Why Australian Entrepreneurs Should Give Silicon Valley a Try

August 10, 2010

Guest post by Elias Bizannes, chairman of the DataPortability Project and a promoter of Australian technology through Silicon Beach

Last year I took a position with Vast.com in San Francisco. As a passionate supporter of Australian technology and its place on the global stage, I’ve also come to the realization that we can’t begin to conquer the world from Australia. We need to take advantage of the open door policy Silicon Valley affords Australian entrepreneurs. Why? Let’s start with the talent concentration. Two examples to illustrate:

    1) Language: In Silicon Valley people operate on a different level. It is the technology capital of the world and the people here live and breathe tech – 24/7. They talk about run rates and burn in a way that demonstrates the way they innately know the industry average, like how people know the weather during different times of the year.
    2) It’s a magnet: The Valley draws from around the world a certain personality type. The Aussies who come here are no exception. The Bay Area has one of the highest concentrations of university graduates in America, and the world. The people are smart here, they are competitive and they are hungry. Immersing yourself in this culture, simply through osmosis you start evolving your own abilities. Within a short time, you find yourself talking about how to start a business to talking about building a billion dollar business.

A year later, I’m more convinced than ever that the best way we are going to move Australia forward into having its own Silicon Valley-like ecosystem is by having our best brightest people move here for a few years. After a generation, we’ll have the talent concentration we talk about in Australia. And the Americans won’t mind how much we’ve borrowed from them.

The US Weighs in on Australia’s Proposed Internet Filter

March 29, 2010

We’ve been waiting for the US to comment on the Australian government’s proposed Internet filter (aka “Rudd filter”). For months now we have seen a variety of Australian tech types, social media mavens and online publications make their opinions known — but what does the nation that makes the most about freedom speech have to say?

Today’s Australian reports that the Obama administration finds the idea to filter out unsavory content like child pornography to be “contrary to the US’s foreign policy of encouraging an open internet to spread economic growth and global security.”

The news is a blow to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, who is defending the plan for internet companies to mandatorily block illegal and abhorrent websites — for instance, child pornography — but faces growing opposition…. That the US government joins a widening coalition of agencies with concerns about the plan is sure to turn up the political heat on Senator Conroy.

It follows criticism from Google — in the midst of a high-profile battle in China over political censorship — that Australia’s plan for mandatory filtering of blacklisted websites may prevent the free flow of information and would probably be ineffective in curbing the spread of child porn.

Read more.

US Government Support for Clean Technology vs. Venture Capital

January 13, 2010

We hear a lot of comparisons at ANZA TechNet about the support Australian entrepreneurs get from the Australian government vs. the lack of support US entrepreneurs get from their government.

While US entrepreneurs have long been able to rely on VC funding to take their businesses to the next level, Australians do not have much of VC community at all. That’s why they come to the US. But a slight change has been brewing in the US, particularly in the clean tech sector.

According to this Wall Street Journal story “Venture Capitol: New VC Force”, there’s been a shift in clean tech funding in the US from VC to government.

The DOE [Department of Energy] hopes to lend or give out more than $40 billion to businesses working on “clean technology,” everything from electric cars and novel batteries to wind turbines and solar panels. In the first nine months of 2009, the DOE doled out $13 billion in loans and grants to such firms. By contrast, venture-capital firms — which have long been the chief funders of fledgling tech firms, taking equity stakes in the start-ups that will pay off if they go public — poured just $2.68 billion into the sector in that time, according to data tracker Cleantech Group.

This is indeed a very interesting trend to keep an eye on. (Read more)

Enter the Dragon: Shanghai, Sydney, Silicon Valley Venture Capital Forum, November 19/20

November 10, 2009

enterdragonsvIs Shanghai the next Silicon Valley? Will China’s formidable economic presence on the world stage bring entrepreneurs and venture capitalists together to build solutions for the next generation?

Come find out the answers to these questions and more when Advance presents “Enter the Dragon”, a video conference linking Silicon Valley, Shanghai and Sydney, November 19/20. Click here for times and location in each city and to register now.

Learn more about: China’s emerging opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs in the global economy; the difference between Silicon Valley and China VC ecosystems; building your global networks for business opportunities; navigating a foreign market with trusted resources; China’s growing clean and green tech market opportunities; how Silicon Valley’s innovation and Australia’s unique blend of resources, clean fossil fuels, water and solar technologies will neatly fit in this vast market sector as the world reshapes itself in the next two decades.

