Should Australia Build a Great Technology Sector?

July 18, 2010

by Viki Forrest, CEO ANZA Technology Network

First, I’d like to go on record and congratulate two recent Australian technology success stories – Atlassian and its co-founders Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar and Tapulous co-founder Andrew Lacy. For all who have been following Aussie tech news this month, Atlassian’s closing on a $60 million (USD) round of funding from Accel Partners here in Silicon Valley and Tapulous’ multi-million dollar sale to Disney prove yet again that America looks to Australia’s innovative tech sector for fresh ideas that are well executed.

I didn’t join in on the dust up over at the Delimiter blog, when blogger Renai LeMay chose to call out the Atlassian founders for taking American VC, rather than trying to raise such money in Australia. As the CEO of the ANZA Technology Network it’s our business to link the Australian and American tech communities. Since 2002, when ANZA was founded, that link has been one-way – Aussie innovation toward American dollars and customers.

While ANZA strives to accelerate Australian entrepreneurs getting a foothold in the US market, while reducing costs and risks – it is also our goal to see Australian companies succeed here in the US. It’s not about Australian companies coming to America and creating jobs for Americans. It is about Australian companies taking advantage of the welcoming climate for their innovations in Silicon Valley – and ultimately, to see those who are as successful as Mike and Scott and Andrew to “give back” to Aussie innovative technology by working with – and maybe someday investing in – the next generation of entrepreneurs.

I have met with Mike and I have very recently corresponded with Andrew and I can assure you that both men are eager to work with Aussie entrepreneurs. Not to create a “brain drain”, but rather to help get some top-class Aussie innovation to the world stage. From there anything is possible – including more jobs for Australians in R&D and engineering (these positions tend to stay in Australia when a company expands into the US) and reinvestment back into the community (not necessarily as VC, but into the universities, the incubators, the industry organizations).

So – to answer Renai’s blog post question, “How Can Australia Build a Great Technology Sector?”, by which presumably he means one that is its own ecosystem including funding, I have to ask the question “Why does it need to?”

I need to look no further than a webinar ANZA is hosting tomorrow called “Sizing Up the US Market” and the words on my own website. The US market is 15 times the size of Australia’s. Stop. In a webinar we’ve scheduled for next week on funding – we note that less than 1% of companies – worldwide – ever even receive venture capital. Case closed. Australia needs to continue to do what it does best – innovate. The US market demands it.

ANZA’s 1st Gateway to US Webinar on US Business Opportunities a Hit with Aussie Entrepreneurs

July 13, 2010

Over 100 Australian entrepreneurs and CEOs of growing companies seeking US market commercialization advice attended ANZA’s first Gateway to the US webinar yesterday.

“Expanding Your Business to the US: Myths and Realities” took into consideration that most Australian entrepreneurs have some idea about US market opportunities, but the ability to explore and execute them from across the Pacific is difficult.

Susan Hailey, a veteran Silicon Valley insider with more than 20 years in elite recruitment for some of the Valley’s biggest tech companies – and most promising startups – talked about the culture of networking in Silicon Valley and how newcomers to the area can begin to immerse themselves in the unique Valley ecosystem. The front-page story from the San Jose Mercury News that she referenced, “Buck’s Café serves up venture capital with the granola” can be found here.

David Evans, CEO and Founder of Starplayit, an Adelaide startup now focusing on a US exit strategy from Silicon Valley, talked about the global opportunity the US offers in contrast with being based in Australia. For several years, David “commuted” between Australia and America, but even his presence in the States for considerable periods every few months was not enough for him to build and maintain the connections he will need for his successful exit. When asked how soon an Australian entrepreneur serious about the US market should relocate to America, David advised, “No reason you can’t start tomorrow.”

The webinar is the first in a 3-part series. There is still time to register for the next two free 1-hour webinars:

Companies interested in exploring their US market opportunities in full are encouraged to sign up for ANZA’s Gateway to the US One-Day Introductory Workshops held in Australia, 23 August – 1 September. Early bird pricing is now available. Click here to register.

