LaunchVic will use its latest round of funding to invest $500,000 to bring successful figures from the global startup scene to Australia, to act as temporary ‘experts in residence’ in co-working spaces.
LaunchVic, the Victorian state government agency responsible for supporting startups, will fund up to 20 experts from around the world — with $25,000 apiece — to base themselves in a selected co-working spaces for a period of time, offering mentoring, guidance and support to the startups there. They will also be asked to help local founders secure better connections globally.
The agency will be inviting co-working spaces to apply for the scheme, and to nominate any expert they would like to bring on board.
Speaking to StartupSmart, LaunchVic chief executive Kate Cornick says Victoria’s 170 co-working spaces for startups are a “really a critical part of the startup ecosystem”, offering “great support bases for startups”.
Spaces focused on a particular sector may want to bring someone from that sector to work with them, says Cornick. A co-working space with a focus on female founders may choose to nominate a high-profile female leader, for example.
“We’re relying on the community to guide us,” says Cornick, who’s expecting the application process to be “highly competitive”.
And it’s not only entrepreneurs that will be invited to visit Australia as part of the scheme; LaunchVic is pointedly targeting “experts in residence” rather than “entrepreneurs in residence”.
As well as successful startup founders, the agency will consider people who have worked in executive roles such as chief technology, marketing or operations officers, or people who are simply recognised internationally as startup leaders.
“We expect to see some really high-calibre experts coming through,” Cornick says.
According to Cornick, research has show that “early-stage startup founders that are connected globally, and to globally leading founders, are more likely to be successful” and this is the motivation behind focusing on international experts for this particular scheme.
That’s not to say that Australian leaders will be discounted. “We have globally leading founders here as well,” Cornick says, but to qualify they will also have to be “people who have had experience on an international basis”.
This funding, aimed solely at the acquisition of knowledge and expertise to Australian startups, represents a bit of a change in tack for LaunchVic.
This year, the agency has granted $175,000 in funding to bring a new startup conference to Geelong; backed three new accelerator partners to the tune of $7 million to support 170 new startups; pledged $2.9 million in funding for upskilling startup founders; and given a $2.4 million boost to startups based in regional and outer-metropolitan areas of Victoria through mentoring programs, bootcamps and workshops.
However, “other forms of support — that informal mentoring and networking — are really an important part of the founder connection network,” Cornick says.
It’s all about the “connective-ness metric”, she adds.
“Founders tapping into global networks are more likely to be successful,” says Cornick, and more successful startups lead to a more successful ecosystem as a whole.
Equally, the focus on building connections overseas and learning from people in those markets could ultimately help startups to achieve their goals of international expansion.
Australian founders often already “think globally”, Cornick says, as “our market isn’t big enough in Australia”. And for many, success equals going international, “in order to achieve their full potential”.
“Founders are thinking about it … but there’s often a gap in translating that to actually achieving that,” Cornick says.
“[LaunchVic’s] holy grail is that we see more successful scaleup companies managing to scale global businesses.”
This Victorian funding also comes after Small Business Minister Craig Laundy announced $500,000 from the federal government will be going to Melbourne’s York Butter Factory startup hub.
Speaking to StartupSmart at the announcement event, Laundy said Australian culture may be holding the country’s startups back.
“Failure is seen as something to criticise and success is seen as something to criticise,” he said, explaining Australia’s “tall poppy syndrome”.
“Whereas in the US, failure is something that people applaud, for having a go. And if you achieve success in the US, who knows, you ultimately could be elected president.”
However, it’s those who take the risk that will be providing the jobs of the future, Laundy said.
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