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What’s in store for Australian tech entrepreneurs in 2016?

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2015 was undoubtedly the year of startups and entrepreneurs. It was the year that took the likes of Uber, Atlassian and Canva to new heights and put the brakes on Dropbox, Snapchat and Twitter. Collaborations between brands and people grew, but so did our need for niche products and individuality. We also saw digital become the voice of democracy and consumers.

Last year, Australia witnessed a more robust startup environment supported by increased funding and more women in business; but also weaker stocks, high unemployment and falling mineral prices. In spite of Australian small business confidence declining lately, business owners are more positive about the future. This optimism went up a few notches on the back of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s Innovation Agenda announcement offering stronger support for the startup sector.

In a market where disruption and disruptive innovation are a daily mantra, it can be hard to predict the future. After a year in which change was the only constant, 2016 is sure to be a mixed bag of surprises, opportunities, growth and challenges. As an angel investor, I think entrepreneurs should consider these macro trends this year:

Look outside the US for inspiration and growth

I recently spoke at the Bridge Summit, an Israel-Australia conference on innovation and investment, and realised just how US-centric our entrepreneurial comparison and points of reference are. With speculation of the boom coming to an end in the Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs are slowly looking to other countries for inspiration.

At the Summit, Seek co-founder Paul Bassat said that other cities are trying to do what Israel has achieved for a while now and that we need to follow their example in creating sustainable startups for future growth.

As startups founded in growth markets such as India, China and even Africa scale higher, we can expect to hear more global success stories from outside the US. Indian based Zomato, which recently bought over Urbanspooon and Chinese unicorn Alibaba, are just the tip of the iceberg.

The Internet of Everything

AlleyWatch notes that in the coming era everything will be connected: from buildings to roads to satellites and event your refrigerator. The Internet of everything is on its way. Advances in 3D printing will change the cost and efficiency of making a lot of products and even body parts or organs.

In Australia, we can expect more traditional industries such as rail, freight and manufacturing to adopt the Internet of Things (IoT) at a faster pace. Companies such as FreightExchange are changing not just how goods are transported in Australia, but also impacting commodity-pricing strategies in the longer run.  As AlleyWatch says, we can expect to see more disruption and displacement of traditional businesses by IoT.

The bubble might burst

The devaluations of Snapchat, Dropbox and Square have given rise to speculations of an imminent tech bubble burst in Silicon Valley. While the unicorns such as Uber continue to rise, companies without clear revenue models might take a beating in 2016 – as Twitter did this year.

2015 was the year for startups that have been in the business for a year or two to scale and grow significantly or face harsh realities about their ventures. Dropbox and Snapchat’s devaluation reiterate the challenge in trying to generate revenue from great ideas.

Although funding opportunities have increased, many startups that have been in the business for two – four years are fighting to continue disrupting the industry and to increase revenue. 2016 will continue to be a reality check for many businesses and will either reinforce the strength of these startups or hit roadblocks.

Increased collaboration

Startups are conquering the world. But they cannot do it themselves and, as a result, we are seeing an increase in the number of brand partnerships. Event space booking platform iVvy partnered with restaurant booking tool Dimmi and, Workible, a recruitment app that matches jobs with recruiters partnered with Near Field Communications (NFC) company Tapit to offer ‘tap and go’ features on their app.

Flexible collaborations are allowing lean startups to scale, offer more and build stronger value propositions around their brands. They are benefitting from being able to access combined brains trust without high overheads. This model will continue to grow and evolve this year.

As we dive into the new year, let us remember that the world is getting smaller and our opportunities are getting more global. If startups have taught us anything this year, it is the power of dreaming big and working collaboratively. Here’s to a more dynamic 2016 filled with the courage to dream big, think big and take action!


Renata Cooper.jpgAbout the author:

Renata Cooper is the founder of Forming Circles Global, a unique angel investment and mentoring organisation that predominantly invests in female-led technology startups. Committed to empowering women entrepreneurs, Renata has invested in over 100 national and global businesses, individuals and organisations since 2011. She is a member of Scale Investors and a muru-D mentor.