NSW budget a “big missed opportunity” for startups

Startups were “missing in action” in the recent New South Wales state budget, with little attention paid to the innovation sector, Techfugees co-founder Nicole Williamson says.

In its 2016-17 budget, the state government allocated $13.7 billion to education, of which $14 million will go to STEM learning and $25 million to innovation.

But apart from that there was very little to support the local entrepreneurs, Williamson says.

“Tech startups appear to be missing in action from the budget,” Williamson tells StartupSmart.

“Both Victoria and Queensland have paid focused and aggressive attention to tech startups and it shows, there’s a real excitement in Melbourne right now, with so many announcements both in growing the local industry and in attracting high profile international startups.”

Announced in the budget, the NSW government will be teaming up with TAFE NSW and local universities to launch the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship (SSE).

The government will spend $25 million on this centre to nurture startup development and encourage new venture ideas.

But innovation expert and Techfugees co-founder Anne-Marie Elias is skeptical.

According to NSW Treasury papers, the SSE will take 1000 top students from partner universities and TAFE NSW each year,” Elias says.

“Really? Some of the best entrepreneurs I’ve met were never the ‘top’ students and definitely prefer short sharp courses like those offered by AcadmyXi and Startup Weekend than courses at TAFE or uni.”

She says the government should instead focus on funding startup founders directly, with the Queensland government focusing on co-investment.

“The idea that you can institutionalise the creation of entrepreneurs is not in alignment with what I see out there in the ecosystem,” Elias says. 

Nor is it consistent with the 2015 StartupMuster survey which found only 9.8% came into startup from school or uni.” 

Williamson says that Sydney could be in the world’s top 10 tech startup hubs with the right support from state government.

“We definitely need to give one NSW minister complete responsibility for the portfolio – at the moment it’s spread across several ministers,” she says.

“And we need to get the government focused on increasing the density of startups around a particular location.”

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