What if you can’t get capital here? Winning the hearts of US investors


Australia is full of budding entrepreneurs, eager to author the nation’s next big startup success story following Atlassian. The reality, however, is that for some of these people, their idea might have sturdy legs, but they might not find a good investor fit here, in Australia. As capital is critical for unlocking growth, they’ll need to consider looking further abroad.

The most obvious investment destination is Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay Area, widely considered the promised land for innovative tech startups. Although the US is rich with capital, Aussie entrepreneurs will need to play by the rules of Silicon Valley investors and venture capitalists, who field many pitches, in order to capture their attention.

According to Jonathan Farrer and Philip Catania, Partners at Corrs Chambers Westgarth lawyers, Aussie entrepreneurs must learn the local landscape. This means attending industry conferences and investor meetings to test whether their idea is unique and being prepared to pivot. They should also ensure their business model isn’t vulnerable to probing questions from Silicon Valley investors, and that they have growth plans for the US.

Meanwhile, Lior Stein, MD of Business Development at Rimon Advisory said Aussie entrepreneurs need to be creative and succinct in their pitch due to stiff competition from Silicon Valley startups. If an Aussie entrepreneur to secures investment from a Silicon Valley VC, Lior said there are perks (e.g. those with dual citizenship can retain the R&D tax incentive).

Of course, Aussies won’t be able to take advantage of the investment opportunities in Silicon Valley and the US generally if they fail to obtain Electronic Travel Authorisation, which (in addition to a valid passport) is necessary for entering the US whether the trip is for business or tourism. Since January 2009, citizens of countries belonging to the VWP (Visa Waiver Program), such as Australia, have been required to obtain Electronic Travel Authorisation before entering the US. This Authorisation, which enables the person to stay in the US for up to 90 days, can be obtained online via an online Electronic Travel Authorisation agency Esta Visa.

Silicon Valley might not be for your startup but in order to gain access to the hearts of their deep-pocketed, albeit discerning, venture capitalists, make sure you gain access to the land of opportunity.

It would also be advisable, where possible and practicable, for Aussie entrepreneurs not to tee up meetings with Silicon Valley VCs to coincide to closely to when they land in the US.  Delays can derail scheduled meeting and, if an entrepreneur is jet-lagged and anything less than minty fresh, this won’t make for a good first impression with prospective investors.

Bottom line – if you want to be the author of a startup success story, you could do worse than looking to Silicon Valley. This mean playing by the rules of the VC game, having the right travel documentation and giving yourself time to make a good first impression.