Let’s Talk: Startup Ecosystem


When it comes to the startup space- Australians often look to Countries such as America, India and Israel for inspiration. Some Experts say that Australian entrepreneurs need to learn how to take more risks like those in the Silicon Valley and be more innovative with technology like those in Israel. 

Dynamic Business asked experts what qualities Australia should seek to embrace from overseas startup ecosystems?


Sam Riley, CEO and Co-Founder, Ansarada:

Ansarada has helped startups across multiple industries and regions undertake material events and become global businesses, and through this, we’ve gleaned a lot about the attributes for success. Australia’s startup scene has exploded on the global stage in recent years, with investors around the world paying attention to the innovation being developed on our shores. Our data actually shows US interest in Australian companies has almost doubled over the past two quarters. We’ve got some great ideas coming out of local startups, but we have a lot to learn about being bolder from day one and strengthening the ecosystem so it’s less risk-averse and thrives.

Australian startups can learn from counterparts in Silicon Valley and Israel to mature the financing ecosystem for high growth startups and realising importance of growth in the early years. Visa restrictions have also put a major dent in the size and maturity of our talent pool. We must embrace visa programs that attract talent to grow the startup community. As an ecosystem, we need to make sure we’ve got the boldness, attitude, and talent to be able to aim higher and go bigger.

Andrew Lai, Managing Director, SproutX:

An interesting comment that’s consistently made by visitors from overseas is how impressive the prevalence and advanced level science has reached in Australia, alongside the operational quality of the industry. Yet the startup scene remains relatively small with a comparatively low number of entrepreneurs.

Speaking generally, its most likely this is a result of the low appetite for risk we have in the Australian business community. With nearly 27 years of uninterrupted economic growth and a robust social welfare system, the overall attitude of Australians isn’t inclined towards high risk ventures, preferring to stick to safer investment opportunities.

This is not something exclusively seen in the entrepreneur community, where there’s a pervasive culture of taking leaps into new business ideas, even if it is at lower rates that what we see overseas. This applies not only to investors too, who constantly seek ‘sure bets’, rather than taking a more significant risk in search of larger growth.

To be fair however, the lack of risk appetite is a trait which is not only common in Australia, but most startup ecosystems globally, apart from the standout communities that have developed in Silicon Valley, Israel and Beijing.

Jane Bianchini, CEO & Founder, Alcami Interactive:

Australian start-ups and Investors tend to be more risk adverse than our overseas counterparts. We need to embrace and tap more into the Australian way of ‘give-it-a-go’ and collectively support an entrepreneur’s journey in both the champagne and razor blade moments.

If I take a look at the obvious one, Silicon Valley, companies who co-locate can leverage back office infrastructure such as HR/Payroll, accounting/legal services even common talent pools. This is happening on an ad-hoc basis and not widely practiced.

Over and above this, Australian enterprises also need to play a part and support local start-ups to allow access to the organisation’s knowledge, skills and expertise. Start-ups need support to prove a concept, assist with beta trials and provide feedback. Australia will have a shorter path to producing great companies if Enterprise positively bias working with Australian start-ups over foreign owned entities.

Darren Winterford, CEO and Co-founder, Ed App:

The biggest lesson I have learned – particularly from US startups – is how much success they enjoy from networking and openly talking about their product, successes and challenges with each other. As Australians, we tend to be more reserved and cautious which is really counter-productive in the face of limited marketing and PR spend.

Tim Moylan, CTO and Co-founder, Shootsta:

Australia should seek to embrace a global mentality. Many startups in the USA and Europe have an instant launching pad to other regions and the mindset from day one is to build a global business. Australia is an island that largely focuses on growing here but we need to break through that mentality, have a bigger growth mindset, and put plans in place to launch overseas once we have gained traction in our own backyard.

Ken Wallace, CEO and co-founder, Educator Impact:

Australian governments need to get more involved in financing innovative smaller enterprises, particularly through initiatives like government-backed VC funds or policy finance institutions (like development banks). Governments from the US to the UK and South Korea all appreciate the fact that private investors and banks are often incredibly risk averse. In response to this these nation’s governments have all ramped up their financial supports for small firms to ensure they have the long-term, well-priced capital they need to innovate – without risking the family home. I think the absence of this support leaves a huge gap in Australia’s startup ecosystem and curtails innovation more than anything else.

Uzair Moosa, CEO, Hey You:

Having worked in startups across multiple regions, two things stand out as qualities Australian startups should embrace:

1) Competitiveness. Australia is a force to be reckoned with in competitive sports – and we need to adopt the same attitude when it comes to startups. Just like the success of our world-class athletes hasn’t happened by accident, succeeding as a startup requires discipline, ambition, hard work and persistence. The “she’ll be right” mentality doesn’t cut it in the cut-throat startup sector.

2) Acceptance of failure. We need to build a culture whereby risk-taking and failure are actually encouraged and accepted as part of the journey. Younger generations in particular should be encouraged to take risks and fail early on. Failure is an excellent teacher, and if young graduates are encouraged to take risks, fail, and learn from their mistakes, this would be an outstanding outcome for Australia as a whole.

Andrew Raso, CEO, Online Marketing Gurus:

I have massive respect for companies doing well in Australia. It’s a very difficult market compared to overseas. Tax is high, the size of the market is small, wages are high which leads to more competition offshore and there’s a shortage of talent. I really think if you can do it in Australia, you can do it anywhere.

There’s a lot the Australian Government can be doing to incentivise entrepreneurship and innovation. More government grants for R&D is a good start. A reduction to the company tax rate would help. Anything that will improve housing affordability and cost of living will help businesses too.

Australian startups need to change their practices too. For example, in a smaller market like Australia, it’s easier to rely on word of mouth and relationships. In overseas markets where it’s far more competitive, it’s necessary to invest more in sales and marketing. Australian startups should do the same.