To stop a leakage of bright, entrepreneurial minds from Australia, chartered accountants Domenic Saporito and Gerard Holland have partnered on a venture that makes it easier for international students and graduates to break into the local start-up ecosystem.
Holland has previously worked with middle-market and early-stage companies as a business advisor, while Saporito has a c-suite resume and has founded multiple businesses including Cadence Recruitment, which he owned for 14 years. In early 2016, the duo co-founded Outcome.Life. The Melbourne start-up provides internationals with independent advice around transitioning from study into a career plus help securing ideal employment, through professional year placements and internships, paid for by education providers, with established businesses as well as innovative, early-stage companies.
According to Holland, Outcome.Life is not only placing more than 50 internationals in internships per month, it has directly assisted many into paid employment, either as their internship or after their internship. As well as investing their own funds into the business, Saporito and Holland have attracted $550,000 in seed capital from their network connections plus private investors, with the first couple of hundred thousand coming out of the USA. In addition, they have received a $94,000 grant from LaunchVic, the independent agency tasked with overseeing the allocation of the state government’s $60m innovation fund.
The latest offering from Outcome.Life is Outcome-Hub, which had its official launch yesterday (11 May). Located on Cardigan Street in Carlton, Melbourne, Saporito said the sixty-desk facility is the first co-working space and innovation hub for international graduates seeking to start their own business in Australia: “we’re filling a void”.
Saporito and Holland spoke to Dynamic Business about Outcome-Hub including the value educated internationals generate for the Australian economy.
DB: How did the two of you become business partners?
Holland: Dom and I first met at an AFL Grand Final lunch back in 2010. The next year, while undertaking my Masters in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, I reached out to him. The course required me to interview an entrepreneur and Dom immediately came to mind. Although I allowed for a 45-minute interview, we ended up speaking for three hours. From that day on, Dom and I caught up every fortnight. A few years later, I sent Dom a business plan for Outcome.Life. He called me immediately and to say, ‘let’s do it’ – and so now here we are!
DB: What problem does Outcome-Hub address?
Saporito: Melbourne hasn’t made it into Start-up Genome’s top 20-start-up ecosystems list since 2012, when it ranked 18th. Together with our many partners, including LaunchVic, we’re seeking to raise the ecosystem’s profile by encouraging and supporting international graduates to start their business here, rather than their country of origin.
By starting a business in Victoria, international graduates not only create a valuable source of local employment, they also support the economy through the consumption of business-related goods and services (e.g. rent, internet, telephone, office supplies) and, eventually, the payment of business taxes.
In terms of what international graduates can bring to Melbourne’s start-up ecosystem, they are highly motivated and dedicated – in many cases, this is because they’ve moved here to create a better life for themselves. They also bring cultural diversity, which translates to unique business insights and opportunities.
When an international graduate opts to return to their home country to start a business, rather than do so here, often it’s because they lack local business knowledge– how to register a company, tax registrations, who are the lawyers they should be using, what banks do they use, some of that fundamental stuff we take for granted. Also, the support available is often inadequate – for instance, some government grant exclusions leave internationals at a disadvantage. This is a missed opportunity for Australia because another country becomes the beneficiary of the potential economic and financial benefits that flow from that start-up and the founder’s expertise.
DB: What value does the hub offer internationals?
Holland: To mitigate the risk of internationals returning home to start a business, Outcome-Hub provides support across the following areas: opportunity assessment, business structuring, accounting, government grants, corporate partnerships, technology choices, capital raising, commercialisation, recruitment and integration into the local business community.
It costs from $20 per day for internationals to operate a start-up out of the Outcome-Hub co-working space, which includes stand-up desks, meeting areas, an events space, a café style kitchen and high speed internet. There are different packages depending on how much time they’re committing to the space and there’s no requirement to sign a long-term contract.
Importantly, there are opportunities for internationals to engage with like-minded peers, collaborate on entrepreneurial projects, attend networking and knowledge-building events and gain access to expert advice on all areas of small business – relevantly, we employ around ten people, including three founders.
Internationals can also take advantage of Outcome.Life’s intern database. Interns are a low-cost and Fair Work compliant labour resource, which is advantageous for business just starting out. Plus, many boast business contacts from back home, which helps to facilitate cross-border activity. For example, one of the Melbourne businesses we’ve put an intern into has built POS software mainly for the Indian market, so by giving them an intern who is of Indian descent, there’s multiple advantages, as he understands the country, culture and workings of the economy. Residents of Outcome-Hub do not have to pay rent for an intern if they decide to take one (or multiple) on.
DB: Is membership curated or is there entry criteria?
Saporito: There are no rules. We will help anyone who has passion, determination and drive – most internationals have this in spades.
DB: Do you assist people to gain permanent residency?
Holland: While we are not migration agents, the students and graduates that go through the professional year program are on a pretty certain path to permanent residency. What would be great, however, is if there were special visa rules for internationals who either want to start their own business in Australia or get involved with a start-up.
DB: What has been the response to Outcome-Hub?
Saporito: A number of IT start-ups have already taken up residence at Outcome-Hub alongside ventures including Teaching Me (a tutor/student marketplace), interior Not That Kind of Studio (interior design), Clubs United (sporting club buying group) and Pleased.Property (a rental relationship management platform). Prior to the official launch of Outcome-Hub (11 May), we had a few days where the finished half of the co-working space was full. The space is now complete and we have the capacity to expand as there’s another spare space in our building. Further, several residents have taken advantage of interns to assist them in the commercialisation of their business.
We have also hosted numerous events at Outcome-Hub with an average attendance of 70 people, although 200 came to our launch. These events vary greatly from showcasing the latest start-up technologies to strategies on how international graduates can secure their first job, including in a Victorian start-up.
DB: Will you expand Outcome.Life into other states?
Holland: We already do internship placements in other states but the core of our business is currently focused on Victoria. Our objective is to lift the employability of all international graduates in Australia, particularly the ones that want to be involved in start-ups, so we intend to expand our model beyond Victoria in due course.