2015 was a breakout year for Australia’s tech startup scene, with governments at all levels across the country developing policies to try and capitalise on the momentum that had been building for years. Start-up success stories Atlassian, Canva and Nitro all had cracking years while venture capitalists, entrepreneurs and corporate executives all focused their efforts on innovation at a scale that had never been seen.
2016 was another record year for Australia startups. With the support from the $1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda from the Turnbull government, new tax incentives for early stage investors, the launch of the Incubator Support initiative, and the creation of landing pads in San Francisco, Shanghai, Singapore, Tel Aviv and Berlin, Australian founders and the startup ecosystem were given more opportunities than ever to get their ideas to market and see them flourish.
In early 2017, Startup Muster, co-founded by Monica Wulff and Murray Hurps, talked to founders, aspiring founders, and people and organisations who support Australian startups, to produce its annual deep dive report on the local industry. This article shares their findings and has some interesting stats including the age, location and industry of startups in Australia.
Interestingly of those startups nearly half, 45.5%, made zero revenue in the last 12 months. Of those who did, 92% generated export revenue.
Having started six companies and sold two, and now running three (The Creative Collective, The Training Collective and awardshub.com), I've certainly got first hand experience with startups. I've started them at different times (the first in 1994, the latest in 2011) and watched on as the startup scene has grown and more and more support is given. Awareness and perception of startups has also grown for the positive as social media post after social media post and news article after news article of people in the Aussie start up scene who are seemingly kicking ass is shared.
Each and every one of them brings a smile to my face like a Cheshire cat. Once upon a time these stories were few and far between, and we hung those who made it through the seemingly great divide of the Pacific Ocean to launch in America or raise their first million, like a celebrated poster child. The stats from the Startup Muster are testament to that.
Could it be that, with the rise of social media our awareness of the number of startups coming through and getting to scale stage, is, our awareness is heightened?
Or could it be that finally people have come to the realisation that the start-up, that creating your own business and designing your own lifestyle and creating really cool ideas is a truly viable life option? Which will come with great challenges but equally great rewards if you can push through the marathon?
Or is it because the Australian startup scene has come of age.
Whether it’s one of these hypotheses or you have one of your own, it actually doesn’t really matter.
The fact is that these brave people are not just having an idea they share at the pub and talk about and annoy their family and friends with for the next 10 years, they’re actually getting up off the couch and doing something about it. It also means in some cases there’s investors who are opening their wallets and spending their surplus of cash on something truly worthwhile to help bring a dream alive.
Personally, I’ve never had a dollar of investment or pushed to take our business global, though we do have a few clients overseas and we did open a New Zealand office in 2016 and we do regularly talk to our crowd funding partners in the US.
I thoroughly enjoy and embrace the ride of being an entrepreneur and still encourage others to do it by mentoring at Startup Weekends or doing what I can to help run events for startups and more.
It’s not an easy ride, and an email from someone yesterday made me nod when she said that she had left the safe confines of a 9-5 job with her friend, thinking that working as an entrepreneur and running her own business would be easy. She’s quickly realised it’s a steep learning curve where you have to be the jack-of-all-trades, and sometimes you’ll feel like a rat on a wheel going absolutely nowhere.
Conversely I also got an email from Ernst & Young and will next week attend the 2017 Northern Region EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ awards dinner in Brisbane. Launched in Australia in 2001, the Entrepreneur Of The Year program has recognised over 1,400 Australian entrepreneurs for their vision and achievement. The overall winner goes on to compete at the 2018 EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ awards in Monte Carlo, following in the footsteps of Manny Stul, Moose Enterprise, the first-ever Australian to be crowned World Entrepreneur Of The Year in 2016. I'm looking forward to meet yet more successful Australian entrepreneurs who have made it well and truly past startup stage to total scale and success, and being inspired by their stories.
Whether you are just starting out, feeling like you're on the rat wheel or off to be celebrated for an award, remember "Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome." Just enjoy the ride, as bumpy as it may be at times.