colless, Artesian’s managing principal, told StartupSmart, noting that Queensland was “crying out” for more support in the tech start-up space. He says the fund will support start-up graduates from ilab in the early funding stage and, potentially, later rounds as well, taking a direct equity stake in the companies. The new investor fund comes as the Queensland government approves $1 million in funding over the next two years for ilab’s three-month Germinate programs that offer training, mentoring, networking, office space and up to $20,000. Over the past two years, Germinate has invested almost $300,000 in 19 new enterprises and a further 17 companies have been supported by ilab resources and mentors. Participants in the Germinate program have included Tiger Temple, an online street style clothing store, Veilability, a venue matching service for the bridal industry and Fizziofit, which delivers exercise, medicine and fitness technology resources for healthcare professionals.
Leading venture capital group OneVentures has laid out what they look for in the companies they invest in. Dr Michelle Deaker, one of the executive directors of OneVentures, spoke to StartupSmart about the role venture capital plays in Australia, and what makes businesses stand out, for both better and worse. How OneVentures invests The OneVentures team is Anne-Marie Birkill, Dr Paul Kelly and Dr Michelle Deaker. All three have decades of direct experience in tech start-ups and commercialisation. “If you look at the leading venture capital firms in the US, all have launched, grown and exited really valuable businesses. At OneVentures, we believe you should have walked the entrepreneurial road if you want to do the venture capital road,” Deaker told StartupSmart. OneVentures has invested in nine companies and exited one so far. The investments vary, but are around three to four million. They’re looking to invest one more for this round of funding, which is $40 million. Half of this is from 55 high-net worth investors and family trusts, and the other half is matched by the government. They usually take 20% to 30% of a company. “We like to have enough ownership that we have a strong interest in the business. Sometimes entrepreneurs forget that the more interest the investor has, the more of their time and effort they will invest,” says Deaker. The average investment plan is for three to four years. “We’re fairly patient investors. In an ideal world, we’d have an investment that goes four years, but we know lots of great companies can take seven or so years to grow,” says Deaker. Common pitching mistakes The OneVentures team have a weekly process to assess new candidates who approach them, are recommended to them, or who they spot at start-up events and initiatives and university research teams. Beyond looking for big and reachable markets, Deaker says they also pay attention to the team and company character. “We ask ourselves if the people operating the business have the credibility, skills and the domain experience to run this business,” says Deaker. “We ask if the business is going to be disruptive, if it’s going to be a game changer. We see a lot of opportunities every week, so we’ll see 10 companies that look exactly the same.” Deaker says one of the most common errors is looking for the wrong kind of capital, and failing to understand that venture capital investors need a business case to invest. “A lot of entrepreneurs forget that we’re investors. They’ll tell us a lot about the technology but not about how they’re going to grow the business, or they don’t show us how we’re going to make money. They need to build an investment case for the investors,” says Deaker. The businesses that stand out to Deaker and the team at OneVentures are the ones that are ready to go but require capital to reach their goals. “You need to have a horizon where you need capital before you can push hard on your revenue stream. Or you’ve got revenue coming in and can’t get the product or service out fast enough.” The most common use of the funds is working capital. “We don’t just give them a big wad of money, and we help them structure what they’ll do with our money,” says 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.” Deaker also encourages entrepreneurs to focus on the small stuff too. Seemingly small oversights such as not leaving enough time for investing teams to ask questions, arguing with legitimate questions raised by investors and not being able to describe your business in one sentence all add up to a picture of your company, and what you’ll be like to work with. Why venture capital matters for Australian and global business markets Deaker thinks venture capital plays a powerful role in driving productivity and innovation in Australia. “We believe there is a great background of innovation, research and development and technology coming out of Australia. Australian venture capitalist investors can and should take those opportunities and translate them into the global market,” says Deaker. OneVentures was instrumental in enabling innovative vaccine company Vaxxas. It was the second company they invested in. Vaxxas is a patch-based technology that does away with needles for vaccines. Deaker says the vaccine market is global and worth about $20 billion. “Without venture capital and the ability to syndicate businesses with our venture partners, Vaxxas would probably never have got off the bench top at University of Queensland. Because that company will probably need $30 million to get it going. So without venture capital, great ideas like that can’t make the big step from getting the big research dollars to successful commercialisation in a global market and scale.” OneVentures focuses on investing in early stage companies. Companies can be making between zero to $5 million in revenue and need to be ready to go to market. More than money But like most venture capital, the partnership is about more than just money. The team at OneVentures sit on the boards of the companies they fund and help drive the growth strategy. Deaker and her business partner’s approach to assessing potential companies to invest in is shaped by their experience. “You do look at things a little differently when you’ve been an entrepreneur. We look for the classics, such as a passionate CEO and a business with access to a large addressable market that is preferably global, so the business has some real scale,” says Deaker. “But from a more personal view point, when we assess a company, we ask if we could actually CEO this company if we had to? Would we be comfortable doing that? Can we add value?”