Aussie entrepreneur moved to the US “because I wanted a career as an entrepreneur”

July 2, 2010

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Australian entrepreneur Andrew Lacy, co-founder of Tapulous, maker of the Tap Tap Revenge mobile music games for the iPhone and the iPad, has just sold the company to Disney for an undisclosed sum reported to be in the multiple millions USD.

Lacy started the company in Melbourne with Bart Decrem in 2008. As part of the deal, he will join Disney as a senior VP on its mobile app development team. Tap Tap Revenge the most popular game series on the Apple App Store, with over 35 million downloads and over a billion songs played.

Lacy said he “moved to the US because I wanted a career as an entrepreneur.” The move clearly allowed him to grow Tapulous, make the right connections and complete this significant deal. (Read more)

Sign Up for ANZA’s Gateway to the US Webinars – They’re Free!

June 3, 2010

ANZA’s 2010 Gateway to the US program kicks off in July this year with a series of free webinars. We want to answer all your questions about the facts, the risks  and the opportunities for Australian entrepreneurs considering the US marketplace. We’ve assembled a lineup of speakers who understand the challenges Australian entrepreneurs and CEOs of innovative startups and SMEs face. Our speakers have launched, managed, raised capital, funded and sold businesses in the US – they are experts on commercializing Australian innovation overseas,and they are ready to share their experiences and answer your questions.

Click on the links below to read full descriptions of these free 1-hour webinars hosted by ANZA CEO Viki Forrest – and register now. Attend one, two or all three of our webinars. Speakers include Doron Ben-Meir, CEO of Commercialisation Australia, Dr. Larry Marshall, Managing Director of Southern Cross Venture Partners, Jennifer Zanich, General Manager of Xumii Services and more. Don’t miss out on this chance to get answers to your questions about doing business in the world’s largest marketplace.

Click here for complete details.

How to Nail the 5-Minute Pitch

May 27, 2010

Some helpful pointers from Chuck Dietrich, chief executive of online presentation startup SlideRocket, writing the Entrepreneur Corner in VentureBeat. Chuck sees thousands of these classic 5-minute pitches a year and is “surprised by how many presentations don’t convey a clear story.”

A great “company pitch” presentation leaves venture capitalists, prospects, and judges inspired. The audience should walk away with the ability to restate your company’s vision, a clear picture of how you will achieve that vision, and the economic ramifications of attaining it. If the audience is inspired and can accurately re-tell your story, then your presentation was effective.

He highlights three main points every startup CEO should remember and gives a good, basic pitch outline worthy of review. Click here to read these short, but effective steps for nailing your 5-minute pitch opportunities.

Entrepreneurs Take the Risks, Not VCs

May 3, 2010

A TechCrunch post by Vivek Wadhwa includes a Q&A with three entrepreneurs who bootstrapped their way to success.

Wadhwa reminds us, “The reality is that less than 5% of venture money goes to seed-stage startups; VCs typically invest when a company has a working product, a tested business model, and a strong management team.” To get to this point, entrepreneurs must make sacrifices, hard choices and call on the support of family and friends (and credit cards). Wadhwa argues that it’s the entrepreneurs who are the real risk takers, not the VCs. (Read more)

Keep Your Startup Alive with Good Hiring Practices

May 3, 2010

We read Steve Duplessie’s Enterprise Strategy Group blog post about a big issue for most startups — hiring. We liked everything about the post except the title, “Fail Factors: Why Startups Die: Hiring” and so we changed it here for a more positive spin. According to Duplessie

hiring (not just the CEO) is probably the most important thing an entrepreneur or entire company can do.  It’s the one thing that can maximize your chance for success – or almost guarantee your failure.  Do it well and you develop the ability to weather many storms.  Do it poorly and you create storms where there needn’t be any.

Whether you look at the startup hiring practices glass as half full or half empty, it is important to have the system of beliefs on which you founded your company firmly in place, because “Hiring people isn’t hard; hiring people who fit and propagate your culture while growing is.”

To ensure you make good choices at this early stage that will make the difference between going forward and shutting down, read “Fail Factors: Why Startups Die: Hiring” and add your comments.