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Can Australia compete as a startup nation?

Can Australia compete as a startup nation?

StartupAUS CEO, Alex McCauley, examines the start up scene in Australia.

Alex McCauley - CEO, StartupAUS

Alex McCauley - CEO, StartupAUS

StartupAUS CEO, Alex McCauley, examines the start up scene in Australia.

Over the past two years, the conversation around technology entrepreneurship and innovation has accelerated rapidly. It is now emerging as a key economic policy priority for Australia.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s innovation statement was a big step forward in December.

As reported by ARN, it rightly identified startups and innovation as key drivers of Australia’s future prosperity, kept stakeholders involved through the process, and moved fast to deliver a package that is broad-ranging and high impact, with policies across at least eight federal portfolios.

The innovation statement drew the cameras and the media attention in December. But the organic growth in the industry has been building for some years.

Australian venture capital funds, which invest in startups, raised record amounts in 2015 and more than $600 million in new funds are already expected to be raised by June 30, according to the Australian Financial Review.

We have also started to see capital from superannuation funds being directed towards startups, which could be a real tipping point for the level of funding available to entrepreneurs in Australia.

This organic industry growth coupled with government support will undoubtedly see a rising confidence this year that Australia can be a truly global player in this sector.

To achieve this, we need to think creatively and act boldly. We need to make sure Australian entrepreneurs are competing on a level playing field and we must take advantage of two key opportunities:

Firstly, Australian startups must continue to think globally from the outset. They are in a fantastic position to do this - we have a rich, technology-literate, well-educated population giving us a fantastic base from which to work.

But our market is not big enough to generate truly game-changing businesses without a global focus. So Australian entrepreneurs are forced to look outwards, too, and design products and businesses, which are globally scalable from day one.

Secondly, we have an opportunity to make sure we have the best tech startup workforce on the planet. Australia's lifestyle is the envy of the world, and our education system is first-class.

If we are strategic about it, we can realistically hope to attract and produce the very best entrepreneurial and technical talent in the world. With that talent, and the right policy settings, we can build incredible companies and transform our economy.

Now the government and a diverse group of stakeholders must work together to get the implementation of the innovation statement right - an ideas is only as good as its execution. Once in place, the innovation statement policies will help us 'catch up’ to our competitors. But we shouldn't stop there.

This year StartupAUS will release its 2016 Crossroads Report. We’re currently hard at work gathering examples of best practice policy from around the world in order to help Australia join the elite ranks of startup ecosystems in the US, Israel, and the UK.

This is not an exercise in keeping up with the Joneses. It is a political and economic imperative to ensure we take full advantage of the vast opportunities presented by emerging technology.

Startup Australia is a not for profit organisation with a mission to transform Australia through technology entrepreneurship.

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