Survey shows Aussie startups should dream a little bigger

The majority of Australian startup founders are university educated, aged between 30 and 35, and too many aren’t targeting a big enough market, according to the results of Startup Muster.


Over the period of two weeks in February last year, the Startup Muster Survey received 976 submissions from startups, which after “cleanup and validation” was narrowed down to a dataset of 430 completed responses and another 91 that were almost complete.


Some of its key findings include:


  • 30% estimate their market size at over $1 billion, but 27% estimate less than $10 million.
  • 18% of startups had higher than 50% in export revenue.
  • 84% of founders had been to university.
  • The majority of founders, 25%, were between 30 and 35-years-old. Just 6% were under 25.
  • Just 19% of founders surveyed were women. Albeit up slightly from 17% in 2012 and 16% in 2011.
  • 52% of founders used co-working spaces.
  • 18% had tried and failed to raise capital. 14% had successfully raised funding. While 15% had received funding from a public grant.
  • Typical seed and Series A funding rounds were between $200,000 and $2 million.
  • 76% of Australian founders attended at least one event each month.

A full breakdown of the survey can be found here. Investor reaction can be found here


Startup Muster was organised by Murray Hurps, with help from Richard Kroon, Monica Wulff and Ryan Defina. Hurps says he hopes the results will help the Australian startup ecosystem lobby for more government and public support. For instance, the survey’s finding that just 6% of founders are under the age of 25. He says that’s a figure that can be taken to government and used to support the case for policies that encourage young people to engage in entrepreneurship.


“It means there’s a clear need for curriculum changes, if the government wants to push people in this direction a little bit earlier,” he says.


“Anything that can be done that will put them on a path to becoming a startup founder at an earlier age is helpful.”


Delays in releasing the data were unavoidable, Hurps says, but shouldn’t be a problem for future surveys now the technology is in place. The release of the results of the 2014 Survey coincides with the opening of submissions for a new Startup Muster survey, which will be conducted over the next two weeks. The results of that survey will likely be released periodically over a shorter time frame, leading up to a complete report, Hurps says.


Colin Kinner, director at Spike Innovation, and the author one of the most comprehensive reports into the Australian startup scene to date, the Crossroads report, praised Hurps for putting the survey together.


“It’s great to see more work going into understanding the startup landscape in Australia,” he says.


“It’s much needed and Murray should be congratulated for putting his time into this project.”


Kinner says the finding that 52% of startups make use of a co-working space, highlights the importance such spaces play in the ecosystem.


“Australian cities don’t have the same startup density as San Francisco, New York, London, Berlin or Tel Aviv, so manufacturing high pockets of startup density via co-working spaces and incubators is critically important,” he says.


The survey found that the University of Sydney and the University of Technology, Sydney, accounted for 13% of all startup founders, while the state of New South Wales accounted for 48%, followed by Queensland with 18% and Victoria with 13%. Kinner says those results make him wonder whether or not the survey suffers from a selection bias.


“It seems highly unlikely that 14% of all Australian startup founders studied at either University of Sydney or UTS,” he says.

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