Start-up community leaders say change in PM creates opportunity

Leaders from the Australian start-up community say while there will be little immediate impact from Kevin Rudd ousting Julia Gillard as Prime Minister, the new environment and leadership team has created a better opportunity for working with the government.


Mick Liubinskas, co-founder of leading start-up incubator Pollenizer told StartupSmart the spill has generated a more risk-friendly leadership team, ripe for conversation and “aggressive action on innovation”.


“The way the Labor Party is right now, they’ll be looking at ways to grow innovation. We’re looking at a new team with short space of time before an election, who may be more likely to take risks,” Liubinskas says.


“Being an election year, we have the opportunity to get the ear of in power to see if they can put an election promise in.”


Liubinskas says there have been ups and downs with Gillard and Senator Stephen Conroy, who had been the driver of the national broadband network but who has resigned as the minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy.


“Conroy with the internet filter and Prime Minister Gillard with the 457-visas, those things have been looked on negatively by the technology industry,” he says.


Liubinskas says the start-up community has big plans for working with government to build a strong entrepreneurial culture in Australia.


“We have long term plans and we hope to do that with the government. But innovation can’t afford to be party-based because it’s too important,” says Liubinskas.


“Australia has a big opportunity, but also a responsibility, to look at what will be the next industry after mining, and innovation should be the prime option,” says Liubinskas, who points out entrepreneurialism and innovation is a high value add, exportable option that’s good for the economy, education and health.


Sebastian Eckersley-Maslin, the chief executive at investment group and tech start-up accelerator Blue Chilli, says the spill will have limited impact as two key policy changes the start-up community needed have both been already introduced.


“I’m still digesting it myself,” Eckersley-Maslin told StartupSmart. “The biggest change we wanted has already been announced.”


Eckersley-Maslin says this was the review of employee share schemes.


He added the community is also keen to see progress on the idea of lowering the minimum required amount for government matching of early stage venture capital firms from $10 million to $5 million.


Eckersley-Maslin adds he hopes the removal of Australia’s first female prime minister won’t have a negative impact on encouraging women to step into leadership roles and take risks.


“A lot of the backlash she was facing was as a woman, from puppeteering by the media. Australia voted her in, and her party voted her out,” Eckersley-Maslin says.


Blue Chilli has a 50-50 gender split across the company, and 42% of its founders are female.


“That’s pretty rare in the IT tech investment space,” says Eckersley-Maslin. “We’ve still got the Governor-General and a female lord mayor of Sydney, so there are still women leaders out there, but I am looking forward to when we have another female prime minister.”


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