ELECTION PROMISES TRIGGER BRISBANE STARTUPS
22 January 2015, Written by Laura Daquino
FOLLOWING election promises of more government funding, Brisbane's startup community has spoken - and it isn't yet convinced either way, suggesting something else is just as necessary.
This something could be central to growing the sector into one contributing $190 billion annually to the Australian economy and accounting for more than 500,000 jobs by 2033.
Research conducted by River City Labs - the brainchild of Steve Baxter (pictured below right), serial entrepreneur and soon to be 'Shark' on Network Ten's Shark Tank - details the opinions of Queensland's central co-working community on the ALP's recently announced proposed funding for startups, as well as the incentives required to boost turnover and jobs.
The survey collected responses from 200 entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, startup employees and supporters to find that 83 per cent do not believe the Newman Government is doing enough to support startups, and only 19 per cent rate the opposition's policy as 'good' or 'very good'.
Earlier this month, the ALP announced a $40 million Business Development Fund to help startups apply for grants.
The fund would be managed by a yet to be chosen joint-venture partner, which would approve grants up to $250,000.
Queensland's peak business body, The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ), expressed support of this policy on behalf of the business community.
However, River City Labs is non-committal, and is looking outside the box of government funding grants as a way to grow entrepreneurship into an economic powerhouse.
"We don't want to be wrapped up in election promises of any party; we need attention and engagement for the long-term," says River City Labs general manager Peta Ellis (pictured above left).
"There are roundtable discussions and think tanks, but we don't see a genuine interest in this space which is a shame because the government would have a much better outcome if they worked closer with individual companies to see what they really need.
"At the moment, action is largely generalised and seems to form part of a 'ticking box exercise'."
Ellis says topping the startup community's government policy 'wish list' was more encouragement for interstate and overseas startups to operate in Brisbane (57.2 per cent of respondents).
The second item on the wish list was startup grants for new Queensland tech startups (49.3 per cent), followed by the establishment of a 'Queensland Startup Precinct' in Brisbane to bring the community closer together (42.8 per cent).
"We aren't surprised about the dissatisfaction with the level of government support," says Ellis.
"We are surprised with the number of people focused on bringing international entrepreneurs to Brisbane, floating ideas such as the incentivising of rental space," says Ellis.
"This has been identified as critical to progressing in not only a business aspect, but also a cultural aspect.
"Corporate engagement helps with this and typically precedes government engagement which has been kicked off by Bank of Queensland (ASX: BOQ) and Suncorp Group Limited (ASX: SUN) here in Brisbane to a great effect but the levels outside of this are mostly out of line with other countries."
Steve Baxter pinpoints a lack of government understanding as a key reason startups fall down the priority list.
"Startup and technology are not exactly simple areas to understand, and traditionally Australian politicians have struggled to get their heads around where they fit in to the government agenda," says Baxter.
"Governments the world over are investing time, energy and resources to understand and support technology startups.
"They have become accepted as key drivers of employment opportunities and economic growth.
"Ingenuity, creativity and entrepreneurship are not finite resources, and with a little elbow grease and a lot of government support, I truly believe Queensland has the potential to be a powerhouse for global innovation."