Dick Smith, who has become as well-known for his outlandish media stunts as he is for his entrepreneurial activities, is offering a $1 million prize for an innovator to tackle a rather complex issue – population. With Australia’s population passing 23 million this week, Smith is increasingly agitating for action to combat our “population and consumption growth-obsessed economy”. However, Dick is keeping his powder dry. After launching his Wilberforce Award – for someone under the age of 30 to come up with a solution to perennial growth – in 2010, Smith has declined to hand out the $1 million in prize money. No one has come up with a good enough idea, according to Smith. Perhaps surprisingly, he feels that teen conservationist Bindi Irwin has come closest to landing the cash. Thankfully, there are plenty of easier competitions for start-ups to enter, rather than Dick’s population bounty. Here are five of the best that are ideal for various types of Australian ventures. 1. Startup Weekend Dubbed the ‘world’s largest start-up competition’, Startup Weekend has spread rapidly across Australia since arriving on our shores in 2011. Events are now regularly held in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, with the latter city becoming the latest to join the party last year. The concept is pleasingly simple. Entrepreneurs turn up to a gathering, are grouped into teams and have 54 hours to devise and create a new business. These hastily-conceived ideas are then pitched to a panel of judges. The winner walks away with $5000 but, more importantly, access to further mentoring and opportunities – such as a spot in a Singapore incubator. As the Startup Weekend website promises, “Whether you launch a successful start-up, find a co-founder, meet someone new or learn a skill far outside your usual 9-to-5, everyone is guaranteed to leave Startup Weekend better prepared to navigate the chaotic but fun world of start-ups.” Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 2. G’Day USA There are a growing number of great conferences, seminars and meet-ups aimed at Australian start-ups. Increasingly, these gatherings are including pitch competitions as part of their format. One of the most notable new competitions is staged by G’Day USA, the annual program designed to showcase Australian business in the US. The first Digital Australia Shootout was held in Los Angeles in January. The pitch competition featured Australian start-ups in the media, entertainment and technology sectors. Various heavy hitters from US venture capital funds judged the competition. More than 200 Australian companies are showcased every year in G’Day USA. If America is a target market, it may well be worth your while to get involved, even if you don’t pitch. Gerard Seeber, Austrade senior trade commissioner in New York, says: “Americans know Australia as a land of big spaces. We want them to know it is also a land of big ideas.” “G’Day USA is an opportunity to show how Australia’s culture of innovation makes it an ideal place to invest and do business.” Story continues on page 3. Please click below. 3. Australian Clean Technologies Competition Rather than compete with start-ups from a range of different industries, why not get sector-specific? There are several competitions for start-ups within a certain industry, with the Australian Clean Technologies Competition being a good example of how a niche product or service can be recognised. Established three years ago, the competition is designed to bolster the chances of success for Australian clean technology innovators through mentoring, business coaching and marketing. More than 100 companies entered last year, with seven named as finalists. They included SkyCool, which has devised a new type of building cooling, Aeratron, a venture with a new energy-efficient fan design, and enLighten Australia, which designs and supplies highly efficient LED lighting for commercial, industrial and residential strata applications. Story continues on page 4. Please click below. 4. Sydney Genesis Entrepreneurship Challenge If you’re at the business plan stage, Australia’s universities provide a bevy of options to showcase your idea for cash. Sadly, the Enterprize challenge, arguably Australia’s leading business plan competition, has been wound down by the University of Queensland, which offered a hefty prize cheque of $100,000 to winners. Thankfully, there are quite a few alternatives, such as the Sydney Genesis Entrepreneurship Challenge. Launched in 2008, the competition offers workshops, mentoring, networking and $10,000 in prizes. Last year, more than 80 teams competed, with the pick including a smartphone app that connects parents with babysitters, technology that raises money for charity as you exercise, and a CBD locker room for bicycle riders. Story continues on page 5. Please click below. 5. Microsoft BizSpark In some start-up competitions, you’ve very much got to play by the sponsor’s rules – to the point that you have to use their product or service to be able to compete. The Microsoft BizSpark program is open to all-comers – as long as you use Microsoft technology. Last year, taxi location app goCatch beat eight other finalists to be named winner of Microsoft’s APAC Startup 2012 Award. GoCatch beat an impressive field of rivals to land the $5000 prize, including customised jewellery maker StyleRocks, New Zealand-based HR tool Avancert and Melbourne start-up Sound Gecko, which converts online articles into audio files. All of the finalists are part of Microsoft’s BizSpark program, which aims to foster start-ups.
A new device developed by the University of Queensland aims to preserve the health and wellbeing of office workers by prompting them to leave their desks.
It’s well known that some universities have a heavier focus on entrepreneurship than others. But when it comes to funding prospects for student start-ups, does the university make a difference?
Queensland start-up Vaxxas is relocating to Massachusetts after striking a major new deal with biotech giant Merck, one of the largest vaccine firms in the world.
The vice president of multinational finance giant GE has raised doubts about the success of online training programs, insisting they can’t replace face-to-face courses.
The University of Queensland has announced it will offer massive open online courses (MOOCs) in the next two years, following in the footsteps of the University of Melbourne.
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.
A new search application developed by UniQuest start-up Leximancer is being piloted at the University of Queensland (UQ), via an online research platform from Dutch company Elsevier.
Materials science start-up TenasiTech will ramp up development of its polymer technology after securing $1.4 million in grants and equity capital from the Queensland Government and Uniseed.
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.