Panelists include:

  • Ford Tamer, Operating Partner, Khosla Ventures
  • Matt Jones, Partner, Nth Power
  • Ron Cao, Managing Director, Lightspeed Venture Partners, China
  • Alison Leopold Tilley, Partner, Pillsbury, co-leader South East Asia team
  • Darren Ho, Managing Partner, CMHJ China
  • Tony Surtees, Executive Director, Prime Digitalworks Pty Ltd
  • Dr. Mannie Liu, Director, Renmin University, Venture Capital Research Center
  • Victor Westerlind, General Partner, RockPort Capital Partners

Moderated from Silicon Valley by Dr. Larry Marshall, Managing Director, Southern Cross Venture Partners and from Shanghai by Joseph W.K. Chan, Partner and Head of China VC & PE, Pillsbury.

This event is FREE to ANZA TechNet and Advance members. Sponsored by Advance, with support from ANZA TechNet, Southern Cross Venture Partners and Pillsbury. Click here to register as well as to get the locations and time for this event in Silicon Valley, Sydney and Shanghai.

It’s Not a Toy! The Rise and Necessity of Smartphones

June 10, 2009

They are no longer techie gadgets or status symbols, Blackberries, iPhones and their lesser known competitiors — or Smartphones — are fast becoming a necesarry tool of everyday American business culture. The New York Times reports:

For a growing swath of the population, the social expectation is that one is nearly always connected and reachable almost instantly via e-mail. The smartphone, analysts say, is the instrument of that connectedness — and thus worth the cost, both as a communications tool and as a status symbol.

“The social norm is that you should respond within a couple of hours, if not immediately,” said David E. Meyer, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan. “If you don’t, it is assumed you are out to lunch mentally, out of it socially, or don’t like the person who sent the e-mail.”

Hmmm. Think about it. And read more at “Smartphone Rises Fast from Gadget to Necessity” (registration may be required).

There is “something special” about this place — an Aussie-Eye View of Silicon Valley

May 31, 2009

Peter Sheahan, a writer for MySmallBusiness.com section of the Sydney Morning Herald has just returned from a couple of months in the States. And unlike a very popular previous post on this blog calling Silicon Valley “a graveyard” late last year, Sheahan finds that there’s “something special” about Silicon Valley in a story called “Where Geeks Rule”.

In the same way that everyone in Hollywood has a script or is talking about their next big pitch, everyone in the Valley has an idea and is talking about how to get it funded. Even now, in the eye of the GFC the Valley is still buzzing.

Sure, not like it does in boom times but the place still smells of opportunity and the inhabitants are on always looking for the next big thing.

Recessions are part economic and part psychology. The Valley has the psychology right, and we in Australia could learn from it.

What can be learned? Click here to read the rest of this piece.

Australia’s Innovation Programs and Venture Investment: It’s Just Not Good Enough

May 28, 2009

Brad Howarth has written an in-depth piece for Nett# Magazine on Australia’s current information infrastructure, as well as the government’s plans to strengthen it — and the answer he comes up with in a number of categories is that “it’s just not good enough.”

Of particualr interest to ANZA TechNet members is the section on “Innovation Programs and Venture Investment”, which says:

A critical area of growing Australia’s information future is our ability to produce home grown technology companies that can both generate revenue and jobs, and provide innovative reasons to attract and retain the best talent.

But it is a sector that was kicked in the teeth last year when the Government cancelled the Commercial Ready program. Twelve months later it has still not provided an alternative, despite commissioning the Cutler Report on innovation. Many start-ups relied on Commercial Ready to fund crucial research and development programs, and its cancellation has set some back by 12 months or more.

Serial entrepreneur Jonathon Barouch is critical of Australia’s lack of incentives for start-up businesses. He says the whole business culture of supporting entrepreneurs that occurs in the US seems to be lacking in the Australian psyche.

“In the US and Europe there are programs to help with training as well as tax incentives for SMEs and start-ups to encourage entrepreneurs,” says Barouch. “In Australia, policy makers seem to be determined not to extend any preferential treatment to start-up businesses, which is a real shame.

“In times of economic downturn, SMEs and entrepreneurs may prove the key in increasing employment opportunities for Australians.”

Access to venture capital has also been constrained, thanks in part to the poor performance of the superannuation funds that back them. According to investor and chairman of the IT think tank The Pearcey Foundation, Wayne Fitzsimmons, the number of new early-stage companies has diminished as entrepreneurs come to believe that raising capital will be too difficult.

Fitzsimmons says that only four venture capital funds remain interested in early stage IT companies in Australia – Southern Cross Ventures, Starfish Ventures, Innovation Capital and CM Capital – in comparison to the many dozens operating in the US.

While government funding is available through the Innovation Investment Funds, this still requires matching funds to come from the commercial sector.

Read the complete article by clicking here.