Sydney entrepreneur Bill Ireland is re-entering the business world with the launch of the Investment Search Australia website after filing a personal insolvency plan last year.
The former Rich Lister founded a financial services empire with Challenger Financial Services and once has a fortune estimated at $127 million.
He suffered a spectacular fall from grace, telling creditors last year that he had only $34.16 left in his bank account.
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Ireland was forced to sell his six luxury properties and he resigned from his $525,000 a year position at Mariner Financial Group, which accumulated more than $130 million in losses while he was in charge.
His personal insolvency hasn’t stopped Ireland from founding the ISA website, which aims to give small to medium enterprises the opportunity to raise capital by allowing them to showcase their projects globally and tap into potential migrants looking to invest in Australia.
The press release issued for ISA lists Ireland as “an adviser to the ISA board”. However, Ireland told SmartCompany, “I’m the owner and proprietor of the whole thing.”
SmartCompany asked Ireland why SMEs should rely on ISA after he left creditors chasing debts ranging from a $38 million tax bill all the way down to a $101 tab at a charity gardening centre.
“It’s a website. Of the companies that I’ve been involved in in the past, none have gone broke, my own personal affairs have been quite different,” Ireland says.
Ireland says the idea behind ISA is that it will give Australian business ventures an opportunity to profile their projects to an extensive worldwide audience of entrepreneurial investors and investment corporations.
“There’s a whole lot of people looking for capital and a whole lot of people who want to invest and this is bringing them together,” he says.
“You can wander around every coffee shop in the central business district and there are all sorts of people pitching capital raising and it has been difficult to do that, and just to have one centralised place to do that where you can lodge a proposal.”
Ireland hopes ISA can capitalise on the recent Federal Government initiative to encourage commercially-minded investors to migrate to Australia.
This initiative, which starts on November 24, involves the creation of the special visas 188 and 888 to fast track permanent residency in Australia by having potential migrants invest $5 million in an Australian business.
“There is still a lot of money sitting in the system looking for investment and the government has just announced these new significant investor visas encouraging migrants to the country if they invest $5 million in a corporation,” Ireland says.
“If you’re sitting in Chengdong province and want to invest in Australia there is no real point of contact and this will offer that.”
SMEs can lodge capital-raising proposals on ISA for a fee of $2,500 for six months.
The minimum amount that can be raised is $5 million and there is no maximum, with a success fee of $20,000 charged.
“Capital-raising in the best of times is a difficult task; in the current economic environment it’s far more onerous,” says Ireland.
“But Australia’s relative economic strength, despite the uncertainty created by the 2008 global financial crisis, means we are attracting growing interest from investors, local and overseas.
“If there’s good, logical, well-presented proposals on there then people will transact.”