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After the Startup Spring Festival: Why StartupAus is focusing on employee share scheme change

Rose Powell /

After three weeks and over 125 events, the first ever Startup Spring Festival is winding down this week.

 

But rather than taking a break, the coordinating team, not-for-profit collective StartupAus, will be turning its attention to a range of regulatory hurdles holding the ecosystem back.

 

River City Labs founder and StartupAus director Steve Baxter told StartupSmart they were delighted with how the festival went.

 

“From all accounts, it went really well. It was an exceptionally good festival that had lots of guests at each event,” Baxter says.

 

“It definitely raised the profile of tech start-ups with a great variety of events and media coverage.”

 

Baxter says the StartupAus team is now focused on working with the federal government in their review of the employee share schemes system.

 

“From the StartupAus perspective we’re looking to contribute and get a better outcome,” Baxter says. “Personally, I reckon this country has an issue with people being rewarding for success, and the restriction put on the ESOP plan is based on jealous people who don’t want smart people being rewarded.”

 

Baxter says despite there being a lot of good will towards start-ups, the fact the same regulatory changes could be used by large companies to remunerate already wealthy executives was a significant hurdle.

 

“The StartupAus board is really hoping to get a good outcome there, but if the top end of town benefits rather than for start-ups, I believe it won’t go ahead, because no one likes the big end of town getting a better deal than they already do,” Baxter says

 

Despite the challenges, Baxter says fixing the system is a priority.

 

“It damages the whole ecosystem all the way to the bottom,” Baxter says. “The current system makes it incredibly hard to scale a business because you can’t use the potential upsides of the business to remunerate employees.”

 

Baxter says the system needs fewer rules rather than more, as new rules just create new loopholes.

 

“Really we’re weighing things against us, and we need to change the system so good companies stay here, grow and employ Australians,” Baxter says.

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Rose Powell

Rose is the current head of growth at Rampersand Ventures. She was formerly a reporter at StartupSmart.

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